Josh McDaniels can’t disclose what he doesn’t know yet.
The New England Patriots offensive coordinator has a good reason why he declined to reveal how the team plans to fill the Rob Gronkowski-sized hole in its offense: it’s far too early to determine such specifics.
McDaniels stressed this point in an interview with ESPN’s Mike Reiss published Monday.
“Nobody’s going to replace Rob,” McDaniels said. “So it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, or who we bring in, that person is not just going to drop into the offense and say, ‘OK, I’ve got his role covered.’ That’s not going to happen. I think what you do is take the best group you can put together, figure out what their strengths are, and try to play to them.
Gronkowski announced his retirement in March after nine seasons as one of quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite targets, seven of which were spent under McDaniels’ overall direction of the offense.
The Patriots’ group of tight ends currently includes veteran Ben Watson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo and undrafted rookie Andrew Beck on the depth chart. However, McDaniels believes it’s pointless to speculate before next summer exactly how he’ll deploy them, and other offensive players, in an effort to replicate Gronkowski’s considerable impact.
“So at this point, I don’t really know,” McDaniels said, per Reiss. “It would be unfair for me to say that, because I haven’t really seen many of them out there in our scheme, against a defense, obviously nothing in pads. So I think OTAs and training camp will be big for us this year in terms of evaluating what we have and how we should play. In May, it’s tough to say. It’s tough to project that.”
For now, McDaniels will continue observing and evaluating the offensive resources at his disposal.
“Right now, we’re not really making any of those determinations,” he said. “Today, and the next so-many months, are about foundation, evaluation, let them rep, see what happens. Is it good enough? Is it not? Do we need to change something? Keep doing it? I don’t think we really know the answers about exactly what we’re going to look like in September and October yet. That’s for another day down the road. That’s why this part of the year is fun.”
McDaniels’ logic is sound, given that training camp is a few months away, and a lot can change between now and then.