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BWTB: Does familiarity help?

Posted Aug 5, 2014

Tracing the historical connections of the Texans staff.


You hear the phrase in every line of work.

It's all about who you know.

The National Football League is no different, as current and past coaches are lifetime members of a tight knit fraternity.

You don't need Kevin Bacon (six degrees of separation) to find a link between a coaching staff and nearly every other pro team and college team in the country.

Case and point.

Below is the coaching staff of the 1986 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.

Head Coach: Bill Parcells 
Offensive Coordinator: Ron Erhardt
Defensive Coordinator: Bill Belichick 
Special Teams Coach: Romeo Crennel 
Offensive Backfield Coach: Ray Handley
Tight Ends Coach: Mike Pope 

Recognize any names? You better.

Despite this being a staff listing from 28 (!) years ago, it has multiple connections to the 2014 Houston Texans. Romeo Crennel, the Texans current defensive coordinator, was the special teams coach back in those days. Texans head coach Bill O'Brien famously worked for then Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who was the DC in New York back in 1986.

Romeo Crennel went on to become the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2000 before taking the same position in New England a year later. The head coach of that Patriots team? Bill Belichick.

Belichick's coaching tree is legendary, but for college football fans one name stands out above all others. During Belichick's first stint as a head coach in Cleveland in 1991, his defensive coordinator was none other than Nick Saban. Saban, a four-time National Championship coach at Alabama, is now widely regarded as one of the best college football coaches in the history of the sport.

What's the point of all this? The intersection of philosophy and personnel can lead to familiarity. It's like any other business. As employees move up the ladder in their professional careers, they take bits and pieces from their previous bosses to shape their own philosophy.

Crennel's 3-4 defensive scheme fully came to life in New England with Belichick's oversight, much like Saban's defense at Alabama was originally unearthed during his stint with Belichick in Cleveland.

So, in theory, shouldn't that make it easier for a player that spent three years playing for Alabama under Saban to adap to Crennel's scheme? A rookie like Texans sixth-round pick Jeoffrey Pagan? Texans insider Deepi Sidhu asked Pagan that very question.

"There is definitely some similarities but it is definitely a different level," Pagan said after Monday's practice. "There is a lot of similar terminology," Pagan added. "The 3-4 defense is also very similar."

Kareem Jackson, who also played his college career under Saban, shed some more light on the situation.

"A majority of the terminology is pretty much the same...we are doing some of the same stuff," Jackson commented. "But, for the most part it is fairly different." 

I have to imagine that any semblance of familiarity can only help. Although as astute football man John Harris mentioned to me, the better question may be if familiarity with scheme (Pagan) makes you a better playing time candidate than competing for years against NFL caliber athletes  (Tim Jamison, Jared Crick, etc.).

The good thing is that we will both find an answer soon.

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