Dec 2008 18

With the Patriots, Dolphins, and Jets sharing the top spot in the AFC East, there’s no question some contention exists between the teams, but the bitterness has been brewing for many years.  It all started decades ago. >Belichick was Bill Parcell’s protégé in numerous coaching positions (Special Teams, Linebackers, and Defensive Coordinator) when they were both employed by the New York Giants from 1979-1990, save for a one year stint with the Pats in 1980 for Parcells.  In 1991, Belichick became head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Parcells stepped down from coaching due to medical reasons, becoming a football commentator for NBC.

In 1993, Parcells resumed his NFL career as the Pats head coach. Belichick was released as head coach after fumbling through the Cleveland Brown’s 1995 season and the two Bills were reunited in 1996 to lead the Patriots to an AFC Championship. However, animosity flourished between Parcells and Pats owner Robert Kraft. Parcells’ contract did not allow him to coach elsewhere but the Jets tried to circumvent the situation in 1997 by offering Belichick (then Parcells #1 assistant) a gig as the Jets head coach and Parcells an “advisory” position. Some legal contention ensued between the Patriots and the Jets which ended with the Patriots releasing Parcells from his contract in exchange for a first round draft pick from the Jets.  Parcells became the Jets head coach and although Kraft had thought Belichick was capable enough to take over for Parcells, he wanted to rid the Pats of all things related to Parcells (“squish the fish”) and Belichick became the Jets assistant head coach.

Current Jets head coach Eric Mangini (not to be confused with a mangina…) began his NFL career in the early nineties as a Cleveland Browns ball boy under the guidance of Belichick. Mangini became the Jets defensive quality control coach in 1997 alongside Parcells and Belichick, later following Belichick to the Patriots in 2000 when Belichick took over as head coach, and Parcells retired again. Mangini left the Patriots in 2006 after being schooled by Belichick on the fine art of cheating… my bad, coaching a winning team, and was named head coach of the NY Jets. After then attempting to convince some players and coaches to accompany him to the Empire State, you could cut the hostility between Mangini and Belichick with a knife. Parcells was lured out of retirement again in 2003 to become the Cowboys head coach through 2006, and has been the Dolphins Executive VP of Football Operations from 2008 to present.

Fast forward to the 2007 season opener as NFL security unlocked the biggest scandal in the Northeast since the Boston Tea Party – Patriots Spygate. Belichick’s rep was tainted and Mangini was labeled a tattletale. Now only a few weeks in the 2008 season remain and we’re juggling between experience with Belichick’s three Super Bowl titles and the success of bargain basement backup QB Matt Cassel replacing the injured Tom Brady, and the Dolphins phenomenal season due to picking up Pennington after he was booted when the Jets went all in with Brett Favre, and all three teams tied at 9-5. It’s like a manly version of a soap opera. How will it all play out?