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ESPN is reporting that former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Penn State coach Bill O’Brien is going to become the next head coach of the Houston Texans.
These promotions of former Patriots coaches always makes me wonder how Bill Belichick reacts to his former coordinators becoming his equal (if there is such a thing with Belichick) by joining the ranks of head coaches. Is he proud of his understudies graduating from his school of coaching and landing a head coaching gig? Does he fold his sleeveless arms and look down upon his pupils with the self-satisfaction of knowing his brand name and his teaching handed said students that “head coach” title? Or does he gaze upon such promotions with complete indifference, simply seeing his former student as another colleague to outwit and outcoach on Sundays?
O’Brien will become the fourth coordinator under the Belichick coaching tree to become an NFL head coach, joining Romeo Crennel, Josh McDaniels, and Eric Mangini as former Patriots offensive (McDaniels) and defensive (Crennel, Mangini) coordinators to move up to the next level. (Al Groh, Nick Saban, and Jim Schwartz also worked for Belichick and later became head coaches in the NFL, but didn’t ever hold the title of offensive or defensive coordinator directly underneath him.)
Of course, none of the previous three held very successful head coaching tenures. Crennel (remarkably) had two head coaching jobs over his career, coaching the Cleveland Browns from 2005-2008 before taking over the Kansas City Chiefs from 2011-2012 (then leaving just in time to hand Andy Reid most of the pieces for a #5 seed in the 2013 NFL playoffs). He went 24-40 (one winning season, 10-6 but missed the playoffs) in Cleveland, then 4-15 in Kansas City with last year’s 2-14 season (which tragically included him seeing the suicide of one his players, Jovan Belcher). That’s 28-55, for those of you who aren’t counting.
Eric Mangini was the next up, being hired to be the head coach of the division rival New York Jets from 2006-2008. He made the playoffs in Year One, went 4-12 in Year Two, then got fired after Year Three when Mangini coached the Jets out of the playoffs despite starting 8-3.This included the tiff between him and Belichick when Mangini complained to the league office about the Patriots filming practice sessions illegally, setting off the SpyGate scandal and kicking off that 2007 Eff You Season (h/t Bill Simmons). He then took over for Crennel in Cleveland in 2009, lasting two identical 5-11 seasons. All told, Mangini had a 33-47 record as a head coach.
McDaniels then flamed out with the Denver Broncos, limping along to 8-8 in his first season in 2009 before getting canned in the middle of 2010 having gone 3-9 on the season (11-17, in total). He was ultimately responsible for Tebowmania, drafting Tim Tebow in the first round in 2010 (fast forward four years, and that first round pick is now an ESPN commentator!). He came crawling back to the Patriots at the end of 2011 as an “offensive consultant” for the playoffs before taking over as offensive coordinator in 2012, right where he is today. Yeah, I too would leave my job as offensive coordinator of Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams to go back to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Together, the three went 72-119 as head coaches. This is the strongest case against Bill Belichick for 2013 NFL Coach of the Year.
In Houston, O’Brien will surely try to break the mold of being the latest former Patriots coordinator to flame out, though he will have to do so after inheriting a team that went 2-14 this past season. However, his predecessor was Gary Kubiak, the Texans have the first overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft to kick off his head coaching career, and this is a Texans team went to the second round of the playoffs each of the two years before that (both times #3 seeds at 12-4 and 10-6, respectively). Get to always be compared in flattering terms to Kubiak (61-64 in his Texans career, 2-2 in the playoffs)? Then handpick your franchise quarterback with almost all of the pieces around him already in place, including probably the best defensive lineman in the league, J.J. Watt? Not a bad position to be in as a new head coach.
Tags: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Eric Mangini, Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans, Josh McDaniels, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Romeo Crennel, Tom Brady