FOXBOROUGH — Josh McDaniels landed a five-year contract from the Patriots, one of the reasons the offensive coordinator did an about-face on the Colts head coaching job, according to an NFL Media report.
The extension was hammered out during a meeting with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick shortly after the team returned home from Super Bowl LII. McDaniels had one year left on his Patriots contract when he accepted the Colts job.
According to the report, the deal makes McDaniels the NFL’s highest-paid coordinator, with one of the years worth more than $4 million.
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure what the future was. I just hadn’t had any clarity on that,’’ McDaniels told the Globe exclusively in March in his first public comments since deciding to stay in New England. “So, where did I fit it? Were there any plans? I just didn’t have much clarity on what my role was here moving forward.’’
Those questions and more were answered during the sitdown.
“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 said he was given no guarantees about future positions in the New England organization.
“To me, Josh McDaniels is as important to this franchise — not quite a Belichick or a [Tom] Brady, but it is really close,’’ CBS analyst Tony Romo said during Sunday’s game broadcast. “He is outstanding. Look at what he is doing today. We always give Brady a ton of credit, as he should get. But McDaniels is so key. He puts guys in unique, special positions, and they can plug different people in . . . It is rare what they do, and this guy has done it for so long around here. He is really a special caller and designer of plays.”
Right tackle Marcus Cannon started the game after missing the preseason with a calf injury, but rotated in and out with backup LaAdrian Waddle.
The rotation has to do with easing Cannon back into the lineup because of his injury and because of the hit a player’s conditioning takes when he misses that amount of time.
Waddle is a capable backup who had some very good moments this summer, so the Patriots probably view the opportunity to get a longer look at him against starting defenses as a silver lining until they can stick with the same five linemen.
Waddle gave up a quarterback hit to J.J. Watt on a third down that forced the Patriots to settle for a field goal, but the offensive line was solid overall, regardless of which player was at right tackle. Brady was sacked twice and hit three other times but was mostly happy with his protection.
“I think we protected well all day and guys really slugged it out,” he said. “I think we knew going up against this defense, this front, they’re very interchangeable. They have good players, they rush, they play the run well, they play runs away, they got their hand on the ball, caused the interception — they do a lot of things well, but our guys were up for the challenge.”
Safety Duron Harmon was called for unnecessary roughness near the end of the game when he jolted DeAndre Hopkins near midfield on a deep incompletion.
“[The referee] said my shoulder hit his helmet, and I don’t know if it hit his helmet, I felt like I did a good job of using my shoulder and not using my head, but with those bang-bang plays the referee is in a tough spot, it’s a point of emphasis for the NFL for us to make it a safer league, he’s just doing his job,” said Harmon. “I’m just going to look at the play and see if I can do something a little different.’’
Asked if he thought it was possible to do something different on that play, Harmon said, “Honestly, I don’t think so. We’ll watch the film tomorrow. Coach [Belichick] to [Brian Flores], [and] Steve [Belichick], and see if I can do something different, but from the way we came to the sideline we thought it was a pretty clean hit.”
Watson a little rusty
Texans QB Deshaun Watson, playing in his first game since tearing his ACL in practice last November, struggled to knock the rust off his game. On his first snap, miscommunication with tailback Lamar Miller resulted in a fumble, which was recovered by Dont’a Hightower at the 19.
After a false start penalty on third and 7, Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a 21-yard touchdown pass and a quick 7-0 lead just 1:08 in.
“Adversity just hit on the first play, and we just had to overcome it,’’ Watson said. “We had the opportunity to do that.’’
Watson finished 17 of 34 for 176 yards and a TD as Houston fell into a 21-6 hole at the half before chipping away at the deficit down the stretch.
“The defense did a heck of a job of keeping us in the game and not letting the the offense blow the game away, and they gave us opportunities,” said Watson, who was in the trainer’s room after the game receiving an IV for cramps. “We just didn’t capitalize, especially in the red zone. We’ve just got to get back to the drawing board.’’
According to Harmon, Watson hasn’t lost a step. “You couldn’t tell that man had an ACL tear from last year,’’ Harmon lauded. “He’s a tremendous athlete, tremendous quarterback, and they’re lucky to have him.’’
Belichick No. 3
Belichick passed Tom Landry for sole possession of third place on the all-time wins list with 251. Don Shula (328) and George Halas (318) are 1-2 . . . Brady improved to 13-3 as a starting quarterback on opening day . . . Brady has 224 wins, including the postseason, trailing only old pal Adam Vinatieri (225) among active players . . . Devin and Jason McCourty became the second set of twins in NFL history to play together on the same team, joining Gene and Tom Golsen, who played for the Louisville Colonels in 1926 . . . The Patriots improved to 5-0 against the Texans at Gillette Stadium.
Rookie cornerbacks Keion Crossen and J.C. Jackson headlined the list of Patriots inactives. Both players stood out during the summer and in the exhibition games, but they’ll have to wait at least one more week before making their pro debuts.
Also inactive were rookie running back Sony Michel (knee), tight end Jacob Hollister (hamstring), receiver Chad Hansen, guard Brian Schwenke, and defensive end Derek Rivers.
For the Texans, wide receivers Will Fuller and Keke Coutee, offensive tackle Kendall Lam, defensive ends Carlos Watkins and Joel Heath, linebacker Duke Ejiofor, and cornerback Kayvon Webster were the scratches.