It was just over a month ago when rumors began swirling that the Indianapolis Colts would be hiring New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as the team’s new head coach, replacing Chuck Pagano.
And it was just yesterday afternoon when the Colts set up a press conference for this afternoon to name McDaniels the next coach of the organization.
And then it was just last evening when the Colts cancelled that press conference and informed the media that McDaniels backed away, opting to stay on Bill Belichick’s staff.
There are a lot of questions out there with very few answers, and the answers that do exist are less-than-satisfactory. But it is safe to say this:
No one looks good in this mess. No one at all.
This doesn’t look good for the Patriots, considering everything that New England has been involved with since its first Super Bowl victory back in 2001–from SpyGate to DeflateGate to reports of animosity between Belichick-Brady-Kraft. Since Belichick is the face of the franchise, he particularly doesn’t look good, as if he has somehow concocted this whole debacle–or at least had a hand in it.
The Colts, as a whole, don’t look good. The same thing can be said specifically for owner Jim Irsay, general manager Chris Ballard, and quarterback Andrew Luck.
But most of all, Josh McDaniels looks horrible.
Leading the Colts would have been McDaniels’ second act as a head coach after failing with the Denver Broncos, whom he coached to a 11-17 record in 2009 and part of 2010. He was only 33 back then. When he was fired, he landed safely with the St. Louis Rams, where he coached out the 2010 season, before returning to New England, where he had previously served as offensive coordinator from 2006-2008.
When it comes to head coaches, second chances don’t seem to be all that rare in the NFL. “Retread coaches,” as it goes, are popular. Some of the most successful coaches in the NFL today, and in the past, were fired by his first team before getting picked up by another. Belichick is an example–he failed with the Cleveland Browns only to reach great heights with the Patriots. Another present day example is Andy Reid, who coached the Philadelphia Eagles for years before landing with the Kansas City Chiefs.
But third chances are rare.
With how things went for McDaniels in Denver, had he failed in Indianapolis, there would have been no third act for him. And with Belichick possibly retiring in the near future, there also wouldn’t have been a safety net for McDaniels to fall into afterward.
And that may be the simplest explanation why McDaniels didn’t join the Colts: he knew his second act would be it, and felt more comfortable taking it with New England in the future rather than now with Indianapolis.
Which is strange, because when Belichick retires, this team won’t be looking that good. The defense this past season wasn’t stellar and it got torched by a back-up quarterback in the Super Bowl. And when Belichick retires, it will mean that Tom Brady is no longer around.
McDaniels just turned down a Colts team with a budding superstar at quarterback and led by a smart front-office that’s ultimately run by Ballard. This team is in a better position now than the Patriots will be when Belichick retires.
Regardless, the end-result for McDaniels is this: he didn’t just burn a bridge with the Colts–he nuked every bridge that would have led to a head coaching gig with every other organization in the NFL outside of New England.
Perhaps this speaks even more volumes: the Detroit Lions, led by general manager Bob Quinn, who was with the Patriots from 2000-2015, interviewed both McDaniels and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, but passed on the former in favor of the latter. That was before all of this happened with Indianapolis: a former Patriot executive didn’t want McDaniels.
Now the rest of the league will join Quinn.
For Josh McDaniels, it’s New England or bust.
New England Sports Network
Belichick wants to win no matter what, and it appears that his mentality has stretched so far as to sabotage a deal that would have made another one of his assistants a head coach.
Belichick had a hand in this. Maybe he wasn’t the architect, but his fingerprints are there. He just lost his third Super Bowl in embarrassing fashion. His defensive coordinator just left for the head coaching job in Detroit. His team is aging. Tom Brady doesn’t have much time left. And Belichick is getting ripped for benching his team’s best defensive back during the Super Bowl–and he’s lying about why he did it!
To add to that losing McDaniels to an old rival would have been just too much. It will not be surprising if McDaniels gets a hefty raise next season and does, indeed, take over as head coach of the Patriots when Belichick finally calls it quits.
But the fall-out has begun. His meddling with this affair has urged Ballard to declare the rivalry is back on. His benching of Malcolm Butler will deter free agents from coming to Boston. And Greg Schiano, Patricia’s expected replacement as defensive coordinator, has decided to stay at Ohio State instead of jumping to the pros.
The Patriot Way is to eschew attention–attention both positive and negative, because winning the Super Bowl is hard enough a task without having to deal with extra attention. Benching Butler, McDaniels spurning the Colts, and Schiano staying in Columbus–that all creates excess attention that must be overcome. And it’s all Belichick’s doing.
This is how the Patriots end–not with a bang but with an old man’s hubris getting the best of him.
Some more questions about the Colts end of things:
Did McDaniels bow out because of lack of promised organizational control, like Belichick has with New England? Did he balk at working for Irsay, an eccentric owner (to say the least) who seems to be the polar opposite of Robert Kraft? Is Luck’s injury more serious than is being let on?
The answer to those questions don’t really matter, in the end, as the public will never find out anyway. But they will be worth keeping in mind when it comes to who the Colts actually hire as their next head coach. The next coach will be someone comfortable working with Ballard, working for Irsay, and who feels comfortable with Luck’s current situation.
Then there is the issue with the Colts’ decision yesterday to announce that they had hired McDaniels. Strange move. It’s not like something like this hasn’t happened before.
But the announcement actually may have just been to force McDaniels’ hand. It was reported during Super Bowl week that some began feeling that McDaniels may snub the Colts. It seems as though the Colts felt it may happen–as soon as the team announced McDaniels would not be coming to Indianapolis, it was reported that the Colts already had lined up three interviews for the still-vacant head coaching position.
Who will that be, though? And will the Colts’ decision to keep assistants already hired to McDaniels’ staff deter some candidates?
Whoever it is must be a home run for Ballard, as his seat suddenly appears hot. He passed on Mike Vrabel in favor of McDaniels, and now Vrabel is leading the Tennessee Titans, a divisional rival.
Though Ballard didn’t interview him beforehand, he could look at Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub. The two worked together for a time in Kansas City, and Toub has been connected to head coaching vacancies for several years now.
Or Ballard could turn his attention to a trifecta of coaches who just earned Super Bowl rings. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich received surprisingly little attention at the start of the hiring season despite his offensive unit performing well with both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles at the helm. Defensive coordinator Jim Scwhartz led a stout unit all season and has experience under his belt from his time leading the Lions. And quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is a name that’s been bouncing around, as he’s also been connected to the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator search.
And maybe this is for the best for the Colts. For one thing, it is now apparent that when Belichick retires, McDaniels will step into that role. Would that have changed had he been the Colts head coach? Doubtful. He would have made it happen, much like Belichick did when he spurned the New York Jets.
For another thing, the Belichick Coaching Tree is littered with dead limbs. Charlie Weis failed. Romeo Crennel failed. Eric Mangini failed. Bill O’Brien has done absolutely nothing with the Texans.
Oh: and Josh McDaniels already failed once.