Bill Belichick surprisingly mediocre when coaching against former understudies
Bill Belichick is at or near the top of almost every list that measures how good an NFL head coach is at his job. There is one area where he has struggled over the years, however, and it could be a factor when the New England Patriots take on the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.
You may not realize it, but Belichick does not have a great record when coaching against former members of his staff and players who played under him. As Tyler Sullivan of CBS Sports pointed out this week, Belichick has a record of just 14-13 in such situations. Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who played linebacker for Belichick in New England, is already responsible for one of those 13 losses. He will be looking to hand Belichick No. 14 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
Another potential playoff opponent for New England, the Houston Texans, are also coached by a Belichick disciple. Former Patriots offensive assistant and coordinator Bill O’Brien got the best of his old boss with the Texans’ 28-22 win over the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 13 this season. Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who was the defensive coordinator in New England before landing at his current job, handed Belichick a loss just last weekend.
Patriots fans need not panic, however. Of Belichick’s 13 losses against his former understudies, none have come in the postseason. He is 2-0 in the playoffs in those spots, having beaten the Eric Mangini-led New York Jets in 2006 and O’Brien’s Texans three years ago.
If the Patriots are eliminated on Saturday, it probably won’t be because Belichick’s former assistants and players have his number. The Pats are playing some of their worst football heading into the postseason, which is never a recipe for success. There are also injury concerns surrounding the few impact players they have left on offense, so Belichick may need to do some of his best coaching to lead New England on another deep run. Should he fall short against Tennessee, his record against coaches who learned from him will look even more surprising.