You are a general manager, and you are searching for a new head coach. And Bill Belichick is not available.
So of course it makes sense to interview the men who assisted him on his way to Lombardiville, the young, wide-eyed, eager gym rats unquestionably headed for greatness, who by osmosis alone will bring Belichick’s genius with them.
And then you look at the records of those who branched out on their own from the Belichick tree, and you gasp:
Josh McDaniels with the Broncos.
Romeo Crennel with the Browns and Chiefs.
Eric Mangini with the Jets and Browns.
Charlie Weis at Notre Dame and Kansas.
Jim Schwartz with the Lions.
And so you begin reminding yourself that there is only one Belichick, and you wonder whether you should even bother.
Here’s why it shouldn’t scare you off:
1. Belichick wasn’t Belichick in his first crack at the head-coaching thing in Cleveland, was he? The midseason announcement of a pending move to Baltimore didn’t help, but still.
Imagine if Bob Kraft had been scared off by Belichick’s 36-44 record with the Browns, and not been prepared to welcome him with open arms in 2000. Belichick might still be HC of the NYJ, for crying out loud — Broadway Bill.
2. None of the branchees had the benefit of Tom Brady as his quarterback. This is not to say Belichick would not have won a single Super Bowl with the Patriots. But c’mon, he wouldn’t be gunning for his sixth now without Brady by his side.
McDaniels was 33 and nowhere near ready to be a head coach (11-17) in Denver in 2009. He immediately alienated Jay Cutler because he was more interested in Brady backup Matt Cassel. Actually, he alienated just about everyone. His interpersonal relationships made Belichick look like Cedric The Entertainer. He was labeled abrasive and paranoid. His personnel expertise? He drafted Tim Tebow in the first round.
The NFL fined McDaniels and the Broncos each $50,000 for recording a 49ers walk-through. (Imagine if the league caught Belichick doing something like that!)
His quarterbacks were Kyle Orton and Tebow. You try to win with Kyle Orton and Tebow.
Crennel and Weis — Belichick’s defensive and offensive coordinators, respectively, same as Matt Patricia and McDaniels now — were hot candidates for the Giants job that went to Tom Coughlin in 2004.
Crennel was 28-55 as a head coach. His quarterbacks his first two years in Cleveland were Trent Dilfer and Charlie Frye. But when Derek Anderson had a career year in 2007, Crennel was 10-6. When Anderson returned to earth in 2008, Crennel was 4-12.
And replaced in 2009 by Eric Mangini.
Mangini showed up with the Jets in 2006 trying to be Belichick, and by the end of his third season, Woody Johnson had grown weary of the joyless environment around the building.
He had been hailed as Mangenius when Chad Pennington fashioned his only complete season and led the Jets to the 2006 playoffs, where they were trounced by Belichick. Pennington and Kellen Clemens floundered in 2007 and Johnson’s lust for star power the next summer brought Brett Favre, who was 8-3 before suffering a torn biceps and surrendering the AFC East title to the Dolphins — who were quarterbacked by one Chad Pennington.
Crennel got a second chance in 2012 in Kansas City — and went 2-14 with Cassel and Brady Quinn. Though there was no excuse for his defense surrendering 30 or more points six times.
Weis arrived at Notre Dame declaring “we have the greatest advantage” in Xs and Os. He was 19-6 in his first two seasons but finished 35-27, and even lost to Navy. Then came 6-22 at Kansas.
Schwartz inherited an 0-16 Lions team and rookie franchise QB Matthew Stanford, and was in the playoffs in his third season. He missed the playoffs the next two seasons and collapsed in 2013 after a 7-5 start when Stafford threw 2 TDs and 5 INTs over the final four weeks, all losses. Schwartz finished 29-51.
Belichick was 36-44 in Cleveland. He foolishly convinced owner Art Modell to sign receiver Andre Rison. His quarterbacks were Bernie Kosar, Todd Philcox, Vinny Testaverde, who beat Parcells in the 1994 playoffs, and Eric Zeier.
Bill O’Brien was 15-9 replacing Joe Paterno at Penn State and is 31-33 with a 1-2 playoff record with the Texans. His quarterbacks: Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage … but what would he have accomplished if Deshaun Watson hadn’t torn his ACL this season and TJ Yates became his quarterback?
Oh: Nick Saban was 15-17 as Dolphins head coach. His quarterbacks: Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington and Daunte Culpepper.
Alabama wasn’t scared, was it?