Belicheat: the backstory

Michael Silver writes what may be his most interesting column ever. He really does nice work on the rare occasions he is able to get off his favorite subject, Michael Silver:

How did all of this happen? How did Belichick, probably the greatest defensive strategist of his era and a future Hall of Fame coach, allow one of his prodigies to distract him from the task at hand and make him look like a fool?

It goes back to the end of the 2005 season, when the Jets were courting Mangini as a replacement for departed coach Herm Edwards. Belichick, who as the Browns’ head coach in ’95 had given his fellow Wesleyan alum an assistant’s job after having noticed Mangini’s work as a public relations intern, had a deep-seated disdain for the Jets’ organization dating back to his infamous one-day stint as New York’s head coach following Bill Parcells’s resignation in January of 2000.

Go be a head coach anywhere but there, Belichick told his then-34-year-old defensive coordinator. There’ll be other opportunities, and I’ll help you get them, Belichick insisted. Just don’t take this one.

Mangini took the job anyway, and Belichick felt betrayed. When Belichick learned that Mangini, while still serving out his final days with the Patriots, was soliciting Pats coaches, support staff members and players to join him at his new gig, the war was on. Belichick had Mangini’s key card access revoked, but not before Mangini, a source says, took a laptop with confidential files stored in its hard drive out of the building. Mangini hired a Pats employee, Erin O’Brien, as his administrative assistant.

Given that Belichick and Mangini are two of the most intelligent and successful men in sports – with the advantage to Belichick, although Mangini has 19 years to catch up to the Hooded One – L’affaire Belicheat is an object lesson in Man’s fundamental irrationality as well as his fallen nature.