The 33rd Team’s Insiders Network is a group of former NFL coaches and front-office executives who are here to provide insight and perspective into all things football. Each week during the season, we reach out to members of our Insiders Network to get their thoughts on a topical question. Here is this week’s question:
After all the talk about Tom Brady’s return to New England this past week, what does it feel like when you return to play against a team you’ve previously worked for?
You build relationships with the other team that will last beyond a football game! You do all you can to win for your team, but friends remain friends no matter the outcome. Players normally play better against their former team because they are more motivated. l have always tried to do my best to be motivated to do my best against all.
Playing a team you formerly coached for is always emotional and at times conflicting. My first game as the Head Coach of the Atlanta Falcons was back in San Francisco, where I had just been the Defensive Coordinator the previous year. Leading into the game, you have to deal with all the questions that come your way about how it feels to “be back home.” Even though on the inside you recognize the emotions, it is important that you keep your mind, and especially the minds of the players, firmly on the task at hand; winning the game.
We beat the 49ers in that game, which was an incredible feeling for me personally, but more so for the players on our team who were coming off a disappointing season. To be able to exchange handshakes and hugs after the game with players I previously coached was very meaningful, and to spend time in the parking lot waiting for the bus to leave, visiting with friends and family who supported us at the game was really a great feeling. Had we lost, well it would have felt like any other loss…horrible.
I’ve played former teams on a number of occasions and it’s a game that you want to win more than most; it does count a “little extra,” even though it can be hard to admit that publicly.
Playing against a team you have previously worked for can unearth a wide variety of emotions, especially if a coach or player has spent an extended time at one location, Tom Brady (20 years).
Having spent seven years with the New York Jets, I found it anxiously exciting to return to MetLife stadium as part of the Washington Football Team. Walking into the stadium from a different entrance as I had in previous years was a strange feeling to say the least. While I wanted the opportunity to soak up the experience, the focus of the task at hand quickly takes over as that is what you have been trained to do for many years. My return to the stadium to face the New York Jets was only two years removed from my departure, so it was cool to see many familiar faces on the sideline. That is perhaps my most treasured takeaway from the experience of returning to play against a team you have previously worked for. The people. Even though the sites, sounds and smells of tailgaters brought back fond memories, it is the people who were still with New York at the time who I had shared tremendous experiences with that hit home. From trainers, to doctors, to security operators, to players and coaches who I shared a GREAT run in New York with, to include two AFC Championship runs, was a special moment in time. That is what sticks with you over the years, THE PEOPLE.