The NFL coaching carousel is in full swing, but so far, one man has been noticeably left off the ride.
The Patriots offensive coordinator has not popped up around any of the seven openings. Not for filling them anyway. Instead, down in Houston, they’ve made sure to get it out there that McDaniels will NOT get the job vacated by Bill O’Brien. Much as former New England pal Nick Caserio, the new general manager, might like to reconnect with McDaniels, the discontent of quarterback Deshaun Watson makes it impossible.
The widening pipeline from New England to Houston apparently is too much for Watson to stomach, with his tweet after Caserio’s hiring (“some things never change …”) reflecting his disappointment over the decision. Ensuing reports say Watson is unhappy enough to consider asking for a trade or to hold out come training camp.
Maybe that comes across as whiny, but given Watson’s assurances from ownership that he’d be consulted prior to the decision being made and given that Caserio was not on the final list of candidates presented by the search firm the Texans hired but is a close friend and longtime colleague of controversial executive Jack Easterby, Watson has grounds for frustration.
It’s enough to rule McDaniels out. And regardless of what is happening in Houston, he’s not in the mix anywhere else either. And that’s not his choice. Late in December, when asked on a Patriots media call if he still had head coaching aspirations, McDaniels said, “Absolutely. I definitely want to do that. I’d love to have that opportunity if it presents itself.”
But you can’t blame teams for being gun-shy after the way he backed out of his last opportunity, accepting the Indianapolis job in early 2018 and then changing his mind a day later to stay with the Patriots.
He has interviewed for jobs since, with the Packers in 2019 and the Browns last year, when he also had interviews set with the Giants and Panthers. But the fact that both of those teams hired someone else before even talking to McDaniels — and the Giants did so with a glowing recommendation from Belichick about Joe Judge — doesn’t look good for McDaniels.
Meanwhile, he’s being passed over for guys on his own staff. Again.
If Judge was last year’s sleeper Patriots assistant, this year’s is Jerod Mayo, who we learned Wednesday is going to interview in Philadelphia. With only two years of experience on the sideline, the inside linebackers coach would be a risk. But it worked out well for Brian Flores in Miami, and maybe someone will catch that magic again.
That’s the thing in the NFL — windows open and shut very quickly. New names enter the cycle every year. Did you think of Joe Brady as a potential NFL head coach before this year? Brady, the 33-year-old first-year offensive coordinator with the Panthers, has interviewed with the Texans already, along with the Jets, Falcons, and Chargers.
McDaniels has time. He’s only 44. But after a very rough year for the Patriots offense — even if it had as much to do with a lack of weapons and Cam Newton’s struggles to adapt to a new system as it did with anything McDaniels was doing — it’s not always easy to get back on the ride.
Some other thoughts on the carousel:
▪ The Houston situation is volatile. Former Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson threw gas on the fire with his tweet saying, “If I’m [Watson] I will stand my ground. The Texans organization is known for wasting players [sic] careers. Since Jack Easterby has walked into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!!”
DeAndre Hopkins increased the heat when he quote-tweeted that with “When Dre speaks listen.”
I’m not sure Easterby is quite the bogeyman he’s being made out to be, but it’s clear Caserio has his work cut out in building trust with Watson. He cited that as a priority in his introductory press conference, when he also stood by Easterby.
There’s no way Caserio can get rid of Watson, an ascendant star with a skill set to match that of anyone in the league. How many times did Bill Belichick use the word “complete” to describe Watson before losing to him this year?
That’s high praise from the New England coach, whose legendary defenses have surrendered 1,055 passing yards and 8 touchdown passes in four meetings against Watson, splitting the four decisions. Houston’s win in November was one of only four it had all season, but Watson wasn’t the problem, throwing for 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions despite a lack of weapons around him. He’s the foundation.
▪ Good for Mayo for the opportunity in Philadelphia. Like Flores, he is adored by players and respected in his transition from the locker room to the meeting room. But it’s hard to believe how quickly the magic ran out for Doug Pederson, who only three years ago led the Eagles to that scintillating Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
Maybe Frank Reich had more to do with that than initially realized. Reich, the offensive coordinator who oversaw the transition from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles in Philadelphia to such perfection, ultimately got the job in Indianapolis that McDaniels abandoned.
So the dean of coaches in the awful NFC East is now Ron Rivera, hired all of 378 days ago in Washington. But as NBC Sports Philly’s Reuben Frank pointed out, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie’s track record is pretty good. He’s hired four head coaches: Ray Rhodes, 1995 Coach of the Year; Andy Reid, sixth winningest coach in NFL history; Chip Kelly, 2013 Maxwell Club Coach of the Year; and Pederson, winner of Super Bowl LII.
▪ Maybe Houston should forget the New England tree and look for one of Reid’s branches. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero pointed this out about the four coaches still alive in the AFC playoffs: Reid, longtime Reid assistant John Harbaugh, longtime Reid assistant Sean McDermott, and Kevin Stefanski, onetime training camp intern under Reid. Not bad.