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Recent posts by Eric Edholm
When Bill Belichick and the Patriots were winning Super Bowls, they had a coaching and scouting staff that largely was comprised of men who had a long history together. Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis had worked with Belichick in New York with the Giants and GM Scott Pioli had a history with him dating back to Cleveland. But these days, a big chunk of the Patriots' coaching staff is made up of young, though talented coaches with various backgrounds. In his season-ending press conference following his team's 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens, Belichick spoke about the difference in his staff today and how many of them might not be willing to stand up to him and disagree with his decisions.
The PFW Spin
The final question asked Monday of Belichick in his 31-minute closing address was by far the most revealing of the day. He spoke of the challenge of being the top dog on a staff that perhaps doesn't disagree with him enough.
"Yeah, absolutely," Belichick said. "And I've talked to other coaches about that — coaches that are pretty well established, and I get the nature of your question. There's definitely Romeo [Crennel] or Charlie [Weis] or somebody; they wouldn't really be afraid to at times say, 'What are you doing? Are you serious? Are you seriously considering that?'"
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees joined the Patriots six years ago with no prior connection to Belichick, other than through Nick Saban's recommendation. Assistant head coach/OL coach Dante Scarnecchia was a prior interim head coach and knew Belichick from his first tenure in New England. DL coach Pepper Johnson played for Belichick with the Giants. Special-teams coach Scott O'Brien has ties to Belichick through Cleveland. Other than that, the majority of the coaches are younger coaches whom Belichick has groomed in the wake of Crennel, Weis, Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels leaving for head-coaching opportunities.
"Then there is certainly another level of coach that at that time or at this time, they just wouldn't say that to me. And I mean, I understand that and that's … and I was like that," Belichick said. "There was a point in time where I was like that, where I would never say to, whether it was coach (Ted) Marchibroda or Red Miller or whoever, I wouldn't."
Belichick spoke further about how gaining a level of respect with a coach such as Bill Parcells took time before he felt he could stand up to a Super Bowl-winning authority.
"And then there was a point in time where I would, whether it was Bill or — mostly Bill," he said. "There's a point in time where you reach a point or you have a relationship and you feel more comfortable saying things that you just wouldn't have said — even with that guy — a few years earlier."
Belichick said the Patriots have a system where coaches can challenge him, but he appeared to hint that — even as some things are inflexible with him — there might not be enough resistance coming from his coaching staff. In the book "Patriot Reign," detailing the 2002 and '03 seasons, author Michael Holley wrote that Belichick encouraged his employees to stand up to him — if they believed he was wrong and could provide the right proof of their stance.
"We try to have an open communication, an open forum on some things and some things aren't open," he said. "Some things are 'This is the way they're going to be.' I think that's something, as a head coach, you have to be conscious of, and I am. I'm not saying I do a great job of it. I don't know whether I do or not, but I'm definitely conscious of that."
This is not to condemn Belichick's staff, but it is an interesting admission by the head coach that there might be an element of this going on in New England. And it's impossible to say whether this had anything to do with the Patriots' relative failures this season. But it wouldn't be surprising to see Belichick dip into his past with a former co-worker to add to the staff — or at least someone he knows will be willing to stand up to him — this offseason.