Josh McDaniels caught the entire NFL by surprise when he decided to decline the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job to return to the New England Patriots. McDaniels will return as the Patriots Offensive Coordinator after reconsidering his options, reportedly despite already agreeing to terms with Indianapolis. This of course is huge for the Patriots, as they only lost one coordinator this offseason instead of both men who ran their two different units. Even more than that, the move appears critical for the future as well.
Although the Patriots rightfully love Bill Belichick as their head coach, at 66 years old the number of seasons he has left in his coaching career diminish each year. McDaniels is still a young coach at 41, and he’s learning the ropes behind a legend. He went to the Denver Broncos, but wasn’t successful during his time there. Learning more and more under the best coach in the league provides McDaniels not only ample opportunity to learn, but also to keep himself in prime position to succeed Belichick himself when he retires.
After the report came out that McDaniels would return to the team, it was also reported that part of his decision was because team owner Robert Kraft has sweetened the offer they had for him in the last 48 hours. For the owner to increase a contract for an offensive coordinator substantially, one would have to think McDaniels is next in line after Belichick, whether he has been given assurances of that or not. He has proven he can coach and has shown that when paired with a talented quarterback, he can be pretty special.
It’s time for Kraft to start thinking about life after Brady and Belichick, making this the most logical move. With Brian Hoyer still the backup quarterback, the Patriots might be a dark horse team that to draft a quarterback early this year, whether in the first round or shortly thereafter. Drafting a quarterback to learn under Brady while adapting to McDaniels’ system could be ideal for their long-term succession plan.
In the end, McDaniels and Brady are together for another season, which insures that so long as Brady is healthy the Patriots will be a threat in the AFC. Meanwhile, Indianapolis is left to scramble for its next head coach with an irascible and unpredictable owner, a franchise quarterback who may need yet another shoulder surgery, and a backup quarterback that the Patriots themselves were happy to trade away less than a year earlier. If that doesn't sound too enticing, that's probably because it isn't.