Working for Bill Belichick Doesn't Make You Bill Belichick, McDaniels and Others

Alan SchechterContributor IApril 1, 2009

FOXBOROUGH, MA - 2005:  Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots poses for his 2005 NFL headshot at photo day in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Getty Images)

The Jay Cutler/Josh McDaniels situation is finally coming to a bitter end. Jay Cutler has no interest in playing for his new coach, or for the team that drafted him. This issue has brought to light a larger issue, an issue of coaches getting in over their heads. 

Josh McDaniels is in over his head, and Eric Mangini was to a point, in over his head as well as New York Jets coach.

Furthermore, these coaches and future coaches coming from the Patriots staff will be better off if they learn one valuable lesson, working for Bill Belichick doesn't make you Bill Belichick.

Now I am not suggesting that his staff getting jobs is a bad thing. Some of the best coaches of our time have come off the coaching family trees of coaches past.  Mike Holmgren from Bill Walsh, Tom Coughlin from Bill Parcells, and there are countless others.

Learning from a great coach can be invaluable in cutting your own niche as a coach. However, my point is that working on a great staff doesn't guarantee you a great career as a head coach. You have to earn it.

Let's start with Josh McDaniels. 

We are all familiar with his work on the Patriots staff, through and including this past year when he turned Matt Cassel into a valuable starting quarterback. He follows that by being hired to replace a great coach in Mike Shanahan in Denver.

Now, riding the ego he has developed as offensive coach for Bill Belichick, what is the first decision he makes?  He attempts to trade his starting quarterback to acquire his new found talent, Matt Cassel. That doesn't work, so what does he decide to do? 

He goes around wearing a Jay Cutler jersey, telling the world that "He is my quarterback." Why would anyone believe this?

I ask you out there, if your boss was trying to replace you, and then when he couldn't, he tells you how you are perfect for the job and he loves you, would you believe him?

I wouldn't, and Jay Cutler can't be blamed for not believing him either.

He's not the only one who is afflicted with this disease. Take a look at Eric Mangini's tenure with the New York Jets.  His issue was not so much handling personalities, as much as it was trying to force feed his system on his team.

The moment he arrived he tried to replace the team's starting quarterback, Chad Pennington. 

Pennington hadn't played a down for Mangini before he drafted Kellen Clemens to be his replacement.  He took a team that was built to play a 4-3 defense, changed the system before changing the players. As Jet fans we know, the result caused him to be fired. 

Contrast this with the more successful coaches.  Bill Parcells is a prime example.  He arrived on the scene with the Jets in 1997, inheriting a team that went 1-15 the previous year.

He took that team with very minimal changes from 1996 to 1997, and coaxed them to a 9-7 record, staying in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season. Now take a look at the styles of some of his teams. Take the Giants, for example, where his team made a living at ball control, smash mouth football. 

He moved onto New England years later, where with Terry Glenn and Ben Coates, and Drew Bledsoe behind center, he was able to feature his aerial weapons and go to a Super Bowl with a contrasting style to his two Giant Super Bowls. 

What's the secret? The secret is that Bill Parcells is able to use the players that he has, and the talents that they have to make them successful. 

And then the question is, with examples of using existing players to be successful, why would coaches such as Josh McDaniels and Eric Mangini impose their systems on their teams, and treat their players as they please? 

The answer is they feel they are better than they are. They come into these positions as big stars, simply because they worked on a great staff. They feel they can come in and do as they please, and that it will work because it worked for Bill Belichick. 

Every team is different. What works for one team may be totally unsuccessful for another, which is why to be a successful coach, you have to work with what you have and adapt, and the longer you are in the position, then you make it yours with personnel changes. 

Hopefully Josh McDaniels and Eric Mangini will learn this, as will future assistants as they ascend to head coaching positions. If they don't, we will see more and more of these problems, and less and less successful assistant turned head coaches.