What Losing Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler To Raiders Means For Patriots

A major shakeup in New England


January 30

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and director of player personnel Dave Ziegler reportedly are leaving New England to assume control of the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Raiders decided Sunday to hire McDaniels as their next head coach and Ziegler as their new general manager, according to multiple reports, bringing a strong Foxboro influence to Sin City.

McDaniels interviewed with Las Vegas on Saturday after reportedly rebuffing inquiries from other teams with head-coaching vacancies. Ziegler interviewed last Friday. The Raiders also met with Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo during their coaching search.

Former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigned in October, and the team fired GM Mike Mayock after its wild-card playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

These departures leave sizable holes in New England’s coaching staff and front office. McDaniels has overseen the Patriots’ offense since 2013 and has worked under head coach Bill Belichick for 18 of the last 21 seasons. Ziegler was the Patriots’ top personnel man behind Belichick, replacing Nick Caserio last year.

McDaniels’ exit comes at an inopportune time for the Patriots, with promising quarterback Mac Jones entering his second pro season. New England now must find a new voice to lead its offense and foster Jones’ NFL development.

Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who was New England’s quarterbacks coach and offensive play-caller from 2009 to 2011 (and official OC his final season) and briefly overlapped with Jones in Tuscaloosa, would be a desirable McDaniels replacement. O’Brien has extensive experience in New England and could introduce aspects of Alabama’s offense — which Jones helped him learn last year — that might help the Patriots’ young QB elevate his performance in Year 2.

In O’Brien’s three seasons as play-caller, the Patriots’ offense ranked sixth, first and third in scoring and first, first and third in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA. He also spent one year as an offensive assistant (2007) and another as New England’s tight ends coach (2008).

The top internal coordinator options are wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi and tight ends/fullbacks coach Nick Caley, neither of whom has play-calling experience. Other outside candidates who could receive consideration include Chad O’Shea, Jerry Schuplinski, Joe Judge and Adam Gase.

Whoever the Patriots choose, he’ll have large shoes to fill. McDaniels faced criticism for some of his play-calling decisions but was vital to New England’s success over the last decade. This past November, Belichick compared his 45-year-old protégé to Nick Saban, saying: “I don’t think (McDaniels) really has any weaknesses as a coach.”

“I’ve learned a lot from Josh,” Belichick said. “I really have. He really excels in every area. I don’t think it’s any one thing — play-calling, fundamentals, strategy. It’s really all of them.”

This is the second shot at a head-coaching job for McDaniels, who was with the Patriots for all six of their Super Bowl titles. He was hired by the Denver Broncos in 2009 but was fired midway through his second season after posting an 11-17 record. He then agreed to take over the Indianapolis Colts in 2018 but backed out to remain with the Patriots, who made him the NFL’s highest-paid assistant. In the ensuing years, he interviewed with the Green Bay Packers (2019), Cleveland Browns (2020) and Philadelphia Eagles (2021) before finally leaving for Las Vegas.

In Ziegler’s lone season as director of player personnel, New England added a host of impact free agents (Matthew Judon, Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Van Noy, Jalen Mills, etc.) and drafted their best rookie class in recent memory, headlined by Jones, defensive tackle Christian Barmore and running back Rhamondre Stevenson. Ziegler had been with the Patriots since 2013 after getting his NFL start with McDaniels’ Broncos in 2010, and his relationship with McDaniels dates back to their days as college teammates at John Carroll University in the late 1990s.

Candidates to succeed Ziegler include scouting consultant Eliot Wolf, who interviewed for GM vacancies with the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings this offseason and had a key role in New England’s 2021 draft process. The 39-year-old Wolf previously held prominent personnel positions with the Packers (director of football operations) and Browns (assistant general manager).

Former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who returned to the team in a multifaceted role as senior football advisor last offseason, is another candidate to fill Ziegler’s role.

McDaniels and Ziegler inherit a Raiders roster that went 10-7 and made the playoffs under interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. It’s headlined by quarterback Derek Carr, a solid starter who ranked fifth in the NFL in completion percentage and passer rating and seventh in yards per attempt this season. Carr has no dead money left on his contract, however, meaning the team can cut or trade him with no financial penalty if McDaniels prefers a different passer.

Las Vegas also boasts one of the NFL’s top tight ends in Darren Waller, an above-average running back in Josh Jacobs and a talented young slot receiver in Hunter Renfrow, who’s coming off a 103-catch, 1,038-yard season. Defensively, the Raiders are led by Maxx Crosby, Pro Football Focus’s second-highest-graded edge rusher this season behind Myles Garrett.

The 2021 Raiders ranked 18th in scoring offense, 26th in scoring defense, eighth in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA and 17th in defensive DVOA. Their division, the AFC West, has been dominated in recent years by Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, who won each of the last six division titles and are seeking their third straight Super Bowl appearance. It also features two of the NFL’s top QBs in Mahomes and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers, and there’s been speculation that Aaron Rodgers could land in Denver this offseason.

The Patriots won’t need to wait long to see McDaniels and Ziegler again. Their 2022 schedule features a road date against the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.

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