Although both New England Patriots coordinators won’t comment on it publicly as they prepare for an upcoming divisional round matchup and another playoff-run, both of Bill Belichick‘s right-hand men are being widely discussed for all the head coaching vanancies around the league. The hottest candidate on the market is 41-year-old offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels who may be ready to take a second crack at becoming a head coach in the league.
Josh McDaniels has admitted countless times, including an exclusive interview with The MMQB’s Albert Breer that he was too immature the first time around with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010, going 8-8 and then 3-9 before he was fired in just his second season at the helm. McDaniels sheltered himself from the rest of the coaching staff and the players during his tenure in Denver and drafted Tim Tebow in the first round, which was the beginning of the end. He learned from his failures and grew to work on his weaknesses, went to the Rams in 2011 to be the offensive coordinator where he had success for the lone-season in St. Louis running the offense under coach Steve Spagnuolo. Then it was back to being the offensive coordinator in New England where he replaced the departing Bill O’Brien and it was like he never missed a beat.
McDaniels is brilliant offensive mind and has been lauded for his development of quarterbacks. Case and point Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, two former Brady backups who flashed this season when given the chance to lead a team showing their potential and skills developed in New England under Josh’s tutelage. No one will doubt his offensive prowess and abilities to gameplan for a defense, but he has been reluctant to leave his awesome gig working with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and being perennial conference contenders for an unkown quantity. This year is different from year’s past as there are three quality openings he will interview for later this week, each of which could provide McDaniels with the second chance to vindicate himself as the leader of a franchise.
McDaniels has learned from his mistakes, and the situation has to be perfect for him the second time around. Remember Bill Belichick also failed the first time around with the Cleveland Browns before coming to New England. McDaniels has to align himself with the right owner, front office and personnel to showcase what he can truly do. McDaniels also has to pick a great coaching staff to surround himself with, and that is a critical obstacle if he wants to avoid repeating the mistakes he had in Denver during his brief stint.
Now for the openings, first up is the New York Giants. A marquee franchise of the league, one that I’m sure Bill Belichick will sing the praises of when asked until he’s blue in the face. They have a tremendous ownership group in the Mara’s and he will have the time to put a plan into action before getting a quick hook like in Denver. The New York media can be a drawback, but having worked in New England for over a decade, I’m sure this won’t pose as an obstacle when considering the Giants as his next team. While the Quarterback situation at the moment is unclear, the Giants have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft where Josh could presumably tab his next guy, and it doesn’t hurt to have two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning in the room as a leader and starter while the next guy is being groomed. The aforementioned Steve Spagnuolo is a good friend of McDaniels and the two have kept in close touch over the years, one would infer that the Giants interim coach and defensive coordinator would remain on staff working under McDaniels and running the defensive unit while Josh handles the offense. Pairing himself with a coach with so much experience running a succesful defense could entice McDaniels to join New York as Spags has flourished and is clearly dedicated to the Giants franchise.
There are a couple of items that could really muddy the situation for McDaniels heading to New York to be their next head coach. First off, the Giants already went ahead and hired former Carolina Panthers General Manager David Gettleman who has already made his presence felt and his aggressive management style could rub McDaniels the wrong way. He won’t get all the control he wants over personnel, like he would’ve if given the chance to work with his own choice of a GM like Nick Caserio or Louis Riddick, and that may strongly influence his decision not to head to the big apple. Another potential drawback for McDaniels in heading to New York is the quick trigger ownership had in dismissing head coach Ben McAdoo in just his second season. McDaniels doesn’t want to get the carpet pulled from under him before he even gets started, and while I think the botching of the Quarterback situation and humiliation of Manning was the leading cause behind McAdoo and Reese being dismissed, it may cause McDaniels to second guess taking the position.
Next up is the Indianapolis Colts. Josh McDaniels first head coaching interview of the year will come on Thursday with the Colts. Ownership here is a joke with the erratic Jim Irsay, but at the very least he did have a very long leash with Chuck Pagano a defensive-minded coach who clearly wasn’t the right guy for the position. McDaniels also won’t be escaping the shadows of Belichick in New England as the two franchises spent over a decade as arch-rivals in the heat of the Brady/Manning years, and like Denver, if he wants to achieve stardom he will have to go through his mentor in order to do so. With all that presented in front of him, why would McDaniels ever even agree to meet with Colts officials? Two words: Andrew Luck. The former Stanford star carried the miserable franchise to success all on his back which cost him his 2017 season. Without Luck, the Colts truly were nothing at all and like the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, the coaching and surrounding talent isn’t up to par in order to compete regularly. The Colts have truly been a one-man team, but enticing McDaniels with a generational talent in Luck is reason enough to take the call. New General Manager Chris Ballard has had a solid start and appears to have a clue how to build a team that can compete around Luck, and is very high on McDaniels to be his next head coach. It’s been reported that Ballard has been picking the brain of Quarterback Jacoby Brissett all year on McDaniels, to which the former New England backup has sung the praises of his former offensive coordinator. In Indianapolis unlike New York, he will have an established QB that can one day soon be the best in the league, and that is reason enough for McDaniels to take a long hard look at being the Colts next head coach.
Last up is the Chicago Bears, whom McDaniels will interview with on Friday. General Manager Ryan Pace was retained as he has worked to rebuild the franchise over the last few years drafting Mitchell Trubisky and building around a solid core on defense that includes Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan. McDaniels younger brother Ben works on the offensive staff and can give him a great insight into working closely with Trubisky. If he likes what he hears and sees, and can get the right guy to lead his defense, this may be the job for him for such a storied franchise like the Bears. This may be the job that is the least talked about compared to the other two, but makes the most sense for McDaniels. Young QB whom he can work with and develop, NFC North, established General Manager going the right direction, brother already on staff and he’s bringing a fresh new look to a team that was led by a defensive-minded veteran coach in John Fox. McDaniels to the Bears makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels.
The two other openings around the league could potentially entice McDaniels as well, but the Detroit Lions with Matthew Stafford seem inclined to keep the offensive staff intact with Jim Bob Cooter and have interviewed defensive-minded candidates, and the Arizona Cardinals have yet to come calling and have nothing at the Quarterback position with Carson Palmer announcing his retirement. With Jon Gruden almost locked-in for the Raiders, that leaves these three teams for Josh McDaniels to truly consider.
This is the time for McDaniels to take a second crack at being a head coach. He’s a more polished and experienced leader and motivator, and it’s become apparent Bill Belichick isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Patriots have won five Super Bowls and two in the last three years, and while there’s still unfinished business this postseason, what more does McDaniels have to prove as an offensive coordinator? It’s time to separate from Bill, with his blessing of course, and go try to run the show on his own one more time. This time will be different, and it’s why he’s removed his name from openings in the past. Everything has to be perfect. Only Josh will know which of the three vacancies is right for him, but I do believe he will depart for one of them following the conclusion of this season. The time is right for it.
Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank