Josh McDaniels’ first stint as a head coach ended midway through the 2010 season. He waited more than a decade for his second, turning down multiple opportunities along the way to remain with the New England Patriots.
He was waiting for a job that truly felt right, the longtime offensive coordinator said. This weekend, he found it. On Monday, the Las Vegas Raiders introduced McDaniels as their new head coach.
“I’ve been patient,” McDaniels told reporters during his opening address. “I’ve been selective, maybe to a fault sometimes. People wanted me to do things a little earlier than maybe I did them. But it was going to take a special place for me to really leave where I was, and I found that here in Las Vegas.”
Why Vegas, and why now? As he addressed the Las Vegas media for the first time, Raiders pin affixed to the lapel of his black jacket, McDaniels said he was drawn to the franchise’s rich history (four Super Bowl titles, though none since 2002) and aligned with the vision outlined by team owner Mark Davis, which included the hiring of longtime friend and Patriots colleague Dave Ziegler as general manager.
“When you go through this process, I was very impressed with how exhaustive (the Raiders) were, just in their evaluation of me and my fit and how I would fit into their vision,” McDaniels told reporters. “And then you come out and you spend time with them, you meet the people, you see that everything’s done in a first-class manner. Their commitment to winning is easy to feel, to see, and to me, walking through this building and having a sense of the history and tradition of this organization and how much that impacts the day-to-day here, it really hit me. This is one of those iconic places.
“It’s a historic organization that has unbelievable history and tradition, and it’s in every hallway. So just getting to know them, feeling their commitment and understanding that that really married up with what my vision would be for another opportunity, it was easy to make the choice.”
Why was McDaniels the right fit for the Raiders, who snuck into the postseason this year under interim head coach Rich Bisaccia but haven’t won a playoff game in two decades? Davis pointed to the 45-year-old’s work with quarterbacks — both Tom Brady and the Patriots’ various younger signal-callers — and his adaptability.
McDaniels spent 18 of the last 21 seasons in New England, bookending his two stints around 1 1/2 seasons as the Denver Broncos’ head coach (2009-10) and one as the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator (2011). He was part of all six of the Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning teams.
“I’d been watching Josh for many years, for certain reasons other than maybe good ones at times,” Davis said. “The success of the Patriots and watching them over the years, I’ve seen them do it with Tom Brady, who is the greatest of all time, but I also saw the development of Tom Brady, the greatest of all time. Then I saw it with Matt Cassel. I saw (McDaniels) be able to win with him and make Matt Cassel the hottest free agent commodity on the market. Then I saw him do it this year with a rookie quarterback (Mac Jones).
“I’ve just always seen the Patriots as a team that not only adapts from week to week or half to half, but maybe even series to series. I just believe in Josh’s ability to assess the situation and make the changes in real time, and that’s always been something that’s impressed me.”
McDaniels flamed out as a head coach in Denver. He started 6-0, including a memorable, fist pump-inducing win over Bill Belichick and the Patriots, then proceeded to lose 17 of the next 23 games before being fired. But he believes the lessons he learned during that time — specifically about the importance of culture and collaboration — will yield more success this time around.
“When I went to Denver, I knew a little bit of football,” McDaniels said. “I didn’t really know people and how important that apsect of this process and maintaining the culture and building the team was. And I failed. I didn’t succeed at it. So looking at that experience has been one of the best things in my life in terms of my overall growth as a person and a coach. What do I need to do different? How do I need to handle my role if I have another opportunity and do better at it?”
As for Ziegler, a former college teammate of McDaniels’ who had been with the Patriots since 2013, Davis said he’s been impressed by New England’s ability to consistently win with “a lot of no-names” and a handful of specially chosen big-name players who fit their system.
“That kind of reminded me of the old Raiders in that way,” said Davis, the son of late Raiders owner Al Davis. “We used to be able to do that.”
Davis also wanted synergy between his head coach and GM, which is why he hired two individuals with a longstanding prior relationship. Ziegler said he and McDaniels will work together to craft the Raiders’ roster but that he, as GM, will have the final say on personnel decisions.
“Of course, Josh and I are tied in many ways in our vision of how to build a team, and our vision of what we want in terms of the players that we need to bring in the building is very connected,” Ziegler said. “But at the end of the day, when it’s time to make decisions on personnel, while we’ll work together, those final decisions will be made by me.”