Packers Head Coach Candidate: Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels is as hot a coaching candidate as there is in the NFL. But Bill Belichick’s longtime lieutenant comes with his share of baggage, too.

So what’s the truth on McDaniels?

The details on Josh McDaniels

Most recent job: Offensive Coordinator of the New England Patriots (2012-present)
Record as a head coach: 11-17 (with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010)
First job: Personnel Assistant for the New England Patriots (2001)
Packers connection: Packers defensive run game coordinator/inside linebackers coach Patrick Graham coached with McDaniels in New England from 2012-2015. McDaniels was offensive coordinator in St. Louis with tight end Lance Kendricks in 2011.

The background on Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels is a bit on the older end of the “young, hotshot coach” spectrum, but he still falls into that category. But you may not realize exactly how far back his coaching roots go, or how deeply he’s connected to some of the biggest names in the business.

His connections to big-name coaches start with his first ever coaching gig, a graduate assistant position at Michigan State, where he worked under Nick Saban. Saban, who worked with Bill Belichick under Bill Parcells, helped connect McDaniels to his future longtime employer, helping him land a job as a Patriots’ defensive assistant in 2002.

McDaniels rose through the ranks from there, switching to the offensive side of the ball as the Patriots’ quarterbacks coach in 2004 before taking over as offensive coordinator in 2006. He held the job through the 2008 season, after which he was hired as the head coach of the Denver Broncos.

Just 32 when he was hired, McDaniels embodied many of the negative stereotypes about young coaches during his first (and so far only) head coaching gig. Brash and impetuous, McDaniels made big statements and tried to back them up with bigger moves, including an attempted trade that would have sent Jay Cutler to New England in exchange for Matt Cassel. McDaniels was fired 12 games into the 2010 season, but not before sparking another controversy, this one involving the alleged illegal videotaping of the San Francisco 49ers.

McDaniels ended up in St. Louis as their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the 2011 season, but that stop proved to be a short one. He returned to New England in 2012 and has held the offensive coordinator job there since then.

McDaniels was very nearly named the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in early 2018. In fact, the Colts went so far as to announce McDaniels as their new head coach on social media (then playing off his unplanned successor’s signing as a joke) before he unceremoniously dumped them and returned to New England. McDaniels had reportedly already assembled a staff for his Indianapolis job.

Also of note, McDaniels interviewed for the Chicago Bears’ head coach job in early 2018 before they gave the job to Matt Nagy.

Josh McDaniels’ biggest moment

McDaniels’ five most significant coaching accomplishments can all be worn on the fingers of one hand. But aside from his Super Bowl rings, McDaniels can also be credited with helping a number of quarterbacks (yes, even including Tom Brady) achieve high levels of success.

He was the coordinator for Matt Cassel’s only significant pro season (following Brady’s 2006 knee injury) as well as for Brady’s 2007 MVP season. He also helped Jay Cutler to his only Pro Bowl bid in 2008, wrung a 21 TD, 12 INT season out of Kyle Orton in 2009, and oversaw an offense that ranked 32nd in the league in scoring with the Rams in 2011.

Okay, they can’t all be winners.

In Josh McDaniels’ own words

No stranger to controversy (the Patriot Way!), McDaniels’ jilting of the Indianapolis Colts is the most significant black mark on his resume.

On returning to the New England Patriots, McDaniels defended his decision to leave the Colts job he had all but accepted as having been done for his family.

“You know, there’s a lot that goes into those things. It can be very complicated,” McDaniels said. “I’ll say this, I’ve stated again and again that I definitely want to be a head coach again. At the same time, I love being here. This is where my kids were born and raised. We’ve made a pretty special life here and that’s not an easy thing to leave. There’s a lot to consider.

“Certainly, leaving here, I don’t take lightly, ever. I would never take that lightly. It was a difficult process and I’m very happy with the decision that we made and grateful to be here and continue working towards the 2018 season.”

What are the chances Josh McDaniels is the next Packers head coach?

Jon’s Rating: 2/5

If you want an accomplished professional coach to take over for Mike McCarthy, you really can’t do better than Josh McDaniels, at least as far as coaches who are theoretically available go.

But the caveats to a McDaniels hire are extensive. Boy, are they extensive.

The Indianapolis fiasco alone merits a Frontline documentary. By itself, it’s a shining example of organizational mismanagement (on every front — the Colts are not exempt here). But taken in context with McDaniels’ flameout in Denver, it represents a giant red flag to anyone considering hitching their wagon to this supposed rising star in New England.

There’s also the plain fact that all of Bill Belichick’s assistants that have gone on to head coaching gigs have crashed and burned relatively quickly. Do you want to bet the last few years of Aaron Rodgers’ career on the Packers’ being the exception to that rule? I don’t.

Gary’s Rating: 1/5

When the Packers hired Mike Sherman about twenty years ago as head coach, the Patriots also hired a head coach – Bill Belichick. A close evaluation of newspaper reports show Belichick’s name was floated as a possible candidate for the Packers job, but no hard evidence suggests either side talked with the other.

Here we are with a similar scenario – the Packers are looking for a head coach and the Patriots have a trendy coach in their crosshairs as their presumed next coach, too. What indication is there that McDaniels would leave New England? Patriots owner Robert Kraft has a history of getting what he wants. He wanted McDaniels to stay last year. What’s changed in a year to suggest he won’t feel the same way in 2019?

Jon’s done well in highlighting McDaniels’ baggage, but the risk is worth the reward in my opinion. Ultimately, whatever deal the offensive coordinator cut with his owner likely will supercede the opportunity the Packers present.