clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bill Belichick's Disciples Don't Succeed; They Need a Garden to Grow

New, comments

One of Belichick's original branches of the coaching tree has flamed out (again). This is what it means for Bill's legacy.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas Jayhawks have fired head coach Charlie Weis for lack of production. Weis had gone 6-22 as the head coach, following a failed five-year stint as Notre Dame's scapegoat of missed potential.

It's just another case of Bill Belichick's coaching tree whithering- and if others can have their way, they'll try and blame the root.

Belichick has had seven staffers go on to become head coaches in the NFL. Weis was not one of them; he joined the college ranks and we'll talk about that later. Of the seven, Jim Schwartz's five seasons with the Detroit Lions is the longest tenure. Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is the only active head coach on the tree.

Alphabetically, the tree stands as:

Romeo Crennel, head coach of the Cleveland Browns (2005-2008), Kansas City Chiefs (2011-2012); Current Texans defensive coordinator. The Browns 2007 season is their only 10+ win season since their reincarnation in 1999, and one of two seasons (2002) where they've finished above .500. His resume of coaching the Browns and the Chiefs is just missing the Oakland Raiders to complete the coaching hell triumvirate.

Al Groh, head coach of the New York Jets (2000); unemployed. Will be touched upon in the college section. Groh was the Jets' back-up option once Bill Belichick stiffed the franchise to join the Patriots. Groh bounced to the college ranks after one season. Whoops.

Josh McDaniels, head coach of the Denver Broncos (2009-2010); Current Patriots offensive coordinator. McD started his career 6-0 and the future star of the coaching world. He crashed and burned to a closing record of 5-17 before being relieved of his duties. While he wasn't as successful as a head coach, the Super Bowl Broncos roster owed a lot to the team building that happened under his watch (Knowshon Moreno, Robert Ayers, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Zane Beadles all drafted; Orlando Franklin and, uh, Tim Tebow for trading Brandon Marshall. No way the Broncos sign Peyton Manning if McDaniels didn't ship away Jay Cutler). Still, few would argue he had success as a head coach.

Eric Mangini, head coach of the New York Jets (2006-2008), Cleveland Browns (2009-2010); Current 49ers tight end coach. Lost to the Patriots in the wild card week of his inaugural season. SpyGate in year two. Canned after a 9-7 season in year three. Replaced Crennel in Cleveland to the tune of consecutive 5-11 seasons. Spent time as an analyst on ESPN. His sons are named after Rodney Harrison, Bill Belichick, and Brett Favrewith Favre being the result of essentially a bet and I'm not joking.

Bill O'Brien, current head coach of the Houston Texans (2014-). They have more wins this year than they did all of last year, so that's progress, right?

Nick Saban, head coach of the Miami Dolphins (2005-2006); Current head coach of the University of Alabama. Few Dolphins fans hate anybody more than they hate Saban. That means Belichick did a good job, right? Saban left for Alabama after saying, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach." He has created a machine in the college ranks that would make Robo-Belichick proud.

Jim Schwartz, head coach of the Detroit Lions (2009-2013); Current Bills defensive coordinator. The original man-child head coach who has passed the crown to Angry Jim Harbaugh. The Lions 2011 season is their only 10+ win season since 1995, and one of two seasons (1997) where they've finished above .500. Take that, Crennel.

Those are Belichick's NFL head coaches and it's not very impressive. Out of the 21 seasons of head coaching, there have been only six winning seasons, and only three years of 10+ victories.

Belichick has seen plenty of more success in the college ranks. Similar to how coaches in the college ranks will steer players to become high school coaches, to develop a network, so too does Belichick.

Kirk Ferentz has been the head coach of Iowa since 1999, making him tied as the third longest tenured coach in Division I college football (FBS division). His son was the Patriots tight end coach during the glory days of 2011. Ferentz has had 57 players drafted, including six first round picks. The Patriots have only drafted one (guard Mike Elgin, 7th round, 2007), but have invested a lot in undrafted linebackers from Iowa.

Al Groh coached Virginia from 2001 to 2009, titled the ACC Coach of the Year twice. His coaching tree includes Mike Nolan, Ken Whisenhunt, and Todd Haley. 28 players were drafted out of Virginia, including five first round picks. The Patriots selected one (RB Antwoine Womack, 7th round, 2002).

Pat Hill was the head coach of Fresno State from 1997 to 2011 and turned the school into a respected player, even though it was not part of the standard conferences. The Patriots selected G Logan Mankins and S James Sanders out of Fresno, both in the 2005 draft. Three of the 28 drafted players came in the first round, including Mankins.

Bill O'Brien was the head coach of Penn State from 2012 to 2013, taking over after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and won the Coach of the Year award in 2012. He's now the head coach of the Texans.

Nick Saban has been the head coach of the University of Alabama since 2007, as well as Louisiana State (2000-2004) and Michigan State (1995-1999). He has won four national championships and has had only one losing season as a head coach. Ever. One. And it came in his last season as the Dolphins head coach. He's not human and that needs to be respected. 44 players have been drafted out of Alabama, with 16 coming in the first round. Current Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower is an Alabama alumni, as was former-Patriots and seventh round pick Brandon Deaderick. Saban had an additional 22 players drafted out of LSU, with one first rounder. The Patriots selected DTs Marquise Hill and Jarvis Green, and QB Rohan Davey out of LSU.

Charlie Weis was technically the head coach of Notre Dame from 2005 to 2009, technically the offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators for the 2011 season, and technically the head coach of Kansas from 2012 until he was fired this weekend. Weis was a fantastic recruiter at Notre Dame, but struggled to put together a full game plan on Saturdays. Weis is classified as an NFL coordinator, putting together a few elite units, plus multiple above average teams.

While the NFL coaching tree has plenty of room to improve, Weis is the only failed coach on the Belichick College Coaching tree. The General Manager tree includes Thomas Dimitroff, Ozzie Newsome, Joel Collier, Scott Pioli, Phil Savage, and Jason Licht.

The NFL coaches brought two disfunctional franchises their first 10+ victory seasons in nearly two decades (Browns, Lions). They include builders of talent that helped build contenders (Jets, Broncos). And, yes, it includes two coaches whose hearts lied in the college ranks (Saban, Groh).

The Belichick coaching tree might not be as well manicured as one might presume. But the blame doesn't lie with Belichick. It stems from the tree's need to be in total control- and it's why the tree has so much more success in college ball.

It requires the ability to be full control of all aspects. That's why Belichick has autonomous ability with the Patriots. It's where Mangini and McDaniels received pushback and drew the ire of the entrenched. It's why Ferentz and Saban and Hill and Groh have been able to build their own successes. They're cooking with the ingredients of their choice and they direct where the garden grows.

It's the same success for Chip Kelly and Pete Carroll. The entire franchise needs to buy into the same idea of the team. It's why ownerships with intrusive tendencies don't mesh with the tree (looking at you, Cleveland and the Jets). It's why the general managers and college coaches have more success.

If anyone wishes to root from the cuttings of the Belichick tree, they need to be willing to turn the whole franchise over. If not, they'll be left shaking their heads and wondering why the garden hasn't grown.