New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spurned a head coaching position with the Indianapolis Colts at the last possible minute to return as the team’s coordinator with a nice pay raise. The move provides the Patriots with a ton of coaching stability since that means special teams coordinator Joe Judge and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski would also remain in New England.
There’s a lot of speculation about what happened and why McDaniels decided to remain in New England.
McDaniels had been in the process of assembling is staff in Indianapolis, but his new coaches were “blindsided” by McDaniels staying in New England. He spoke with them “shortly after [informing] Indy” of his decision not to join them. ProFootballTalk notes that the Colts don’t have any legal recourse against McDaniels because they never officially signed an agreement.
One source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Patriots owner Robert Kraft ponied up the bigger contract for McDaniels to “[put] it to the Colts again. He will forever try and (expletive) that place ever since deflate gate.”
My immediate reaction to the news was to draw a link to how much longer Bill Belichick will remain as the head coach of the New England Patriots. McDaniels will likely be blacklisted from a lot of future head coaching jobs as the result of this decision, so I thought there might be assurances that McDaniels would take over the Patriots when Belichick stepped down- and that move must be around the corner to have McDaniels step away from a head coaching job and stay in New England.
But multiple reports dispute that notion. Willie McGinest says that “McDaniels’ staying in New England isn’t predicated on him succeeding Bill Belichick.” Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager says McDaniels didn’t stay with the Patriots for the money and that “he’s only interested in the best situation for his family.” ProFootballTalk reports that “Bill Belichick is not leaving the Patriots. Josh McDaniels simply decided to stay.” MMQB’s Peter King reports “as part of his agreement to stay in New England, McDaniels got no written assurance that he will succeed the 65-year-old Belichick when he walks away from the job”
ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, who had the initial report that McDaniels to the Colts wasn’t a done deal, that says the Patriots have not “promised to make McDaniels the successor to Belichick whenever he walks away.” Florio also notes that McDaniels “had concerns about working with [Colts] owner Jim Irsay.”
NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran reports “fifteen hours of meetings between Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and Jonathan Kraft over the past two days have inspired McDaniels to leave the Indianapolis Colts at the altar.”
Curran also reports Belichick will return as head coach in 2018 and while there isn’t any guarantee that McDaniels will succeed Belichick, “it can now be presumed McDaniels will be given primary consideration as Belichick’s successor. That wasn’t the case previously.”
Apparently the Patriots hadn’t given McDaniels “the level of clarity he hoped for” about “the future plans of the team” by the end of the regular season and that’s why he was willing to take the Colts head coaching position. But apparently those 15 hours of meetings satisfied McDaniels’ and clarified the team’s long-term plan with Belichick and enticed the offensive coordinator to return.
So in sum, McDaniels’ return doesn’t signify anything about how much longer Belichick plans on coaching. Belichick’s last reported extension came in the 2013 season and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport notes Belichick is “under contract for several more years.” We can only assume that 2020 would be a reasonable expiration date since that is also when Nick Caserio’s contract is set to expire. Of course that’s pure speculation without any foundation.
Belichick currently has 278 career victories as a head coach, the third-most in NFL history. He needs 47 more to pass George Halas for second place (324 wins) and 70 more to pass Don Shula for first place (347 wins). At his current 5-year average pace of 14.6 wins per season, Belichick would be 3 wins away from passing Halas after the 2020 season and 26 wins away from passing Shula. In other words, Belichick could reach first place in the next five years and based on Belichick’s respect for football history, I could see that serving as his target and would allow him to retire at 70 years old.
And McDaniels is only 41 years old. He would be the fifth-youngest head coach in the NFL, ahead of only Rams head coach Sean McVay (32 years old), 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan (39 years old), Dolphins head coach Adam Gase (39 years old), and Bears head coach Matt Nagy (39 years old). He is younger than both Titans head coach Mike Vrabel (42 years old) and Lions head coach Matt Patricia (43 years old).
McDaniels would still be a young head coach if he waits five years until he’s 46 years old; only 8 of the 32 head coaches in 2017 were 46 or younger.
There’s no rush for McDaniels to join a team with a general manager he didn’t pick, an owner he doesn’t trust, and a quarterback that’s been injured for the past few years and might need another surgery. He has a great relationship with Nick Caserio, Robert Kraft, and Tom Brady and, if given the job, would likely receive a long enough leash to develop a quarterback of his own when Tom Brady retires.
And McDaniels could always get another job if Caserio, Monti Ossenfort, or Scott Pioli gets a general manager role and Belichick shows no sign of retiring.
It’s hard to see McDaniels remaining in New England if he weren’t given some clarity about his future with the team as a possible head coach. But, as all the reports state, his return didn’t come with a guarantee for the job and it apparently doesn’t point to Belichick retiring any time soon.