Another limb of Bill Belichick's coaching tree fell Monday when the Denver Broncos fired Josh McDaniels after just 28 games into his tenure.
McDaniels, whose father Thom coached at Warren G. Harding from 2000-06, was the victim of poor personnel decisions and the revelation that the Broncos filmed a Saturday walk-through practice by the San Francisco 49ers earlier this season in London.
The Belichick tree hasn't exactly been fruitful in producing coaches on the NFL level. Romeo Crennel tried unsuccessfully for four seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Nick Saban struggled in two seasons with the Miami Dolphins before returning to the college game in Alabama, where recruiting provides an inherent competitive advantage for major programs.
Crennel was followed by Eric Mangini, who barely escaped his first season with the Browns in 2009. Mangini is trying to secure a third year on the job as the 5-7 Browns enter the final quarter of the season.
One of the culprits in McDaniels' situation is owner Pat Bowlen, who gave carte-blanche status to a 32-year-old head coach at the time of his hiring. The dual role of coach/general manager rarely works, especially with a young coach that had never been higher than a coordinator on the coaching chain.
When are owners going to learn? You don't ask one man to do two time-consuming jobs and expect the on-the-field product to move along smoothly.
Browns president Mike Holmgren is one of the best coaches of the last 25 years and a shrewd judge of talent, but when he was coach/GM of the Seattle Seahawks from 1998-02, the results weren't encouraging. Seahawks owner Paul Allen eventually relieved Holmgren of his GM role, and the Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl in the 2005 season.
McDaniels was clearly in over his head in Denver. He made personnel decisions that could hurt the franchise for several seasons.
One of the worst might prove to be the trading of quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears.
Cutler has intoxicating talent, but his decision-making and heart were often questioned while a Bronco. Cutler seems to have managed to get a handle on his weaknesses this season in leading the Bears to a 9-3 record and a status as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Another deal that stings Broncos' fans involves McDaniels' decision to trade running back Peyton Hillis and two future draft choices to the Browns for quarterback Brady Quinn. Hillis has become a star in Cleveland, rushing for 962 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns to put his name into consideration for a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl roster.
All that Quinn did in three seasons with the Browns is show that he's probably not a NFL-caliber quarterback. His arrogant personality and inability to complete the easiest of passes made it an easy decision by Browns general manager Tom Heckert to make the trade.
McDaniels also authorized a trade that sent number one receiver Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins in return for two second-round draft choices. Marshall can be a problem off the field and will probably never be an easy player to deal with, but he's loaded with talent.
Another issue might have been McDaniels' decision to use a first-round draft pick on quarterback Tim Tebow, whose throwing mechanics have been analyzed and tweaked more than a NASCAR engine. Tebow is a classic high risk-reward player. Those aren't the types of players that organizations select in the first round.
In the end, McDaniels failed because he comes from the Belichick coaching tree. Owners think that assistants of winning coaches will be successful through osmosis, if nothing else.
It doesn't work that way, as we've discovered with Saban, Crennel and Mangini. Sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree.