Almost exactly ten years ago, the greatest “Yeah, BUT!” excuse for the Patriots championship dynasty was born - and, if you ask Eric Mangini, it was all because a little bit of gamesmanship, the football equivalent of elbowing your buddy sitting next to you during a Halo match.
Instead, it turned into a scandal so absurd that even Congress got involved, and the Patriots were dealt the most brutal punishment in NFL history (at the time, anyway) by newbie commissioner Roger Goodell. Prior to that, no coach had ever been fined the NFL maximum of $500,000.00, and no team had ever had their first-round draft pick docked.
(Only one team has had their first-round pick taken away since then, either. You get three guesses who that was, and the first two don’t count.)
And this week, in what seems to be an annual tradition as celebrated as the 2001 St. Louis Rams whining about their walkthrough being taped before the Super Bowl, Eric Mangini made it clear this weekend that he regrets ever starting anything and burning his bridge with Bill Belichick.
"Am I surprised? I hope it's something that can come back," Mangini told ESPN on Saturday at his alma mater, Bulkeley High School, where he conducted his annual youth football camp.
"Look, Bill is a big part of my life. Bill gave me a tremendous opportunity, and I enjoyed that experience, and I respect him. It's disappointing, the way it's been. Hopefully, it can change at some point."
"It was never supposed to go the way that it went," he said. "It was more about, 'Hey, don't do this here.' It wasn't about reporting it. Sometimes things get out of hand and get rolling in one direction. It was never, ever supposed to go that way."
"It's been fun watching Bill's kids," said Mangini, referring to Steven and Brian, both current members of the Patriots' staff. "I've known them for a long time. To see them play a role is nice."
Mangini got his walking papers from the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 by fellow future head coaching failure Chip Kelly. He hasn’t coached in the NFL since.
ESPN’s Rich Cimini also included this delightfully evil little side note that makes it sounds like any kind of reconciliation is about as likely as you or I beating LeBron one-on-one:
In a news conference last season, Belichick listed every coordinator he has had in New England. One name was conspicuously omitted from the list: Mangini.