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The Bill Belichick Tree: How the Patriots’ coach’s proteges have done on their own

Another coach from Bill Belichick’s tree was made a head coach when the Giants hired wide receivers/special teams coach Joe Judge to be their newest head coach. Judge now joins a much maligned fraternity of former Belichick assistants to become head coaches in the NFL.

Here’s a rundown of Belichick’s previous assistants who became head coaches after leaving New England.


The Good (Enough)

– Jim Schwartz: Lions (2009-2013)

Schwartz’s first role in the NFL was as a personnel scout for Belichick’s Cleveland Browns. He was also tasked with the impossible job of turning around a Detroit Lions team that went 0-16 the year before he got there.

All things considered, Schwartz did a fine job. Three years after going 0-16, Schwartz got the Lions at 10-6 in 2011 before they lost a wild-card game to the New Orleans Saints. He was fired after posting an 11-21 record in the two years after, but Schwartz should be commended for dragging the Lions from the gutter to the playoffs.

– Bill O’Brien: Texans (2014-present)

No one thinks O’Brien is the best coach in the league, but he’s been relatively good compared to his peers since being hired as the Texans’ head coach in 2014. The Texans have only had one losing season in that span (4-12 in 2017) and have two playoff wins. The AFC South may be a complete dumpster fire of a division, but O’Brien’s 52-44 record is pretty good.


The Bad

– Romeo Crennel: Browns (2005-2008), Chiefs (2011-2012)

Crennel went 28-55 in his career as a head coach. He was the head coach for the Browns’ lone winning season (2007) in the last 15 years, which resulted in Derek Anderson (of all people) going to the Pro Bowl. Outside of that season, Crennel never managed more than six wins. He went from interim head coach to full time head coach in Kansas City, but went 2-14 in one season before getting fired.

– Josh McDaniels: Broncos (2009-2010)

McDaniels might be getting another head coaching job in the coming weeks, but that doesn’t erase what happened the first time he got a head coach role.

McDaniels drafted Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, which was an objective disaster. He also got caught up in a situation where he and Steve Scarnecchia were caught filming a San Francisco 49ers practice prior to a game in London. He went 11-17 and ended up getting canned.

– Matt Patricia: Lions (2018-present)

Patricia hasn’t done anything in two years as the Lions head coach. He was brought in to improve the Lions’ defense and has completely failed to do so at this point, ranking 25th in yards per play in 2019. Detroit has gone 9-22-1 during his head coaching stint.


The Fine

– Al Groh: Jets (2000)

Al Groh only coached one season with the Jets before heading to the University of Virginia, his alma mater, for nine seasons. He went 9-7 in his one year with the Jets.

– Nick Saban: Dolphins (2005-2006)

The big mistake Saban and the Dolphins made was choosing Daunte Culpepper as their quarterback over Drew Brees. If Brees was the quarterback for the Dolphins in 2006, Saban might have never left for Alabama. Saban went 15-17 in two years with Miami before heading over to Tuscaloosa where he’s dominated college football for over a decade.

– Eric Mangini: Jets (2006-2008), Browns (2009-2010)

Mangini immediately won 10 games with the Jets upon his arrival in 2006 after spending five years in New England as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator. Mangini had another winning season in 2008, but was fired. The Jets collapsed that season, finishing the season 9-7 after starting off 8-3. Like most people to coach the second iteration of the Browns, he had two losing seasons.


Too Early to Tell

– Brian Flores: Miami Dolphins (2019-present)

The Dolphins hired Flores last year after he spent almost 15 years with New England. The Dolphins were projected by many to not even win a single game last year, but ended up going 5-11 and even beat New England in Week 17. Flores might be the real deal, but there’s a long way to go before that’s certain.

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