Broken Branches on Belichick Coaching Tree

November 23, 2009 - 8:32 pm

A week ago, Bill Belichick was not in the most cheerful of spirits after his failed decision to go for a fourth-and-2 from his own 28-yard line. Now, seven days later, Belichick can sit back in his office in jollier spirits after the Patriots overpowered Rex Ryan's Jets, 31-14, in a Sunday afternoon showdown in Foxboro. Yet, while Belichick may be able to put on a merry Monday morning quarterback face this week, a few of his former coaching pupils find themselves either in the losing column, on the hot seat or just plain out of work. Since Belichick first became a head coach for the Cleveland Browns in 1991, there have been multiple coordinators, assistants, scouts and other personnel who have sought to create their own legacy to follow in the footsteps of their great mentor. Although some have fared better than others since leaving Belichick's staff, the majority of his coaching family tree has experienced a degree of difficulty making the transition from acting behind-the-scenes to manning a franchise of their own. Here is a look at how the five most prominent graduates of Belichick's Coaching Academy have performed since departing from their teacher. Charlie Weis When Belichick left the Jets to be named head coach of the Patriots in 2000, Weis followed him from New York to New England. Serving as the offensive coordinator until 2004, Weis engineered the initiation of the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system. Assisting in Tom Brady's development as the franchise quarterback, Weis helped guide the team to three Super Bowl titles before leaving the Patriots to take over as Notre Dame head coach in 2005. Since then, Weis has not enjoyed the same success as he did in New England. With a 35-26 mark and a 1-2 record in bowl games, Weis has recently come under massive scrutiny, allowing many to speculate that his days as the Fighting Irish coach could be numbered. Indicating a 6-5 record was not good enough when he replaced Tyrone Willingham, Weis has already stated he would not argue with a firing if that is the end result. Eric Mangini Hired as the Patriots defensive coordinator in 2005 after serving as the defensive backs coach, Mangini left New England for the Jets in 2006. Accepting the job Belichick had turned down seven years earlier, Mangini instantly became Belichick's nemesis, causing their relationship to sour. From avoiding postgame handshakes to refusing to acknowledge each other's success, these two coaches spiced up a rivalry for three years. Referred to as "Fredo" (the disloyal son in "The Godfather") by Patriots defensive lineman Ty Warren, Mangini opened the door for New England fans to detest him even further after accusing Belichick of recording the Jets' defensive signals in 2007 during the infamous Spygate incident. In his three years overseeing the Jets, Mangini struggled, including a late-season collapse in 2008 that ultimately cost him his job. Mangini's tenure in New York ended with a 23-25 record along with a 2006 AFC wild card playoff loss to the Patriots. Now guiding the Browns, Mangini's coaching career has gone from bad to worse. With a 1-8 record in the first year of a three-year deal, Mangini has drawn criticism for his strict coaching mechanisms and his inability to earn respect from his players. Romeo Crennel Winning three Super Bowls as defensive coordinator with the Patriots from 2001-04, Crennel was unable to carry his success over to the Browns. As Browns coach from 2005-08, Crennel failed to deliver a playoff berth, compiling a 24-40 record in four seasons. Entering 2008 with high expectations after a 10-6 2007 season, Crennel watched his young, talented team fall to a 4-12 record that led to his firing at year's end, making way for Mangini to take over. Even though he is currently unemployed as a coach -- opting to sit out this year while recovering from hip surgery -- Crennel still can be seen on Sundays -- in Coors Light commercials, that is. Josh McDaniels Starting out as a personal assistant with the Patriots in 2001, McDaniels assumed several coaching roles with the Patriots before becoming offensive coordinator in 2006. Agreeing to take over in Denver following the Mike Shanahan firing, McDaniels wasted no time sparking controversy in his new organization. After reports were leaked indicating McDaniels had tried to aquire Matt Cassel from the Patriots to serve as his quarterback, an offended Jay Cutler requested a trade from the Broncos. The disgruntled quarterback was eventually dealt to the Bears. The bickering did not end there. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall demanded to be traded during training camp after clashing with McDaniels. While McDaniels only suspended Marshall instead of granting him his request, he seemed to temporarily calm the storm as the Broncos began the season 6-0, including a Week 5 defeat of the Patriots by an overtime score of 20-17. With Denver having lost four straight since then, many wonder if McDaniels finally has become exposed. With the Broncos set to host the Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, only time will tell. Nick Saban In 1995, Saban was named defensive coordinator of the Browns under Belichick. After a successful tenure with Louisiana State University when he led the Tigers to a 2003 BCS national championship and was named the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, Saban started his NFL head coaching career following the 2004 season, when he agreed to fill the Miami Dolphins' vacancy. In his two seasons with the franchise, Saban showed he had difficulty transitioning between the collegiate and professional level, going 15-17 before leaving the Dolphins to return to college. His decision to do so generated a significant degree of controversy. For the past three seasons, Saban has coached the Alabama Crimson Tide, who are 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the AP poll behind the University of Florida. While Saban's college history is decorated, his NFL career -- like those of many of the Belichick coaching progeny -- is remembered only for its mediocrity and controversy.