EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 19, 2007

Time for Belichick to forgive and forget

On Pro Football , Hector Longo

Bill Belichick mistakes, pertaining to the game of football, come along about once every drop-kick.

Somewhere Doug Flutie is warming up his right leg.

Belichick's halfhearted postgame handshake and his muttering - either "good game or good luck," according to Jets coach Eric Mangini - is just the latest faux pas in a long list of them for the Patriots' coach.

Not to be judgmental, but Bill, you messed up.

Call Mangini and make this right. You swept him handily. You're on your way to making history, partly at Mangini's expense.

Not later, right now. Forgive and forget.

Believe it or not, Eric Mangini is vital to Bill Belichick.

Here's why.

With all the wins and most likely a fourth Super Bowl title on the way, Belichick is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, belonging right next to Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll in the most elite coaching company.

But he leaves no legacy after the victories and the defeats.

He does not ooze the charisma of Lombardi.

He's not an icon or innovator like Landry.

He's not attached to one institution, taking on its heart-and-soul as Noll did with the Steelers.

Take Bill Walsh. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you say the name?

"West Coast offense." Absolutely.

That and the legendary coaching tree attached to it from Mike Holmgren on down - they revolutionized the NFL game. The number of current and former NFL head coaches, leading back to Walsh is 28 and counting.

Mangini is Belichick's baby.

He's got no history in the game, just a football junkie, who played a little ball at Wesleyan, hooked on with Belichick as a 23-year-old ball boy in Cleveland and slowly climbed the NFL ladder.

Mangini is no ex-jock. He's a crazed tactician, like his former boss. Walking off the Gillette Stadium turf, Mangini was miserably cold, frustrated from the loss and disgusted from being pelted with snow.

The Jets' second-year coach, now 36, still was busy, accepting notes and scraps of paper from various assistants about the game.

Aside from the weight, Mangini is the young Belichick. Instead of holding a grudge Bill should be proud.

New York can be a fickle town, but sticking with him for the long haul is the best move that franchise could make.

Belichick has plenty of coaching alliances out there with the likes of Fresno State's Pat Hill and Alabama's Nick Saban, plus Romeo Crennel in Cleveland and Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.

None of them were Belichick wannabees like Mangini. He watched the master and absorbed plenty.

Mangini won't be the last Belichick disciple to hit it big either. Nope, there should be a fairly long line. But Mangini is his first home-bred. He's truly special.

And by the looks of things, the Connecticut native is a darn good football coach, whose only football fault right now is the lack of a decent quarterback.

Is Mangini guilty in this Spygate mess? Sure.

But Belichick made plenty of mistakes in his early head-coaching days at Cleveland. His team disintegrated around him, beginning with his decision to sit Bernie Kosar. Belichick's last two teams went from 11-5 to 5-11.

It was known as the Cleveland Error and chants of "Bill must go!" pervaded Municipal Stadium.

Mangini was looking for a competitive edge when he finked on his former boss. Just like Belichick would have.

Trust me.

The Jets got it, too, when their toughest competitor - the standard by which every other franchise in the NFL is measured - lost a first-round draft pick because of it.

For your own sake, Bill, let it go. Embrace Eric like the prodigal protege he is. Slap him on those chubby red cheeks and welcome him back to the fold.

History dictates it's a decision you won't regret.

Hector Longo is an Eagle-Tribune writer. E-mail him at hlongo@eagletribune.com.


Patriots have 8 Pro Bowlers ... three fewer than Cowboys

The record-setting duo of Tom Brady and Randy Moss, who have combined for 19 touchdowns, highlighted the eight Patriot selections to the AFC Pro Bowl roster.

They are in: QB Tom Brady, WR Randy Moss, OL Matt Light, OL Dan Koppen, OL Logan Mankins, DT Vince Wilfork, LB Mike Vrabel, CB Asante Samuel.

They were bypassed: WR Wes Welker (96 catches, 1,004 yards, 8 TDs), LB Tedy Bruschi (team-high 80 tackles), LB Adalius Thomas (69 tackles, 6 sacks), DL Ty Warren (45 tackles), special teams ace Kelley Washington

Most Pro Bowlers: Dallas 11, New England 8, San Diego 8, Minnesota 7

Special honoree: Washington safety Sean Taylor was selected to the team posthumously.