New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is expected to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is projected to be the head coach of the Detroit Lions. Former All Pro linebacker Mike Vrabel has been tapped to lead the Tennessee Titans and will be joined by former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
Former New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison played alongside all of them and he joined former Patriots rival and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy to discuss their opinions on these hirings and how they believe they will play out.
On Josh McDaniels
“Josh McDaniels is an excellent coach,” Dungy said. “I talk to Rodney [Harrison] a lot. I don’t know Josh that well personally, but Rodney played when he was a coach there. Says he was an outstanding person, loves him as a person.
“I know how much problems he gave us from a scheme standpoint, developing different things, putting a game plan together for Tom Brady, he gets hurt. Put a game plan together for Jimmy Garoppolo and you’re successful and he gets hurt. And you put a different game plan together for Jacoby Brissett and he goes out and plays well. That’s what he’s capable of.
“I know in talking to Josh, he’s learned some things, things that didn’t go well in Denver and he won’t make those same mistakes. He’ll do it a littler bit different. He’s worked for the best guy in football for a number of years. Coach Belichick made some adjustments when he went to New England [from Cleveland]. I think Josh will do the same thing.”
“I also believe he’s not afraid to get in Tom Brady’s face, just like Bill O’Brien, and let him know [how he feels],” Harrison added. “And I think you have to have that. Players don’t respect a coach that bows down. Players respect a coach that will stand up for what he believes, and I think that’s what Josh is.”
On Matt Patricia
“I love Matt Patricia,” Harrison said. “I’ve been around for a long time, and people always ask me about his personality. Is he the right guy for a head coaching job? And I say, ‘You’re damn right he is.’ You know why? Because he’s smart, he understands players, he knows how to communicate.
“And if that doesn’t equate to him getting a head-coaching job somewhere because of what the public perception is, it’s wrong, because the players love him.”
“Look at the adjustment he made [after] the first quarter of the season,” Harrison added. “The first four games of the season, they played like crap. [They] made some adjustments, and they end up becoming one of the best defenses in the league. That should tell you about Matt Patricia and what he’s capable of doing.”
When asked if he had any personal interactions with Patricia, Harrison decided to keep the specifics to himself, but shared the outline of a story.
“One time, I think I was down and fighting my confidence,” Harrison said, “and he came up and just gave me some simple words and it really meant a lot because everyone looked up to me as one of the leaders and I was down and he recognized that and he just came in and said a few words. Especially a guy at that point [in his career]. He wasn’t defensive coordinator, he was just one of the assistants.”
On Mike Vrabel
“We had a lot of smart guys on our team, but Mike might have been considered the smartest guy on our defense,” Harrison said. “I mean, like, brilliant. And the cool part about coach [Bill] Belichick and Romeo Crennel and Dean Pees our former defensive coordinators, they allowed us as players to kind of coach within each other.”
On Dean Pees
Harrison found out that Vrabel hired Pees to serve as his defensive coordinator in the middle of the interview.
“That’s great,” Harrison continued. “Well, you look at the job that Dean Pees has done with the Baltimore Ravens, well they’ve been in the top 5, 6 in defense for ‘x’ amount of years. I think they’re going to bring a lot of situational stuff. That’s one of the things those guys [Vrabel and Pees] both always talk about.
“And if you look at Tennessee, that’s how they lose games and they have to be better managers of the football and he has to do a good job of making sure Marcus Mariota becomes a better quarterback.”