There was always skepticism when the Raiders hired former Bill Belichick assistant coach Josh McDaniels to be their head coach.
And not just because McDaniels had flamed out in less than two seasons as the head coach in Denver.
There is a terrible track record as it relates to Belichick’s assistant coaches who were given head coaching opportunities. The record speaks for itself, as only two of his former assistants — Al Groh and Bill O’Brien — have winning records as NFL coaches.
The question of why it hasn’t translated for Belichick’s assistant coaches is probably more complex than we think, but the fact they have tried to replicate Belichick rather than just be themselves seems to be a common trap.
Also, it certainly didn’t help that none of them had Tom Brady as their quarterback.
Here is a list of Belichick assistants who have mostly flamed out:
Jets (2006-2008), Browns (2009, 2010)
Record: 33-47 (0-1 playoffs)
The defensive-minded Mangini got off to a great start by taking the Jets to the playoffs his first season in 2006. But it was all downhill from there while posting a 19-29 record with the Jets. His personality seemed to grate on players, too, which is another trait of Belichick’s coaching offspring.
Record: 11-13-1 (1-1 playoffs)
It remains to be seen how sustainable Daboll is with the Giants after he provided a shot in the arm in his first season by leading them to a playoff win but a 2-6 record this season. He seems to resonate with his players, which is a bit of a departure from Belichick’s coaching tree. And you get the sense he will get plenty of time to get things back on track.
We’ll never know how successful Groh would have been had he remained with the Jets, but after one season, he decided to head back to college football.
Dolphins (2005, 2006)
Saban was Belichick’s defensive coordinator in Cleveland, and it’s obvious he is one of the greatest coaches of all time based on his success in college.
It’s an entirely different situation relative to his NFL head coaching experience. He always will be remembered in South Beach for saying he wasn’t going to leave for Alabama, only to do just that.
The Dolphins clearly made the right decision by moving on from Flores in favor of Mike McDaniel. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Flores is ill-suited to be a head coach. A big part of the issue in Miami was a breakdown in relationships with the front office.
The record wasn’t bad — it’s the best among Belichick’s former assistants — but when O’Brien was given control of personnel in Houston, he bombed and ripped apart what was a pretty good team.
Giants (2020, 2021)
Judge was always a head-scratching hire by the Giants, who were duped by the bluster of the longtime special teams coach. All that talk never translated to the field, and it soon became apparent Judge was over his head as a head coach.
Patricia tried to be someone he probably wasn’t by acting and operating like his mentor. His dour persona and overplayed opinion of himself came off as arrogant, and it never sat well with his players or the fan base. His teams played as if they were burdened rather than liberated, and the ineptness it created was obvious on game day.
Broncos (2009, 2010), Raiders (2022, 2023)
McDaniels’ tenure with the Raiders, following the failed run he had in Denver, might be the final piece of proof he is an excellent coordinator not suited to be the head coach. His personnel decisions, especially at quarterback, have been part of his undoing. His teams got progressively worse rather than better.
Browns (2005-2008), Chiefs (2011, 2012), Texans (2020)
Another great assistant coach — Crennel was a renowned defensive coordinator — who didn’t translate as a head coach. Crennel was given multiple opportunities but produced just one winning season.