On Wednesday, Yahoo! Sports columnist Charles Robinson unloaded a shotgun blast at the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, presenting a long, carefully constructed argument that the so-called “Patriot Way” established by the 71-year-old head coach during his 24 seasons in Foxborough has never really existed. Robinson was making a case that the franchise’s success had relatively little to do with Belichick. Instead, he said, it was built on the skill of quarterback Tom Brady.
[Belichick is] a bottom-line, what-have-you-done-lately “results” type of guy, so let’s stick to that mantra and deliver it without any varnish.
His regular-season coaching record with Brady as a starter in New England was 219 wins and 64 losses (a 77.4 percent win rate). His Patriots regular-season coaching record since Brady’s departure? Twenty-seven wins and 32 losses (a 45.8 percent win rate).
The Patriot Way didn’t change when Brady left. Bill’s handle on the organization didn’t, either. But the quarterback position did — apparently taking Bill’s golden touch with it.
The Kansas City Chiefs, of course, once tried to appropriate “The Patriot Way” for themselves by hiring New England personnel man Scott Pioli as their general manager in 2009. He was among the first of many former Patriots who failed after leaving Massachusetts. Robinson noted the recent firing of former New England assistant Josh McDaniels — this time by the Las Vegas Raiders — and went down the list.
What many people don’t remember is that he isn’t even the first failed “Patriot Way” disciple to get a second chance… and to have that second chance also crash and burn.
Eric Mangini flopped twice as a head coach, with the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns. Romeo Crennel did, too, with the Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. After that trio, it has been carnage for Belichick’s Patriot Way assistants. Joe Judge went 10-23 with the New York Giants and ended in a revolt. Matt Patricia? He was 13-29-1 with the Detroit Lions, with a locker room that reportedly detested him.
Bill O’Brien is pushed as a success story, but he had a roller-coaster ride with the Houston Texans that ended badly and with a locker room that took up sides between him and former Patriots-turned-Texans executive Jack Easterly.
When Pioli was fired after Kansas City’s disastrous 2012 season, however, we believed that Belichick and Brady shared primary credit for the franchise’s success.
In retrospect, perhaps we should have known better. Pioli himself seems to have recognized that he needed a franchise quarterback to replicate the Patriots’ success in Kansas City. It’s just that Matt Cassel wasn’t the guy for that job — and ultimately, Pioli paid the price for bringing him to the Chiefs.
But Robinson’s article brings up an interesting question: will there come a day when some national columnist will write an article noting the end of the Chiefs’ NFL dynasty — and point out that it was all because of Patrick Mahomes?
That doesn’t seem likely.
In 14 years coaching the Philadelphia Eagles, Reid won 58.3% of his regular-season games. In his first five years in Kansas City, he won 66.3%. Since Mahomes became the starter, he’s won 78%. So unlike Belichick — who hasn’t even had a winning record without Brady — Reid has had success without Mahomes.
But these numbers also underline Mahomes’ contribution to the team’s success. Without him, Reid has a 1-4 record in conference championship games (and a 0-1 record in the Super Bowl) over 19 seasons. With Mahomes under center, though, Reid’s Chiefs have hosted five straight conference championships — winning three of them — and won two of three Super Bowls.
So if Kansas City’s current success is eventually characterized as a dynasty, we’ll have to do the same thing we did during Brady’s time in New England: acknowledge that Mahomes has played a big part in building (and maintaining) it. But unlike Belichick, Reid will have already proved his worth.
There is another aspect of these two situations that will be significantly different: it’s likely that Mahomes will remain in Kansas City after Reid retires — rather than the other way around — and unlike Belichick, Reid has a successful coaching tree. At least 15 of Reid’s former assistants have gone on to successful coaching careers. Two of them — John Harbaugh and Doug Pederson — have won NFL championships as head coaches.
So while it’s impossible to say whether the Chiefs will remain successful after Reid steps down, his track record suggests that the organization (and culture) he’s built in Kansas City could continue to be successful without him.
I’ll admit to some bias. I’ve considered the Chiefs’ relatively rare victories over New England during the Brady years as among the team’s greatest moments — and I believe Pioli’s years in Kansas City were among the darkest. So I’ll acknowledge that reading Robinson’s takedown of “The Patriot Way” was very gratifying. But it was even more satisfying to realize that in Kansas City, the construction of an even greater dynasty might already be underway.