Curran: With interviews done, McDaniels has to weigh vastly different options

Curran: With interviews done, McDaniels has to weigh vastly different options

Head coaching interviews for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with the Rams, 49ers and Jaguars on Saturday took all day. Now comes the process of sorting out three very different situations. 

With two of the teams, McDaniels will be working with a personnel team already in place and a top-three selection at quarterback. That doesn't connote "move-in ready" though. The Rams personnel team of Les Snead and Kevin Demoff has had the first, 10th, second and eighth overall picks the past four years. Jared Goff didn't provide encouraging early returns, Todd Gurley's a good player, Greg Robinson's a bust and Tavon Austin -- who got a $52M contract in August -- is about as good as Jeremy Kerley. Maybe. 

Despite a deep-pocketed owner in Stan Kroenke, some very good defensive players and the league's obvious desire to prop up its entry into the LA market, it's not one would call a team ascending. The Jaguars have a GM in place as well, but it's Dave Caldwell, who went to college with McDaniels at John Carroll University. Their quarterback -- Blake Bortles (third overall pick in 2014) -- regressed in 2016 and is the anti-Brady in terms of mechanics, accuracy and taking care of the ball. Basically, he's a latter-day Bledsoe. The roster may not be better than the Rams but the fact that six of their 13 losses were by five points or fewer hints that they aren't as far away as the Rams are. 

Then there's San Francisco. It was murmured Saturday that McDaniels and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick would be a head coach-GM package deal there and are tied at the hip. There's certainly a high regard for Riddick on McDaniels' part but "tied" may overstate it. Still, Niners owner Jed York may be sufficiently chastened by the collapse he's presided over that he'll make his hire with function rather than dysfunction in mind. If that's the case, a McDaniels-Riddick ticket makes sense. With no true franchise quarterback in place and a barren wasteland where the skill players are supposed to be, this is an expansion-team level roster. It will take at least three seasons to get decent, never mind good. 

There's a lot to process for McDaniels. He's got options. And one of them may be taking none of the ones that were presented to him Saturday. 

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."