ORLANDO — Josh McDaniels showed up at Gillette Stadium Feb. 6 for what he thought was his final day of work as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator.
It was two days after the Super Bowl LII loss to the Eagles and he was set to clean out his office and put the finishing touches on the opening remarks for his introductory news conference as Indianapolis’s new head coach, which was scheduled for the following day.
However, after meeting with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick and hearing their plans for McDaniels, he had a change of heart and decided to stay in New England.
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure what the future was. I just hadn’t had any clarity on that,’’ McDaniels said Monday, speaking publicly for the first time since his decision. “So, where did I fit in? Were there any plans? I just didn’t have much clarity on what my role was here moving forward.’’
McDaniels, who had one year left on his Patriots contract, had all those questions answered during his chats with Kraft and Belichick.
“Once I heard from Robert and Bill on that Tuesday, it just gave me reason to pause and consider this whole situation,’’ said McDaniels, who was given no guarantees about future positions, but did have his contract adjusted.
Armed with all the information he needed, McDaniels’s desire to continue in New England was fortified.
“The opportunity to stay here and work for who I think is the greatest owner in sports and the best head football coach in the history of our game, to work with the best quarterback that has ever played . . . Look, I’m privileged to have the opportunity to do that and when they kind of crystallized that — ‘Hey, here’s what we see going forward and here’s how we would like you to fit into it’ — it gave me a reason to stop and say, ‘All right, what’s the best decision for me?’ And certainly it was difficult. But I made the decision on my own, nobody pushed me into it.’’
When he finalized the decision, McDaniels called Colts general manager Chris Ballard early Tuesday evening. He acknowledged it wasn’t an easy conversation.
“Chris was tremendous the whole entire time,’’ said McDaniels. “He’s an incredible human being. He’s great at what he does. He’s going to be successful. It was difficult. I had a friendship with him — I still do. . . . He’s a guy that I have a lot of respect for and admiration for. He was a big reason why I was interested in that job in the first place. It was as difficult a decision as I’ve ever made professionally. He handled it extremely well, he was a complete professional about it.’’
Next up was the task of calling assistant coaches that had been hired when McDaniels verbally agreed to take the Colts job.
“I spoke to all of them that night right away, shortly after I talked to Chris,’’ McDaniels said. “They were professionals. Like I said, it wasn’t easy for anybody. I apologized to them if it put them in an awkward position. They’re all there [in Indianapolis], which I’m very happy about. They have great opportunities, they’re great coaches, they’re great people, and I’m happy that it worked out for them in that regard.
“Again, it was never my intention to go into this and put anybody in an awkward position or do any harm to anybody or do anything to hurt anybody’s career. That certainly wasn’t a part of my thought process. I just felt like, once I knew the whole picture and I had the opportunity to make a decision, it was tough but I feel like I made the right one.’’
McDaniels’s name has been among the first mentioned when head coaching jobs open up and he’s interviewed for six jobs — the Rams, 49ers, and Jaguars two seasons ago and Bears, Giants, and Colts this year. He made it clear Monday that he “absolutely” wants to be a head coach again.
“I was looking at every one of those opportunities — I interviewed with Chicago, New York [Giants], and Indy. And I was looking at every one of those very intently with the intention to gain one of those positions. That’s what I wanted to do,’’ he said. “Each time I’ve gone into this, they’ve all been different. You know, the scenarios are different, what they’re looking for is important, what I’m looking for is important. To mesh with the people there is important.
“And I apologize to anyone who was affected in any way. Indianapolis did a tremendous job. They have a tremendous organization and I was lucky to be considered and I just think once I found out [what my future in New England was], I made the right decision for me and my family at this time.’’
There was much speculation that McDaniels decided to stay in New England because he didn’t want to uproot his wife and four kids, who range in age from 3-12, again. McDaniels, who moved his family to Denver in 2009 for the Broncos head job, said that wasn’t true.
“My family was ready to go to Indianapolis because at that point that was the decision I had made. So, this isn’t a thing where I’m telling you, ‘I couldn’t move and all that’ — that’s not the case. If that were the case I wouldn’t interview,’’ he said. “They’re very supportive. My wife’s incredible, my kids are great. Do they love New England? Absolutely . . . And have we been blessed to be part of this organization? No doubt. But I’d say in the long run, this coaching profession is kind of crazy. And they know that.
“And at some point, if I have to move or if we end up moving, they understand that’s part of the situation and they were ready to do that.’’
McDaniels said he’d be in favor of an overhaul of the process of interviewing coaches while their teams are still in the playoffs. Currently, those coaches only are allowed to interview during bye weeks and official decisions can’t come until their team is eliminated.
“I think the process is complex,” he said. “You’re putting everything you have — and rightfully so — into the opponent and the game that your playing so that you give your team the best effort so you have an opportunity to win and keep playing. There’s no way I’d do anything different — nor would I recommend anyone else do anything different. We work all year for this opportunity, so it is complex.
“You have a very short time to interview and then you’re trying to piece together what you would and wouldn’t do based on a very short interview process. So, I would say if they could tweak in a positive way and allow either more time or whatever the decisions that are allowed to be made to permit people to try and gather more information or really have the opportunity to make clear decisions. They’re obviously going to impact a lot of people and that would never be a negative thing if they could figure that out.’’
For now, McDaniels is enjoying a week off, but said the offseason has been busy as team-building continues. He said he appreciates the confidence shown in him by Belichick and Kraft, both of whom called McDaniels the top offensive coordinator in the league over the last few days.
“That means a lot,’’ said McDaniels. “Those are two people that I respect dearly. And obviously I try to please them in anything and everything I do for them . . . I’m going to work my butt off for them. I know there’s many, many people that would love the opportunity that I’ve had and I can’t thank them enough for it and I’m looking forward to having another opportunity to go out there and work hard and do my job the best I can to help us win.’’