Felger & Mazz

Felger & Mazz

This has obviously been well-documented, so let’s get right to the point: Bill Belichick’s coaching tree kinda sucks.

Or maybe it really sucks.

This is obviously relevant again today with the news that the Las Vegas Raiders have fired head coach Josh McDaniels, who second branch from the Belichick coaching tree ended almost as abruptly as the first. After 28 games (and an 11-17 record) with the Denver Broncos in his first stint as a head coach from 2009-10, McDaniels lasted only 25 games in this venture, going 9-16 with the Raiders. He now holds a 20-33 record in at least parts of four seasons as an NFL coach and is logical to assume he won’t get another chance, at least not as the Big Kahuna.

McDaniels, of course, is perhaps the most famous of Belichick’s assistant coaches, having served as offensive coordinator of the Patriots during two different stints under Belichick. In both instances the Patriots quarterback was Tom Brady, though it should be noted that McDaniels also led a successful Patriots offense in 2008 when an injured Brady was replaced by Matt Cassel. Brady obviously made everybody around him look good – including Belichick – but it was McDaniels’ performance with Cassel that ultimately may have landed him the Denver job.

Regardless, McDaniels’ stints as a head coach ended in spectacular balls of fire, and most head coaches in the NFL ultimately get just two chances.

The Peanuts Christmas tree.

The Peanuts Christmas tree.

Were McDaniels the only from Belichick’s tree – and we use the word tree lightly – we could certainly suggest that McDaniels was the problem. But as we’ve learned over the years, Belichick’s coaching tree is far more akin to the one from the Peanuts Christmas tree specials (image to the right), which was hardly a tree at all.

Purely for posterity, beyond McDaniels, here is a look at the offshoots of the Belichick coaching tree, which looks like a list of bad television spin-offs:

  • Bill O’Brien

    ARLINGTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 24: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans during a NFL preseason game at AT&T Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    ARLINGTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 24: Head coach Bill O’Brien of the Houston Texans during a NFL preseason game at AT&T Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Let’s make something clear here: as a head coach, Bill O’Brien was hardly a disaster. In seven seasons as head coach of the Houston Texas, O’Brien went 52-48 and made four playoff appearances, during which he went 2-4. Prior to that, he had a successful run at Penn State, where he resurrected what was a program ruined in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. O’Brien will almost certainly be an HFL head coach again, though his current stint as Patriots offensive coordinator may not help.

  • Brian Flores

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on from the side line during the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on from the side line during the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    On this list, Brian Flores holds a unique distinction – he is a former Belichick aide who was fired and probably didn’t deserve to be. After a 5-11 rookie season with Miami, Flores went 10-6 and 9-7 in his next two years. He was then fired because of a dispute with the team owner, a controversy that subsequently spilled into the Giants pursuit of Daboll. (You can relive it here.) Now the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, Flores feels like a prime candidate to get another head coaching opportunity at some point. Very few would complain if he ended up in Foxboro in some capacity. Unlike many of Belichick’s former assistants, his head coaching career feels like more of a success.

  • Brian Daboll

    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Brian Daboll of the New York Giants looks on in the fourth quarter of a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on October 15, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 15: Head coach Brian Daboll of the New York Giants looks on in the fourth quarter of a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on October 15, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    The overall verdict on Daboll still out for now, but his career got off to a promising start last year with a 9-7-1 rookie performance that landed the Giants in the playoffs, where they subsequently upset the Minnesota Vikings. But the Giants this year have since plummeted to 2-6 with one of the worst offenses in the league – the Patriots (Belichick), Giants (Daboll) and Raiders (McDaniel) are the three lowest-scoring teams in football this year – leaving Daboll’s overall record at 11-13-1 halfway through his second season. He should get another year – or at least the start of one – but we all know how the NFL works.

  • Charlie Weis

    Notre Dame's head coach Charlie Weis looks on during a game against the University of Michigan at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2005. Notre Dame won the game 17-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    Notre Dame’s head coach Charlie Weis looks on during a game against the University of Michigan at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2005. Notre Dame won the game 17-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    Weis looks a little like Bill Parcells in the above photo, and one could certainly argue that he, like Belichick, is actually a disciple of the Parcells tree. That might explain relative success compared to the other members of Belichick’s tree, though we include him here anyway.

    Though he never became a head coach in the NFL, Weis succeeded at Notre Dame during his first two seasons (when he posted a 19-6 record) en route to an overall record of 35-27. He subsequently went just 6-22 at Kansas and finished with a career mark of 41-49. He wasn’t exactly a rousing success, but he wasn’t McDaniels, either.

  • Eric Mangini

    New York Jets Coach Eric Mangini coaching this is his first year as New York Jets head coach during the Detroit Lions vs New York Jets game on October 22, 2006 The Meadowlands , East Rutherford, New Jersey Jets' 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions (Photo by Tom Berg/NFLPhotoLibrary)

    New York Jets Coach Eric Mangini coaching this is his first year as New York Jets head coach during the Detroit Lions vs New York Jets game on October 22, 2006 The Meadowlands , East Rutherford, New Jersey Jets’ 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions (Photo by Tom Berg/NFLPhotoLibrary)

    The man who was Bill Parcells’ original protégé actually got off to a good start, posting a 10-6 record in his rookie season as head of the New York Jets after a well-publicized and bitter breakup with Bill Belichick. Mangini actually finished with two winning seasons in three years before the Jets fired him following a 9-7 campaign in 2008, after which he was immediately by hired by the Cleveland Browns. He went 10-22 in two seasons at Cleveland and never got another chance, finishing with a 33-47 record for the two franchises that Belichick may despise more than any other.

  • Romeo Crennel

    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach Romeo Crennel of the Cleveland Browns watches the action from the sidelines during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 28, 2008 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    PITTSBURGH – DECEMBER 28: Head coach Romeo Crennel of the Cleveland Browns watches the action from the sidelines during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 28, 2008 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    Like Weis, Crennel really falls under the Parcells umbrella, though he became a head coach after serving as Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Patriots. Widely respected and liked by his peers and former players, Crennel went 10-6 in his third season as head coach with the Cleveland Browns but was fired after a 4-12 performance the very next season. He subsequently went 8-23 in stints with Kansas City and Houston, those two of those seasons were interim positions in which he took over for a coach who had been fired – one of whom was O’Brien.

  • Joe Judge

    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 05: head coach Joe Judge of the New York Giants talks into his headset during the second half of the game between the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on December 05, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 05: head coach Joe Judge of the New York Giants talks into his headset during the second half of the game between the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on December 05, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Bill Belichick has always believed in complementary football, so let the record show that Judge came from special teams, perfect augmenting the offensive (McDaniels, O’Brien, Weis) and defensive (Crennel, Mangini, Patricia) coaches who served under him. After Belichick recommended him to the New York Giants, Judge seemingly had the rebuilding Giants on the right track with a decent 5-7 record in his first season   before things went complete downhill. New York went 5-16 over Judge’s final 21 games – including a 4-13 record in the 2021 season – before the Giants fired him. He, too, returned to New England, where he remains on Belichick’s staff.

  • Matt Patricia

    DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 28: head coach Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions looks on during warms up prior to a game against the Chicago Bearsat Ford Field on November 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

    DETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 28: head coach Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions looks on during warms up prior to a game against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on November 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

    Like many of his predecessors, Patricia seemingly had a fatal flaw: he tried to be Belichick. Lions players seemingly rebelled against him right from the start, going 6-10 just one year after a 9-7 season under the deposed Jim Caldwell. Detroit then went a combined 7-19-1 over the next two years before he was fired during the 2020 season, finishing with a career mark of 13-29-1. Unlike Mangini, Patricia promptly was rehired in New England.

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