So far, Black Monday is really just Battleship Gray Monday. Recent speculation pegged the number of head coaches put out to pasture (or go out on their own) at close to a dozen.
It’s not been that bad. Dirk Koetter is sticking around in Tampa, Hue Jackson gets to keep slamming his forehead against his desk in Cleveland, John Elway’s having second thoughts about poopcanning Vance Joseph out in Denver.
With Marvin Lewis still handwringing in Cincy as of this afternoon and Jon Gruden assuredly taking over in Oakland, the openings are as follow: Lions, Colts, Giants, Cardinals, Bears.
That’s not a ton for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. But it’s enough.
Before engaging in some informed speculation, one quick aside – did any head coaching candidate ever enjoy a more over-the-top trumpeting by the national football media than Hue Jackson in 2015? Swear to God, back in late 2015, every time Andy Dalton picked up a third-and-3 in Cincinnati there’d be an avalanche of “GIVE HUE A JOB!!!!” tweets clogging up my timeline. It was an embarrassing example of media groupthink and – now that HUE!!!! is 1-31 and saying with a straight face that nobody could have done the job he did over the past 32 games – it’s all quiet on the HUE!!!! front except for those who’ll say he’s been tethered to a bad situation. A victim of coicamstance. Whatever.
Back to the Patriots coordinators, McDaniels first. The Giants and Colts have reached out to McDaniels. The Bears reportedly have McDaniels at the top of their wish list. Chicago already has McDaniels’ younger brother, Ben, on staff as an offensive assistant.
If the Lions are going to keep offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter on staff – and there are indications that’s the case even as head coach Jim Caldwell and some of the offensive assistants are released – then that’s probably not a palatable situation for McDaniels. Too much potential for philosophical differences and power struggles.
If Detroit reaches out, I wouldn’t bank on McDaniels going there. Even though they have a very good quarterback, a deep-pockets owner and a former Patriots executive (Bob Quinn) as GM, McDaniels needs to walk into a situation that’s got everyone pulling their oars at the same speed and in the same direction. Patricia would be a better fit and the Lions have reached out to him.
The most important elements for a head coach to succeed are – in no particular order – a patient, generous but hands-off owner, a strong personnel man who shares a team-building vision and a competent quarterback (or a plan for getting one). After that, the team infrastructure – facilities, technology, cap space, ability to spend – are right behind.
I look at the Giants and see three issues. First, newly-hired GM Dave Gettleman – a no-bull guy I happen to like – is going to be in charge there. McDaniels needs to control his own fate but Gettelman is in a similar situation and there’s potential for a power struggle. Second, ownership threw up all over itself in mismanaging the Eli Manning benching and scapegoated Ben McAdoo for carrying out a plan that owner John Mara first broached.
Mara is desperately trying to reclaim his dignity. He’s not going to sit on the top deck and sip wine back while the Giants little luxury craft is taking on water down below. He’ll be a pain in the ass. And somebody’s going to have to euthanize Eli.
The Colts? They have a wild-card owner (that’s putting it gently) and a franchise quarterback who’s flying all over the world trying to get his shoulder fixed. Because the last GM, Ryan Grigson, sucked so bad at procuring talent, Andrew Luck may be ruined.
But at least Indy has Chris Ballard, a GM that McDaniels could likely work with. And Jacoby Brissett who, while not qualified to be a backup in New England, could continue to be a stopgap starter in Indy. But everything rides on Luck, who is scheduled to start throwing early this month.
If I’m a head coaching candidate, I want to watch those sessions before deciding. Otherwise, you are Rick Pitino betting on Tim Duncan and getting Ron Mercer and Chauncey Billups instead.
Which brings us to the Bears. There are things to like there, including tradition and fanbase. There’s also a franchise quarterback in place, Mitch Trubisky, taken with the second overall pick last April and a young GM in Ryan Pace. The ownership is stable – owner Virginia McCaskey said the team will stay in the family until “the second coming.”
The two main questions are Pace and Trubisky. Pace has been in place three seasons and the Bears have amassed a 14-34 record. He has two years left on his contract. He’s GMing for his job, one would think. Could be a good situation. Could be a disaster. Fit will matter, though, and McDaniels could probably gain at least a little insight from his brother on Pace.
As for Trubisky, there’s a lot to like in terms of arm strength, mobility and upside. But will he take hard coaching? Because that’s what McDaniels will bring.
As for Arizona, that’s an aging team and whoever takes over is staring an offensive rebuild in the face. With Arians retiring, the staff will have to be dealt with. McDaniels will want to bring in his own lieutenants, no doubt (which is another issue the Patriots will have to deal with – staff defections if McDaniels and Patricia go elsewhere).
So if I’m ranking the opportunities for McDaniels, it would be Indy if Andrew Luck is healthy and Jim Irsay is sedated. Next, Chicago. Then the Giants. Then Arizona.
For Patricia, who is both fiercely loyal to Bill Belichick but also fiercely desirous of a head coaching gig, it should be Lions or bust. You have the quarterback and the owner and the GM and … what else do you need?
For completeness, let’s just hit the Bengals job. If it opens up, it is a 2004 Corolla with 180,000 miles on it. The Brown family doesn’t pay. Andy Dalton is barely OK. The culture of losing is embedded and the moron quotient on the roster is real high. I’d run like hell.