The Berlin Rebels, German Football League quarterfinalists in 2019, have signed Joshua Mandel, their defensive coordinator, as their new head coach for the 2020 season.
Mandel takes over from Kim Kuci, who stepped away from coaching Berlin after several successful years.
Mandel, a New York State native, first came to Berlin as linebackers coach in 2011 leaving for only one year, 2014, to coach with the Berlin Adler where he helped the team win the Eurobowl title. He returned to the Rebels in 2015 and together with Kuci turned the team into a perennial contender, serving as defensive coordinator, helping the team reach the quarterfinals each year since then. Mandel played his college football at Ohio Wesleyan University where he lettered all four years and was named team captain in his senior year.
Under Mandel, the Rebels defense earned a reputation for being physical and tough and has been among the top five in the league in the past four seasons.
AFI: Congratulations on becoming the HC of the Rebels. You have been hired from within so to speak. What enticed you to take the job?
Mandel: I started coaching with the Rebels in the fall of 2010, became the DC in 2015, and this team truly brought my love for the game to its highest level. I helped coach and build this team over the past years with all of the coaches, staff, and management. Being given the opportunity to become a Head Coach with a GFL 1 team is a tremendous honor. I had to weigh many difficult factors in this decision. In the end, to be a Head Coach at the highest level in Germany and Europe was an opportunity I could not turn down.
AFI: You have been with the Rebels for almost every year but 2 since arriving in Germany in 2010. Tell us how you first wound up coaching football in Berlin.
Mandel: It is a funny story really, my wife is Czech and she wanted to move back to Europe to be closer to her family. I found a job teaching at the John F. Kennedy Schule, here in Berlin. The second day in Berlin, I was out jogging and saw a sign for a Fussball trainer at the TMS –Football Shop Berlin. My wife and I always argue about who found the sign. In any case, I went the next day to the TMS shop and met “Boss” Hog. I knew no German and he, all of the sudden, started speaking English to me and I asked about the Fussball sign, wondering if it was American football. Boss said no that is soccer. Boss kept asking me questions about football and made 10 calls in a matter of minutes. I had an interview the next day with the Rebels President, Andreas Riedel, the Defensive Coordinator, Javier Cook and a few days later spoke with Kim Kuci. The rest is history.
AFI: How much did you know about football in Europe, or Germany before joining the Rebels?
Mandel: The only knowledge I had was about NFL Europe, the developmental program for the NFL. NFL Europe was disbanded before I arrived. So, I had no idea at the time that this was a popular sport and there were clubs all over Europe competing at high levels.
AFI: You have some big shoes to fill. Kim Kuci took the Rebels to the playoffs for the first time in their history and every year since then. How does that feel?
Mandel: Yes, there are big shoes to fill and even bigger expectations. This position is extremely different than just being a Defensive Coordinator. I have big expectations also, from the staff, management, players and the entire system that has been built over the years at the Berlin Rebels. I find comfort in the fact that I have worked with most of the entire organization over the past years. There are many coaches, now, that are former players helping to build the younger developmental teams and a seasoned staff with the GFL 1 men’s team that I have worked closely with over the years that understands the system, concept and approach that we want to teach our players and staff. I am extremely happy that we have such knowledgeable and competent coaches that can teach. Everyone is valuable here, it is not a one man show. We all have to rely on each other and work together to keep building and moving forward to keep our teams at the highest levels possible. So yes, in answering your question, there is a lot of pressure but a lot of support and resources to be successful. We will take the step by step and game by game approach putting enormous focus on doing the little things right.
AFI: Rebels teams have earned a reputation for being tough, physical squads. Will you continue that approach?
Mandel: Absolutely! There is no other way this sport should be played. We have to be more physical, more mentally prepared and disciplined than the other teams. Bringing that intensity is what I love. I am old school. You have to continually work on the fundamentals of the game: Passing, catching blocking, tackling, kicking. You have to work on all these things with tremendous discipline and tenacity, you have to have that mean streak in you to be great and that mean streak has to harnessed by intelligence and discipline.
AFI: A head coach also has to be a master recruiter. Have you started your process?
Mandel: No doubt. I our entire staff is making phone calls as we speak. There is a lot of talent around and we are looking for the best players that can complement our style and approach to the game.
AFI: You have lived in Berlin for the past eight years. What foods/meals have you grown to like?
Mandel: Unequivocally, my favorite meal is schnitzel, bratkartoffeln, and a beer. I could eat that meal every day!