Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time. He’s full of football wisdom, which he’s been able to impart on his players and staff to the tune of six Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots.
So why do coaches who work under Belichick often flop upon leaving New England?
NFL insider Jay Glazer addressed this topic in a mailbag published Friday on The Athletic when asked whether Brian Flores’ first season as Miami Dolphins head coach will be similar to Matt Patricia’s first season as Detroit Lions head coach.
(Flores, the Patriots’ defensive playcaller last season, was hired away by the Dolphins earlier this offseason. Patricia coached the Lions in 2018 after spending 14 seasons on Belichick’s staff in New England, including the final six as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator.)
Here’s what Glazer wrote:
You can’t compare the two because they have completely different rosters. The one thing I’ll say is that it has usually been difficult for Bill Belichick disciples when they go somewhere else — they try too much to do it the Patriots Way or the Belichick Way. These players are just too street smart. If you’re not yourself, they’ll see through that in two seconds. That’s why in the past it just hasn’t panned out for many of BB’s disciples. Bill Belichick can get away with doing things the Belichick or Patriots Way because they know it’s him, that’s who he is. When someone else tries to be that, sometimes players will call them Bill Jr. or Little Bill, whatever it is, that’s when guys literally and figuratively turn their backs. Players can only hear so much about the Patriots Way when you’re somewhere else. As long as these guys are genuine to who they are and look to build their own culture, they’ll have more of a shot.
Patricia had mostly disappointing results in his first season coaching the Lions. Detroit defeated New England in Week 3 after a tumultuous first couple of weeks and eventually improved to 3-3 through six games, but it was all downhill from there. The Lions lost seven of their final 10 contests to finish with a 6-10 record, good for last place in the NFC North. Detroit had gone 9-7 in each of the two previous campaigns, even reaching the playoffs in 2016.
Flores might experience similar hiccups with Miami, but as Glazer mentioned, it’s apples and oranges. Not only do the Dolphins have the Patriots to contend with in the AFC East. They’re also in the midst of rebuilding, perhaps putting a cap on their potential for the 2019 season.
All told, Glazer makes an interesting point: While it’s wise for coaches to take advantage of the knowledge they acquire from Belichick over the years and incorporate that into their subsequent job performance, they also must understand that each situation is different and that preaching the “Patriot Way” might be met with skepticism from players outside of New England.
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