With the Dolphins hiring Brian Flores as their 13th head coach on Monday, one of the intriguing aspects is: he’s a former Bill Belichick assistant, who will now be coaching against the iconic Patriots boss twice a year in the AFC East.
And, while that has been rare (former Belichick disciple going against the master) in the same division, it’s not unprecedented.
Let’s take a look:
Two times in the 2000s, Belicheck former assistants ended up in the AFC East to be on New England’s schedule regularly.
One of those was Eric Mangini who was with Belichick in Cleveland originally in the 1990s and later came with him as a defensive assistant in New England under Bill Parcells. And then, eventually he was hired as the Jets head coach in 2006.
Mangini had only limited success going only 23 – 25 in his three years, but that did include the team acquiring Brett Favre in 2008 and finishing with a 9-7 record before Mangini was dismissed.
Most famously, Mangini busted the Patriots at the Meadowlands for videotaping coaches signals from the sidelines during the opening game of the 2007 season. He had reported the Patriots to the NFL for such tactics, and they caught New England red-handed.
The NFL later fined Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft and took away New England’s number one pick for “the Spygate investigation.”
Mangini was 3-4, including a playoff loss, while coaching the Jets against Belichick.
The other former Belichick assistant, who also coached in the division, is the one and only Nick Saban. Saban had been defensive coordinator with Belichick of the Cleveland Browns in the 1990s and went on to college head coaching successes at Michigan State and a national championship at LSU.
He then took the Dolphins job, himself, in 2005 finishing 15 – 17 in his two seasons. Saban famously went back on his numerous public denials and let to go back to college and Alabama in 2007. For the record, Saban was 2-2 in four meetings with the Pats, as a division rival.
Now, the most successful coach from the Belichick tree to become a head coach elsewhere in the NFL is former offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. O’Brien was an assistant and offensive coordinator for five years with Belichick in Foxboro earlier this century. And, that enabled him to take over as the Penn State head coach for a couple of seasons post Joe Paterno controversy.
O’Brien, who has led the Texans since 2014, has won the division three times, including an 11 wins season this past year. He is the only former Belichick assistant to coach more than one season and have a winning record (currently 42-38).
There are former assistants like former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who was the head coach for five plus seasons in Cleveland with a poor 24 – 40 record, current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who lasted just a season-and-a-half in Denver at 11 and 17, and former Cleveland and New England assistant Jim Schwartz who was the Lions coach who was largely a failure, too for five years with a 29-51 record.
Again though, none of them went head-to-head in the same division with Belichick in those roles.
Then, after last season, former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia left the Patriots for the Lions job and finished 6 and 10 in his inaugural year. Patricia did defeat the Patriots for his first career coaching win in September.
So that brings us back to Flores, who’s doing something now, that no former Patriot assistant has done in this decade- take on his former boss regularly in the east.
Flores talked extensively and glowingly about Belichick during the Super Bowl week media buildup, and again, in Mondays news conference being introduced, as the new Miami coach. However make no mistake, it’s a different situation now that he’s competing directly against the Patriots at least twice every year.
And, with all of that listed about verifying it, it’s a situation, where most of the previous Patriots assistants have failed as head coaches.
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