Bill Parcells burned every bridge he had in New England, leaving the Pats after a Super Bowl season. His longtime assistant, Belichick, came to New York with him. After the 1999 season, it seemed like the Pats were interested in hiring Belichick as their head man. Parcells retired and promoted Belichick to head coach. Belichick quit just minutes before his introductory press conference by scribbling, "I resign as HC of NYJ," on a sheet of paper and had an awkward press conference in which he cited the unstable ownership situation as part of his reasoning. This was the period after Leon Hess died but before Woody Johnson bought the club.
Not long after, the Patriots hired Belichick, and he built them into the team of the decade. They have won three Super Bowls, and four AFC Championships during his time in New England. All of this came after running out on the Jets.
Belichick still despises the Jets. I'll always go back to the end of the 2005 season. The Pats played a meaningless Week 16 game in the Meadowlands against a horrible Jets team. Tedy Bruschi got hurt playing special teams. He had one of his cornerstone players working on special teams in a meaningless game. In a game just as meaningless a week later against Miami, he allowed Doug Flutie to drop kick an extra point. He was playing his buddy, Nick Saban, then.
Things got more ugly after the season. The Jets hired Belichick's protege, Eric Mangini. Belichick pleaded with Mangini to wait for another job. He didn't want his disciple to coach the Jets. Mangini spurned his mentor, and the relationship turned toxic. There are rumors that Mangini still has personal effects sitting in Foxborough he was never able to pick up. This always seemed really petty. Why wasn't Belichick happy for Mangini and willing to support him? Sure, his protege went to his most detested rival, but was this really any different from what he had done to Parcells?
The rivalry turned even more toxic. The Pats gave disgruntled receiver Deion Branch permission. to seek a trade in early 2006. The Jets spoke with him. The Pats claimed tampering charges. Prior to a meeting in Foxborough, Belichick refused to mention Mangini by name. The Jets upset New England on a muddy field. Afterward, we saw an icy handshake. Belichick immediately had the grass torn up and field turf installed. The Pats eliminated the Jets from the Playoffs that year. The next season, the Pats got caught videotaping the Jets' signals, and some people actually claimed the Jets were wrong for turning the Pats in. I guess they should have allowed New England to break the rules at their expense.
Pats fans often say Jets fans are jealous they have Belichick. They're absolutely right. All of the hate is really frustration. Although we can debate a lot, the fact remains he might be the greatest coach to ever walk the sidelines. He has incredible knowledge of both sides of the ball. He has won with teams of all styles. He has created the first culture in the NFL that can actually circumvent the salary cap. New England is such a great destination that players will take contracts well below market to play there. The locker room is full of leaders, many with high character, who are at their best in big moments. Their front office decisions are all sound. They effortlessly replace key cogs.
It should have been ours. He left us at the altar.