On the morning of February 6th, 2018, Josh McDaniels officially became the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. A few hours later, McDaniels resigned from the position to return to the New England Patriots to remain the team’s offensive coordinator. This shocking move sent shockwaves throughout the league, but here’s what Josh McDaniels return means for the Patriots.
This one may appear obvious, but it goes farther than just keeping McDaniels. Several lower level coaches were expected to join either McDaniels or former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on their coaching staffs. While Patricia is still gone, keeping McDaniels will ensure other members of the coaching staff stay in place.
The biggest effect of this move is special teams coach Joe Judge. Judge was expected to follow McDaniels to Indianapolis this offseason. Obviously, that won’t be happening now and he will almost definitely return to New England. Additionally, assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski was expected to become the offensive coordinator for the Colts. Instead, he will retain his role in New England. In a change-filled off-season, having as many coaches remain on the staff as possible can only help going forward.
Josh McDaniels Will Be the Patriots Next Coach
McDaniels to the Colts was a done deal. McDaniels had started to assemble his coaching staff and the Colts had scheduled a press conference to introduce him. Some reports even say that McDaniels was on the phone with the Colts for over an hour, planning out how to get his future coaching staff in place.
Then all of a sudden, the deal was off. Reports say that Patriots owner Robert Kraft boosted McDaniels’ salary, but it’s tough to believe that’s all it was. After this whole debacle, it’s unlikely any other team would be willing to ever give McDaniels a head coaching gig. Every other team in the league that would ever consider hiring McDaniels would have to worry about his commitment to their franchise. He basically ruined the Colts search, as all that’s left are scraps the other coaching-needy teams didn’t want. What’s to stop him from doing that to the next team that shows interest? What offer could possibly be good enough for McDaniels to sacrifice his career outside of New England?
The obvious answer is the promise of succession. McDaniels dream position is likely running the Patriots, and that’s the only way Kraft could possibly keep him around. McDaniels has a family in New England and has struggled outside of the Patriots organization. This is very much his home, and the promise of running the team would surely be enough to entice him into leaving the Colts at the altar.
Bill Belichick Will Be Retiring Soon
As much as McDaniels must love the idea of being the Patriots head coach, he won’t wait forever. This much was obvious when he took the Denver Broncos job in 2009, and when he agreed in principle with the Colts just a few weeks ago. It would be surprising to see McDaniels stick around if he didn’t know that the job would be his within a few years.
That being said, McDaniels will not be the head coach in 2018. Bill Belichick has already verbally committed to coaching the Patriots next year, and there’s no reason to doubt his word. Belichick remains the best coach in the league, despite a poor Super Bowl game plan, so McDaniels won’t usurp Belichick’s throne.
2019: The Year of Change?
Based on nothing more than speculation, there are plenty of reasons to believe that 2019 will be Belichick’s last year. Kraft has admitted to having discussions with Belichick about his coaching future, which implies that Belichick’s end is within sight.
Additionally, 2019 could very much be a changing of the guard when looking at future free agents. The offensive trio of quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and receiver Julian Edelman are all scheduled to hit free agency after 2019. It’s not just the big three; several players will hit free agency after 2019. As of this posting, the Patriots have 30 players under contract for the 2019 season. That number drops to 10 in 2020.
Will Belichick want to completely rehaul the roster again? Maybe not. It’s hard to imagine McDaniels staying around if he didn’t know the roster would be his within two to three years. Additionally, if McDaniels takes over after 2019, he would be able to essentially make the team in whatever image he wants.
Ultimately, the return of Josh McDaniels is good news for the Patriots organization. McDaniels is well respected among the players and the ownership, and he always produces a good offense. However, this news should be taken with a grain of salt. McDaniels’ return probably means that arguably the best dynasty in sports is coming to its end. It will be fascinating to see what this Patriots team will look like without Belichick’s guidance, and we’re likely to find out sooner rather than later. Until then, there’s nothing to do but see if the coaching continuity can lead Brady and Belichick to one more championship together.
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