When Bob Quinn got the GM job with the Detroit Lions last January, there was one thing he believed carried the day.
Bill Belichick’s recommendation. "Above and beyond" is how Quinn termed Belichick's effort to get the Lions' search committee to see Quinn as a valuable addition.
This is the Belichick that’s rarely discussed. The one who rewards employees who dealt with merciless expectations, year-round, round-the-clock demands and drone-like existences by doing whatever he can to help them advance.
I asked Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday morning about using Belichick as a sounding board as McDaniels goes through the interview process for head coaching vacancies with the Rams, 'Niners and Jaguars.
"He's the best," said McDaniels. "He's very unselfish. He cares for us all and if there's something that we need or that we'd ask of him I’m certain that he would do it, whether it’s advice, wisdom, counsel, what have you. He's not only somebody that we take our cue from in terms of getting ready for the next opponent, but he's a mentor in a lot of different areas of our lives. And this would be no different."
Belichick is obviously an old hand at this. During his New England tenure, he’s said goodbye to advancing coaches Charlie Weis (Notre Dame), Romeo Crennel (Cleveland), Bill O’Brien (Penn State), McDaniels (Denver) and departing personnel men like Quinn, John Robinson (Titans), Scott Pioli (Kansas City), Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta), Jason Licht (Tampa Bay) and Lionel Vital (Ravens).
The one messy departure Belichick experienced came with Eric Mangini, who took over as Jets head coach in 2006. Mangini -- like Belichick, a Wesleyan grad -- went from Cleveland Browns ballboy with Belichick to Crennel’s successor at defensive coordinator. Mangini and Belichick had an interesting relationship, almost akin to the one Belichick had with Bill Parcells. Mangini gave Belichick more pushback than other assistants and, in 2005, Belichick elevated Mangini to defensive coordinator rather than lose him to Cleveland where Crennel was considering hiring him. After the 2005 season, Mangini interviewed during the playoffs with the Jets and accepted the job while the playoffs were still ongoing. A no-no. Mangini also recruited fellow Pats coaches and players to go with him to the Jets. The cold front turned into an Ice Age after the 2007 opener between the Patriots and Jets . . . from which, of course, Spygate was spawned.
That one instance of rancor -- while easily recalled -- is an extreme outlier. Belichick busts his ass to help guys get ahead. As long as the effort is rewarded with focus and effort through to the finish line.
"I couldn't ask for people to mentor me any better than he's done, [owner Robert Kraft has] done or [team president] Jonathan [Kraft]. They are there to offer anything they can as a resource to help the people that are working for them and I hope they know how much we appreciate that," said McDaniels.
McDaniels did acknowledge that one doesn't want to overdo it with asking for advice. Asking Belichick if he had an opinion on the public schools around San Francisco, for instance, might be pushing it.
"Yeah, you just want to be careful how much you're doing that because there's a balance," he said. "But they are always there for us and I really appreciate that. It's not an easy thing for anyone to be involved in because you're totally invested in this team and this year and that’s where I’m at now.”
The process, McDaniels said, is easily handled.
"We've been trained to switch gears and really tie our focus into the thing that's at hand," said McDaniels. "If it's a work day then we know where our focus is gonna lie. It's gonna be on the Texans this week and we're looking forward to getting ready to go."