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Josh McDaniels is top head coaching candidate, Matt Patricia is still a rising star

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The Patriots are at risk of losing both coordinators at the end of the year.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have been fortunate enough to retain both offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in their respective positions since the 2012 season. No other franchise in the NFL has the same degree of consistency in their coaching staff and it’s a big reason for the Patriots’ continued success.

It could also come to an end after this year.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before (and you have heard this before, during each of the past two offseasons), but according to “dozens of NFL executives, GMs, coaches, agents, and others,” McDaniels and Patricia are again two of the hottest coaching tickets in the NFL.

“The full field of head coaching candidates is shaping up a little like last year's,” NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports. “It's Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and everyone else. McDaniels, 41, is reflective about how things went in his first head coaching stint with the Broncos (11-17 in Denver) and has learned a lot since. He pulled out of the 49ers' coaching search last year and will remain selective, but I'm told he's ready and excited if the right opportunity comes.”

And what is “the right opportunity?” McDaniels would probably have loved to go with Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, but with Kyle Shanahan in his first year on the job, it’s unlikely that McDaniels will get another opportunity there.

McDaniels probably wants a team with stable ownership and a quality, young quarterback, where he gets to pick his general manager- and there aren’t many teams that fit the bill. The New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts could both be looking for a new head coach, but the Giants lack a young quarterback and the Colts just hired a new general manager. The Cincinnati Bengals are another option, but will they finally move on from Marvin Lewis- or will they just promote another one of his acolytes to the top position?

The Tennessee Titans could be a smart choice since McDaniels already has a relationship with general manager Jon Robinson and Marcus Mariota is considered a quality young talent at quarterback. And then maybe there’s the Chicago Bears with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback and the potential need for a shake-up on the coaching and front office side.

There should be options for McDaniels; it’s just a matter of whether or not he wants any of them.

Pelissero also asked these league sources to guess “this year’s Sean McVay,” the coaching wunderkind for the Los Angeles Rams who, at age 31, has the Rams in contention in the NFC. Pelissero set “loose” criteria since no one else in the league is as experienced as McVay was at such a young age and expanded the range of candidates to those around 40 years of age.

Guess who showed up on that list.

Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator, New England Patriots: I almost disqualified him from this list, given the fact that his profile is much higher than the others (and not just because of his post-Super Bowl wardrobe choices). But his name comes up in every conversation about the NFL's bright, young assistants. Patricia, 43, has won two rings in five-and-a-half years as Patriots defensive coordinator, and he interviewed the past couple of years with the Browns, Rams and Chargers. He's smart (rocket science!) and engaging. Several people told me they've gotten the impression it'd have to be a perfect fit to convince Patricia to leave New England.

So Patricia would also need a perfect fit to leave the Patriots and he’s further down the pecking order and would get the scraps left by McDaniels. The same teams that work for McDaniels would also likely work for Patricia. I also like that McDaniels is nearly two years younger than Patricia, but is such a household name that he can’t be considered a young rising star.

Other notable names include Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel (the Rams planned to interview Vrabel to be head coach, but hired McVay instead), Eagles offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing, and Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke.

Will the Patriots be able to retain both McDaniels and Patricia for 2018? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. They seem to be willing to wait as long as possible for the perfect opportunity. Maybe one of them is waiting for Bill Belichick to inevitably retire; both McDaniels and Patricia could hold out for that in-house promotion and still be under the age of 50.

In fact, both McDaniels and Patricia would currently be one of the five youngest head coaches in the NFL as they’re older than only the Giants’ Ben McAdoo (40), the Dolphins’ Adam Gase (39), the 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan (37), and the Rams’ McVay (31). Only 11 head coaches are younger than 50 years of age.

Note: How the heck is Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin only 45 years old? He’s the seventh-youngest head coach in the NFL. That’s ridiculous. It seems like he’s been around for 20 years.

There’s plenty of time for McDaniels and Patricia to wait out the ideal opportunity and a position could eventually open up in their own backyard. They can be the top coaching candidate for 2018.

And 2019. And 2020. And beyond.