There’s a good chance New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels only has one more shot to become a head coaching fixture in the NFL. He has to make his next opportunity count.
McDaniels flamed out after just 28 games as head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010, and if he fails in his next stop, then it’s almost certainly two strikes and he’s out of chances.
McDaniels already is being rumored as a candidate to fill the New York Giants’ vacancy. It seems to be a good option for McDaniels. Eli Manning is still under contract, and the Giants have played poorly enough that McDaniels and whoever takes over as general manager can handpick the quarterback’s successor. Owner John Mara is one of the league’s top power brokers.
But it’s not McDaniels’ best shot at becoming a successful and potentially revered head coach. That would come in New England should he and current director of player personnel Nick Caserio take over as a tandem for Bill Belichick when the Patriots’ current head coach retires.
McDaniels and Caserio have known each other and worked closely since Caserio beat out McDaniels as John Carroll University’s starting quarterback in the 1990s. It’s likely starting quarterback Tom Brady will be gone by the time Belichick retires, but the system still will be in place. And one of the most underrated aspects of the Patriots’ historic run of success is their continuity. And that’s not only among players.
The Patriots like to promote from within their organization. In the rare instance an assistant coach leaves, the franchise-wide next-man-up approach applies. A coaching assistant fills in and no one skips a beat. The Patriots currently have four coaching assistants on their staff, including Belichick’s youngest son Brian.
If Dante Scarnecchia retires (again) by the time McDaniels would take over, then Cole Popovich could be in his place. If Matt Patricia leaves as defensive coordinator, perhaps Brian Flores or Steve Belichick would be the next man up. Everyone has learned within the same School of Belichick, including McDaniels and Caserio themselves.
But that would mean waiting a long time for McDaniels, right? Well, he’s still only 41 years old — just a year older than Brady, which, as an aside, is part of the reason no one should bat an eye when the two have screaming matches on the sideline. Bill Belichick is 65 years old. Say Belichick retires at 70. That would put McDaniels at 46 years old while taking over his second head-coaching job. That’s two years younger than Belichick when he became the Patriots’ head coach in his second opportunity.
New England is home for McDaniels and his family, and if he’s been ensured the head coaching position after Belichick leaves, then what’s another five years to wait for his perfect opportunity to work with Caserio and keep the ball rolling on the Patriots’ dynasty?
He won’t have Jimmy Garoppolo as his quarterback, but, as the offensive coordinator and QB coach, he surely will have a say in the quarterback the Patriots choose to groom behind Brady in the upcoming draft.
This all would be bad news for the rest of the AFC East. In this scenario, McDaniels is able to keep the same offense in place and keep building it. And either Patricia or his successor will continue the bend-don’t-break defense that has been so effective for years in New England while Caserio is in charge of acquisitions.
McDaniels could choose to jump at an attractive opportunity to be a head coach elsewhere this offseason, but should the keys be handed to him in New England, McDaniels has a chance to be the Bill Cowher to Belichick’s Chuck Noll.