It didn’t take long for Josh McDaniels to shift allegiances.
Shortly after meeting Raiders owner Mark Davis Saturday, McDaniels looked Davis in the eye and said, “It was a fumble” — a reference to the game-deciding play from the “Tuck Rule” game between the Patriots and Raiders in the divisional round of the 2001 playoffs.
McDaniels, who was a personnel assistant with the Patriots at the time, had just finished his 18th season in New England. But his quip marked the beginning of a new chapter.
“Raider Nation, if you’re worried, he’s already come over to the dark side,” Davis said Monday.
“True story,” McDaniels added.
The Raiders officially introduced McDaniels Monday as their next head coach. Alongside him at the team’s facility in Las Vegas was Davis as well as new general manager Dave Ziegler, who spent the last nine seasons in New England’s scouting department, most recently as director of player personnel.
Sporting his new team colors, silver and black, McDaniels called it an “easy” decision to come to the Raiders.
“I’ve been patient,” he said. “I’ve been selective, maybe to a fault sometimes. People wanted me to do things a little earlier than maybe I did them, but it was going to take a special place for me to really leave where I was. I found that here in Las Vegas.”
McDaniels, who turns 46 in April, joined the Patriots in 2001. He spent eight seasons with the team, eventually becoming offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, before becoming head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2009. The Broncos fired McDaniels during his second season.
After a brief stint with the St. Louis Rams, McDaniels returned to New England, his home for the past decade. He almost left in 2018, accepting the head coaching position with the Colts, but ended up rebuffing the agreement.
But McDaniels always had his sights on returning to the head coaching ranks — and expressed excitement Monday about finally finding the right time to do so.
“The last 10-12 years, I’ve really had an opportunity to grow as a person, as a coach, as a man,” McDaniels said. “I’ve tried to figure out, after my experiences in Denver and St. Louis, who I am, how I wanted to be defined in my career, what I wanted to represent, and how I would lead the next time if I got another opportunity to be a head coach. It’s crystallized for me. I’m clear in the vision that I have for this role, for this job, and for this team.”
McDaniels addressed how he believes he’s changed since his time in Denver, saying he knew “a little bit of football” then but not a lot about people. He stressed that he now recognizes the importance of communication and relationships when establishing a team culture and constructing a roster.
“A wise man once told me, ‘When you’re young, you try to accumulate and advance,’” he said. “When you get older, you figure out it’s a lot more about serving and impacting others.”
In his opening remarks, McDaniels thanked Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick for their support during his long tenure in New England. The Patriots congratulated both McDaniels and Ziegler via social media, but neither Kraft nor Belichick have issued a statement.
“[Bill] made you develop in every area as a professional in this environment,” McDaniels said. “I saw the game in a lot of different perspectives. I was able to develop, what I felt was, a really well-rounded approach as you’re growing up in this game.”
Ziegler, too, highlighted how Belichick has helped shape his approach.
“Bill is really dedicated to evaluating every single thing that we do at every point of the year and looking at it critically and evolving and trying to figure out how are we going to get these things better?” he said. “Even if the end result was a Super Bowl. Even if the end result was a great trade or a great player acquisition or whatever it may be.”
The Patriots are now tasked with the challenge of replacing not only a coach with 18 years of experience in their system but also a front office executive with nine. The decisions will undoubtedly be influential in the development of quarterback Mac Jones.
McDaniels and Ziegler will be taking over a Raiders team coming off their first playoff berth since 2016. They hope there are many more to come.
“It’s hard to have a tough, smart, football team that’s explosive and that plays well under pressure unless you’re committed in every avenue,” McDaniels said. “It requires discipline to do that. That’s how we feel best about trying to win.”