The news on Sunday that Josh McDaniels didn’t get the Browns’ head coaching job, or any of the five head coaching jobs available this offseason, conjures differing emotions for different people.
For McDaniels, it has to be massively disappointing. For the second straight year, he only got one interview, and he got passed over.
For Bill Belichick, it’s probably a mix of relief and indifference. Belichick is certainly glad to have McDaniels back as offensive coordinator, but Belichick also doesn’t bat an eye when a player or coach moves on. Belichick would have figured out his offensive coordinator situation, one way or another.
But for Patriots fans, McDaniels’s return to New England for the 2020 should invoke a different emotion:
The hope that a certain quarterback will now come back to the Patriots next season.
Of course, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ power brokers still have a long way to go to get TB12 back next year. Brady isn’t totally sure he wants to return. Robert Kraft and Belichick aren’t sure how much, if at all, to invest in a quarterback who will be 43 years old next season.
But bringing McDaniels back certainly helps matters. It means the Patriots will still keep the same offensive system and terminology that Brady has used for his entire 20-year career. And it means that Brady’s trusted confidant will be back in the organization for another year.
Belichick certainly isn’t the easiest coach to play for, and he and Brady have had their differences over the past few years. McDaniels has been a valuable buffer between Brady and Belichick — someone that Brady can confide in, or air out his grievances with.
If McDaniels left for another team, Brady would have lost his support system. He would have had very few allies in the building, and a lot of new faces that are loyal to Belichick.
But McDaniels coming back has to make a return to the Patriots more attractive to Brady. It means the Patriots don’t have to blow up the offense, and instead can try to run it back one more time.
Julian Edelman is coming back. James White will be back. Center David Andrews should come back from his lung clots. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and running backs coach Ivan Fears are now likelier to return.
Make a few cosmetic changes to the offense — like, say, trading for Odell Beckham or signing A.J. Green — and the Patriots can return to championship caliber.
Brady will now have a lot more familiarity in New England than he would with any other team. And that has to be appealing for someone looking to have a bounce-back season and prove to the world that age isn’t slowing him down.
Brady and the Patriots still have two more months to figure things out. But McDaniels returning has to be a good sign for Brady coming back, too.
As for McDaniels, he is fortunate to have a golden parachute — a well-paying job as the offensive coordinator of the Patriots. But his image, and his ego, have taken a massive hit over the past couple of weeks as he was passed over for head coaching jobs for the second straight year.
Last year, only the Packers were willing to interview McDaniels, and he finished third. This year, he again only got one interview.
Of the five vacancies, the Cowboys and Redskins didn’t interview him, the Panthers and Giants wanted to interview McDaniels but ultimately skipped it, and the Browns chose Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski on Sunday, with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh reportedly coming in second.
McDaniels pulled out all the stops for the Browns, too, bringing his wife with him on the interview.
Many observers around the league believed it was a sign that the 43-year-old McDaniels had the Browns’ job locked up, and that he was bringing his wife along to meet the rest of the organization and maybe start shopping for houses.
But that obviously wasn’t the case. McDaniels is a brilliant offensive coach, but has too much baggage right now, compared to other candidates across the league. He has two strikes against him — he went 11-17 in two seasons as the Broncos’ head coach a decade ago, and reneged on the Colts for their head coaching job two years ago, deciding to stay with the Patriots even though the Colts believed they had a verbal agreement.
It’s probably a blessing in disguise that McDaniels didn’t get the Browns job. Owner Jimmy Haslam has fired five head coaches and four general managers since taking over the team in mid-2012. And Paul DePodesta, the Browns’ chief strategy officer, reportedly isn’t a big McDaniels fan. Working with or for someone who doesn’t fully support you could be disastrous. DePodesta wanted to hire Stefanski last year, and got his man this time around. McDaniels likely only gets one more chance to be an NFL head coach, and the Browns are a dysfunctional mess.
But McDaniels looks like damaged goods right now. The best way to get a head coaching job is to be in demand, and McDaniels certainly isn’t.
But his loss is also the Patriots’ gain. They will be happy to have him back for another year, and to keep the offensive side of the ball mostly intact.
And it makes the Patriots look a lot more attractive to a 43-year-old quarterback debating where he wants to play next year.