FOXBORO, Mass. — The Bill Belichick coaching and personnel tree could sprout some new branches this offseason.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia both interviewed for NFL head-coaching positions last weekend, though director of player personnel Nick Caserio reportedly declined to talk with the San Francisco 49ers about their general manager job.
Belichick’s disciples have had varying degrees of success over the years. Former coordinators Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini and McDaniels (in his first tenure as a head coach) failed at leading NFL teams, though personnel men Thomas Dimitroff, Scott Pioli, Bob Quinn, Jon Robinson and Jason Licht have experienced more success, especially recently. The Atlanta Falcons, run by Dimitroff and Pioli, and the Detroit Lions, run by Quinn, both made the playoffs this season, and Robinson’s Tennessee Titans and Licht’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to be teams on the rise.
Bill O’Brien, who will come to Gillette Stadium on Saturday to play the Patriots in the divisional playoff round, has coached the Houston Texans to the postseason in two consecutive years now. He recorded his first playoff win as a head coach last weekend in a 27-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
“I think all of us who worked there — either working there now or have worked there — we all have a great amount of pride in the fact that we were part of that,” O’Brien, a former Patriots offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach and assistant, said Tuesday in a conference call with New England media. “We’re also very thankful to Bill Belichick and Mr. (Robert) Kraft for that organization and our ability to work there. We’re very grateful to the players we coached there. It’s all about the players. The players made a lot of plays for us when we were there.”
O’Brien also is happy to see his former peers receive similar opportunities to the one he was granted by the Texans, and he gave his endorsement to McDaniels and Patricia.
“When I see those guys, Bob Quinn, J-Rob, Josh, Matt, Nick Caserio, those guys are great coaches, great personnel guys,” O’Brien said. “I learned a lot from those guys, and to me, they’ll make great head coaches. Bob and Jon have obviously made a big difference in their organizations already. I think it’s a testament to those guys but also a testament to the fact that we were part of something pretty special there in New England.”
O’Brien also might have revealed why Caserio declined to interview with the 49ers.
“Nick’s a very close friend of mine,” O’Brien said. “He’s a guy that I spent a lot of time with there. I learned a lot from Nick. I learned a lot about the NFL. I learned a lot about coaching and evaluation. Nick does everything there. He’s a very loyal guy. I think that’s one of the things about Nick that really is something I admire is his loyalty to his friends, his loyalty to that organization. He’s just a great guy. He’s very smart. He’s a very hard-working guy.”
The Texans are 16-point underdogs to New England on Saturday, but O’Brien already has had more success than other Belichick head-coaching disciples, and that has come through running his team similar to the Patriots. He has former Patriots players Anthony Weaver, Mike Vrabel and Larry Izzo and former coaches and executives George Godsey and Bobby Grier on his staff. So far, it’s been a winning formula.
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