The New England Patriots already lost one organizational cornerstone earlier this offseason, when director of player personnel Nick Caserio left the team to become the Houston Texans’ next general manager. It now appears as if they could be on the verge of losing another, with Josh McDaniels seemingly establishing himself as the frontrunner for the Philadelphia Eagles’ vacant head coaching position.
While a lot can still change over the coming hours and days — McDaniels’ fiasco in Indianapolis in 2018 comes to mind — there is a growing buzz surrounding the long-time Patriots offensive coordinator and the Eagles. Let’s take a closer look at it.
Eagles writers think McDaniels is the frontrunner
Jeremy Fowler, an Eagles beat writer for ESPN, reported on Monday that McDaniels is “a prime candidate” in the race for Philadelphia’s head coaching gig. However, he also pointed out that Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Bowles would have “some internal support” to fill the job previously held by Doug Pederson.
John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia, meanwhile, said that McDaniels “did very well” in his interview with the Eagles’ decision makers — a group including owner Jeffrey Lurie and members of the organization’s front office. The interview took place on Sunday and reportedly lasted nearly all day.
Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer also shared those sentiments, noting that McDaniels “seems to me the leader” among the candidates brought in by the Eagles.
Veteran Eagles sports writers Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan also addressed the rumors on the latest episode of their Inside the Birds podcast. One particular part of the transcript stands out:
Mosher: “My initial reaction was that Jeffrey’s been enamored with that New England offense for a long time. He’s always talked about it, obviously it’s been an elite offense, so here’s a chance to bring in a guy who has all the knowledge of how it runs, and as you mentioned, his development of the slot position.
“So I started calling around a little bit, and later that night, one of my better sources around the league said, ‘You know what, McDaniels to Philly — there’s a lot of buzz about that. There’s people who think that this thing can really happen.’”
Caplan: “There’s not a lot of names left, but if you look at the guys that would make sense and fit what they’re looking for, I would put Josh McDaniels at the top of the list for fit and coaching experience. I know it didn’t go well for him in Denver — at least he’s been a head coach before. The issue there is the baggage.”
Caplan later also noted that McDaniels would “clearly” be the leading candidate:
NFL: "Clearly, Josh McDaniels is in the lead..."— SportsGrid (@SportsGrid) January 18, 2021
⬇️ @caplannfl on the latest news around the Philadelphia Eagles coaching search.#NFLTwitter #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/6MefIFOjdS
All in all, it seems as if Philadelphia media believes there is at least a realistic chance that McDaniels will be offered the open position. The same goes for the agency that represents Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, which indicated on Twitter that the Eagles might hire the Patriots assistant.
Outside of these rumblings, there are also other arguments speaking in favor of this outcome.
No other candidate offers the same blend of experience as success
Including McDaniels, the Eagles have so far interviewed seven head coaching candidates. Two of those — Robert Saleh and Arthur Smith — have already agreed to take head coaching positions elsewhere; Saleh will coach the New York Jets and Smith the Atlanta Falcons moving forward.
This leaves the following five competing for the vacant job in Philadelphia:
- Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator
- Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator
- Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots inside linebackers coach
- Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots offensive coordinator
- Duce Staley, Philadelphia Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach
The Eagles have also requested interviews with Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy — although his agency, as mentioned above, seems to think he has no realistic shot at the job — as well as Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The interview with Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley fell through after he was hired as the Los Angeles Chargers’ new head coach over the weekend.
Accordingly, McDaniels is left standing as the one coach with the most attractive blend of experience and success. He served as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator for a total of 12 seasons over two separate stints, and has led some of the most innovative units in the league during his time at the helm — all while helping New England win three Super Bowls in that position (as well as an additional three in lower-level roles).
He also has some NFL head coaching experience, something only Todd Bowles brings to the table as well.
Much like Bowles’ tenure with the Jets, McDaniels with the Denver Broncos was a debacle: he lasted not even two seasons and was let go halfway through the 2010 season amidst some major internal turmoil. He also nearly became head coach in Indianapolis, but returned to New England despite verbally having agreed to take the job.
Despite all that, no other coach on the list above has the same credentials as McDaniels — especially considering the following:
It’s all about Carson Wentz
The Eagles parting ways with Doug Pederson earlier this month seems to have been a direct response to quarterback Carson Wentz’s recent regression. The former first-round draft pick was one of the league’s worst passers in 2020, has reportedly not reacted well to coaching, and has been benched in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts down the stretch.
Despite all that, the Eagles seem to be willing to hold onto Wentz even over their now-former head coach. Accordingly, the coaching search might very well reflect this, and lead the organization right to McDaniels.
Given the Eagles’ apparent commitment to Wentz, the 44-year-old would make sense. He has worked in a dual role as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach between 2012 and 2019, and has had tremendous success with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. While Wentz is obviously not on Brady’s level, Philadelphia could very well identify McDaniels as the best candidate to help salvage his career — or at the very least to develop Hurts into a viable replacement option.
Sure, McDaniels’ most recent season is not necessarily a ringing endorsement, but his track record does extend beyond Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo was molded into a viable NFL starter before getting traded to the San Francisco 49ers, while Jacoby Brissett has also had some success after New England sent him to Indianapolis. Both had their starts in the league with the Patriots, working in an offense designed by McDaniels.
All of this could make him an attractive candidate in the Eagles’ eyes.