Josh McDaniels is going back to his roots as the New England Patriots’ season winds down.
With Jedd Fisch departing earlier this week to take over as head coach at Arizona, McDaniels will serve as New England’s de facto quarterbacks coach for Weeks 16 and 17.
That’s nothing new for the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. McDaniels has spent 17 seasons on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff and served as QBs coach in 13 of them.
“I’ll just do what I’ve done most of the time I’ve been here,” McDaniels said Saturday in a video conference. “I’ll take that responsibility back — all the quarterback meetings, tip sheets, those kind of things. He and I worked together on a lot of that stuff. He certainly did a lot of work on his own without me, but we worked together with that group and that position group, so it won’t be completely unorthodox here for those guys the final two weeks. We’ll be able to handle that kind of the way most of my career has gone here.”
McDaniels coached Patriots quarterbacks from 2004 through 2008 and from 2012 through 2019 while also serving as New England’s offensive coordinator for all but one of those seasons (2004). He’s had help in recent years, with Jerry Schuplinski serving as assistant QBs coach from 2016 to 2018 and Mick Lombardi taking on that role in 2019.
Last January, the Patriots hired Fisch to coach quarterbacks, freeing up McDaniels to devote more attention to other aspects of the offense.
New England’s quarterback group currently consists of Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and practice squadder Jake Dolegala.
“Having a guy that you trust in that role to be able to function and communicate well, prepare the quarterbacks, watch the tape with them, go through the cut-ups, the reminders, run game, pass game, protection, etc., it’s a big help,” McDaniels said. “There’s no question about it.
“The first part of my career here, I really didn’t have anybody to help with that stuff. And then we added Jerry Schuplinski, and then Mick Lombardi, and then Jedd was named actually the quarterback coach, and deservedly so. Those guys have been a great help and a great addition to our staff. I have a lot of confidence in that position with those three guys that I just mentioned, and the quarterbacks would tell you the same thing. It just gives you a lot of time back — if you can use it — that you wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Schuplinski followed Brian Flores to Miami and now works under Joe Judge with the New York Giants. Lombardi still is with the Patriots — he shifted to wide receivers this season following Judge’s departure — but said he won’t return to the QB room with Fisch now gone.
Fisch’s exit will, however, create more work for New England’s staff as a whole, as each individual assistant typically is in charge of one aspect of a given week’s game plan (third down, red zone, short yardage, etc.).
“It’s almost like the next-man-up mentality,” said Lombardi, who will remain focused on wideouts. “… Jedd did a lot of things that weren’t just coaching the quarterback in terms of it being a collective effort in game-planning, so we’ve all just kind of picked up the slack there.”
The 6-8 Patriots were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last week. They’re scheduled to host the Buffalo Bills on Monday night before wrapping up their season at home against the New York Jets next Sunday.
“I may sleep a little less here the last nine days of the season, but that’s not a big deal,” McDaniels said. “I’ll sleep when the season’s over.”