Doug Brien became one of the NFL’s most accurate field goal kickers at the time of his retirement from the gridiron in 2005.
Brien’s career 80.2 percent field goal and 98 percent PAT accuracy in twelve NFL seasons make some of today’s kickers cringe.
Regrettably, many fans and pundits remember Brien more for his two late missed field goals that resulted in the New York Jets’ crushing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2004 AFC Divisional Round.
Despite the setback, Brien established a solid twelve-year career in special teams.
He even nailed a postseason record 17 PATs for the San Francisco 49ers in 1994. He also won a Super Bowl ring that year.
Not bad for someone who didn’t play organized football until his senior year of high school.
Douglas Robert Zachariah Brien was born in Bloomfield, NJ on November 24, 1970.
Brien’s fascination for kicking didn’t begin on the gridiron—it all started on the soccer field.
He spent countless hours kicking a soccer ball into a goal while he was growing up.
Brien attended De La Salle High School in Concord, CA.
He starred in football and soccer for the De La Salle Spartans.
Brien’s coaches and teammates lauded him for his strong and accurate kicks on the soccer field.
@dlsathletics Spartans now have 4 Super Bowl rings. Aaron Taylor, Doug Brien, Amani Toomer and now TJ Ward.
— SF Unite (@SFUnite_N_Cali) February 8, 2016
He decided to try out for the football team in the summer after his junior season. The coach asked him to kick a PAT and he made the football sail between the two uprights.
The coach then asked him to kick the ball as far as he could. By Brien’s estimate, he nailed a 55-yard field goal that banged off the scoreboard.
He made the Spartans football team after that improbable feat.
Brien’s kicking prowess got the attention of the Santa Clara Broncos, California Golden Bears, and the UC Davis Aggies.
Brien initially pondered on playing football and soccer for the Broncos and Aggies.
However, California’s quality of education and the opportunity to learn the nuances of kicking from All-American Robbie Keen made Brien commit to the Golden Bears.
College Days With The California Golden Bears
Doug Brien attended the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political economy of industrial societies in 1994.
Brien suited up for the California Golden Bears from 1991 to 1993. He sat out the 1989 and 1990 NCAA seasons because he would’ve played behind All-American kicker Robbie Keen.
Brien told Piedmont Exedra’s Minnie Cooper in the summer of 2019 he’d had no inkling to play in the National Football League during his college days.
“To me, life’s a journey and this opportunity for football presented itself,” Brien said. “It was never my dream, but I’m gonna put everything into it and see where it goes.”
Brien’s fortuitous journey took him to a powerhouse San Francisco 49ers squad that won Super Bowl XXIX as his rookie year in the NFL wound down.
He never expected he’d end up teammates with the likes of Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and Deion Sanders in the pro football ranks.
However, that’s exactly what happened.
Brien also met his future wife Shanti during their college days at UC Berkeley. She earned a law degree from Stanford University several years later.
Shanti Brien began practicing law in Louisiana when her husband suited up for the New Orleans Saints.
From walk-on to Super Bowl Champion, kicker #10 Doug Brien ended his Cal career as the school's leader in points with 288. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 1994 draft, he went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL.
#10 days until Cal football. pic.twitter.com/XZXsv0BeGJ
— California Gridiron (@calgridiron) August 26, 2021
Her future husband Doug flew down to San Diego prior to his junior year at California. He asked NFL special teams coach Gary Zauner to help him hone his kicking skills.
With Zauner’s assistance, Brien made 16 of 18 field goals in his junior year. He nailed 18 of 21 field goal tries as a senior.
Doug Brien made 50 of 64 field goal and 112 of 115 PAT attempts during his three-year stint with the Golden Bears from 1991 to 1993.
California averaged eight wins per year during that time frame. The Golden Bears won the 1991 Citrus Bowl and the 1993 Alamo Bowl with Brien as their kicker.
Doug Brien never expected to play in the National Football League.
In an ironic twist of fate, he spent twelve years playing at football’s highest level. Despite becoming one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, many fans remembered Brian for a 2005 postseason game as a member of the New York Jets.
Pro Football Career
The San Francisco 49ers made Doug Brien the 85th overall selection of the 1994 NFL Draft. He was the only kicker selected that year.
Brien told Cooper he held out prior to his first NFL training camp because the 49ers hadn’t budged on their meager salary stance for kickers.
The 49ers needed a reliable kicker, so they offered Brien more money and bonuses. Brien thought the new contract made sense, so he finally signed.
When Brien finally showed up one week into training camp, Young and Rice welcomed him with open arms.
They asked Brien to lead the team in a stretch. A beleaguered Brien gave in and did what Young and Rice asked him to do.
“It was just like hazing me, like you’re the rookie holding out on us so get up here,” Brien told the Piedmont Exedra some twenty-four years later.
Brien was part of the 49ers squad that beat the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX, 49-26.
He earned a Super Bowl ring in his first year in the pro football ranks.
In addition, his 17 extra-point conversions in 1994 remain a postseason record to this day.
The 49ers won eleven games the following season. Unfortunately, they lost to Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers in the 1995 NFC Divisional Round, 27-17.
Brien made an impressive 79 of 81 PAT attempts during his two-year tenure in the Bay Area.
#49ers K Doug Brien (1994–95) had quite the rookie season after being drafted 85th overall.
— #Random49ers (@Random49ers) April 30, 2020
However, his field goal accuracy (68.8 percent) on 22 of 32 field goal conversions for San Francisco was merely above average.
Worse, Brien had a penchant for missing potential game-winners for the 49ers.
He muffed a kick that would’ve beaten the Detroit Lions on September 25, 1995.
The 49ers released Brien after he missed a potential game-winning field goal against the Indianapolis Colts just three weeks later.
The Colts squeaked by the 49ers, 18-17.
Brien signed with the New Orleans Saints several weeks later. He went on to spend half of his 12-year NFL career in the Big Easy.
The change of scenery benefited Brien, who nailed four field goals three weeks after the Bears released him.
Consequently, he earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
Brien became a much more accurate placekicker when he joined the Saints. He credited his mental coach Joel Kirsch for his resurgent play on special teams.
Kirsch asked Brien to meditate for an hour every morning to help sharpen his mental acumen on the gridiron.
The results were astonishing—Brien never kicked less than 81 percent in six years with the Saints.
Unfortunately, the Saints were a below-average squad during Doug Brien’s six-year tenure in New Orleans.
The Saints averaged just six wins per year from 1995 to 2000. Fortunately, they turned a corner in Brien’s final year with the squad.
Happy 51st bday Doug Brien! Was a rookie with the 49ers in 1994, attempting a whopping 62 extra points! Had a good run with the Saints for 5+ years. In 1998 he hit 20/22 field goals. From 1996-2004 he made 83.9% of field goal attempts, 82.8 or better all but 1 of those years. pic.twitter.com/v7HSbI1Ucw
— Scott F (@TheFrizz87) November 25, 2021
New Orleans won ten games in Jim Haslett’s first year as head coach in 2000.
Alas, the Saints lost in the postseason to a Minnesota Vikings team that featured Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss.
Minnesota prevailed in lopsided fashion in the 2000 NFC Divisional Round, 34-16.
That was Doug Brien’s final game as a member of the New Orleans Saints organization.
Brien made 82.6 percent of his kicks with the Saints. As of 2017, his 123 field goals, 144 PATs, and 513 total points ranked third in Saints franchise history.
Brien took the field just nine times in his next two seasons in the NFL.
He split the 2001 NFL season between the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brien then signed with the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2002 NFL campaign. He appeared in just six games for the Vikings and made five of six field goal attempts during his time on the field.
The Vikings were a below-average team in 2002. They won just six games and missed the postseason for the second straight year.
Brien signed with the New York Jets the following offseason.
The Jets struggled with just six wins in 2003. However, they turned their fortunes around the following year.
New York won ten games and emerged as a postseason contender with quarterback Chad Pennington, running back Curtis Martin, and wide receiver Santana Moss leading the charge.
Regrettably, many fans remember Doug Brien for cracking under intense pressure during Gang Green’s postseason run in the mid-2000s.
January 16, 2005 was a day Doug Brien would rather forget—it was a date that would live in infamy in Jets franchise history.
Blustery conditions at Heinz Field made Brien miss two field goals in the final two minutes of the AFC Divisional Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brien’s missed field goals and Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed’s overtime field goal preserved the Steelers’ narrow victory, 20-17.
Brien first miss was a 47-yard field goal attempt that hit the crossbar. He told ESPN’s John Clayton he was surprised the ball didn’t sail through the uprights.
He thought the cold weather ultimately had an effect on the ball’s trajectory.
Brien had a shot at redemption when Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception.
Brien’s subsequent 43-yard attempt made pundits question Jets head coach Herm Edwards’s decision to call timeout with 16 seconds left in the game.
At that point, the Jets spotted the ball on the Steelers’ 23-yard line. New York quarterback Chad Pennington knelt for a one-yard loss.
Brien consequently kicked the 43-yarder instead of a 42-yard field goal attempt.
Experts criticized Edwards for the one-yard loss. They felt he should’ve put the ball in running back Curtis Martin’s hands so Brien could’ve attempted a closer field goal.
Alas, Brien’s 43-yarder sailed wide left.
Reed’s overtime field goal sent the Jets home for the offseason.
The soft-spoken Martin told Clayton he fumed after the loss. It was the angriest he had ever been after a defeat.
Ironically, Martin, a Hall of Fame running back who suited up for the Pitt Panthers in college, was playing against the Steelers in his hometown.
On the other hand, Brien hurt more for his teammates than himself after the crushing loss to Pittsburgh.
“I just feel bad for the team,” Brien told ESPN in 2005. “I’ll be fine. But I just feel bad for the guys that played so hard and battled back.”
Brien fondly remembers Jets center Kevin Mawae giving him a big hug in front of his locker after the game.
“That sticks out in my mind the most,” Brien told the New York Post’s Mark Cannizzaro three months later. “It was an almost overwhelming show of support, more than anything I’ve ever had in my career.”
The Jets’ support made Brien want to return to the Big Apple so he could help the team reach the next level.
Unfortunately, the Jets had other ideas.
The team released Brien following the 2004 NFL season and selected Ohio State Buckeyes All-American kicker Mike Nugent in the 2005 NFL Draft as his replacement.
Brien told Cannizzaro all his detractors did was talk about those two minutes of infamy in Pittsburgh. They never paid attention to his 83.6 percent accuracy (51 of 61 field goal attempts) in his two years with the squad.
What made it worse was Brien had not gotten his shot at redemption the following week.
Normally, a kicker who missed a potential game-winner could make up for his gaffe a week later during the regular season.
Regrettably, there are no second chances for kickers in the postseason.
Brien was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time during the 2004 AFC Divisional Round in Pittsburgh.
He admitted to the New York Post the aftermath of the Steelers game stung. Fortunately, the sting of that loss began to ease as time passed.
At the time, Brien and his wife Shanti had two young daughters Lilli and Ceci. They helped him cope with the shattering defeat.
Brien spent the 2005 NFL season with the Chicago Bears, an emerging contender in the NFC.
Brien was second on the Bears’ kicking depth chart behind Robbie Gould. He took the field just three times for the Monsters of the Midway in his lone year in the Windy City.
The Bears won eleven games in 2005 but lost to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional Round, 29-21.
Doug Brien retired following the 2005 NFL season after twelve years in the pro football ranks.
— Michael T. Adams (@michael_t_adams) November 23, 2018
Brien made 207 of 258 (80.2 percent) field goals and an incredible 294 of 300 (98 percent) of his PAT attempts during his pro gridiron career.
At the time of Brien’s retirement, he was one of the 10 most accurate field goal kickers in league history.
Doug Brien summed up the art of kicking mainly as an independent undertaking that required plenty of willpower.
“If you’re going to be good or great or mediocre, it’s on you to figure out the path and the resources to get it done,” Brien told Cooper in the summer of 2019.
Brien’s teammate with the Jets, quarterback Chad Pennington, aptly summed up a kicker’s job in the aftermath of the stinging loss to the Steelers in the 2004 AFC Divisional Round.
“Kickers have the toughest job in the world sometimes,” Pennington told the New York Post.
It’s a sentiment Doug Brien could relate to.
Doug Brien, his wife Shanti, and their three children Lilli, Ceci, and Zach have been residing in the Piedmont, CA area since 2007.
Brien’s older daughter Lilli followed in her father’s footsteps as a placekicker for Piedmont High School.
His wife Shanti sometimes had to coax her husband into helping Lilli get the intricate mechanics of kicking down pat, per Piedmont Exedra.
Doug Brien relented and helped Lilli master her craft on the gridiron. Brien eventually told Cooper several years later he respected his daughter for making the team in the first place.
His second daughter Ceci was a soccer player at Piedmont High School. She committed to the University of California-Santa Barbara in the summer of 2020.
Brien ventured into the real estate industry after the housing market collapsed in early 2009. He and his business partner Colin Wiel purchased single-family homes they renovated and rented out.
Brien and Wiel launched Waypoint Homes which had a profile of more than 17,000 single-family homes and a $3 billion portfolio several months later.
The duo started Mynd, a property management and real estate investment company in 2016. The firm had more than 8,000 single-family homes in 25 markets in the United States and an estimated value of $807 million in 2021.
Brien and Wiel co-authored a book in the spring of 2022 entitled The Big Long: How Going Big on an Outrageous Idea Transformed the Real Estate Industry. The publication talks about their real estate journey from Waypoint Homes to Mynd over the years.
Brien credited part of his success in the real estate sector to his past coaches in the National Football League.
“One of the biggest lessons I carried over into real estate came from my experience playing for some of the greatest coaches in football,” Brien told First Republic Bank deputy regional managing director Mohamed Fahmi in 2017. “I learned that whatever your leadership style is, it has to be authentic to you.”
Among the coaches Brien singled out were George Seifert of the San Francisco 49ers, Mike Ditka of the New Orleans Saints, and Tony Dungy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brien has a few words of advice for people who want to succeed in their chosen endeavors.
“Don’t follow dollars, follow your passion,” Brien told the Piedmont Exedra in 2019.
According to his wife Shanti, he reads plenty of books on leadership, team building, and creating culture.
Doug Brien is a member of the De La Salle Hall of Fame.