Patriots

McDaniels mum on Giants job, but longing for head coaching job remains

McDaniels mum on Giants job, but longing for head coaching job remains

The New York Giants jumped the gun on Black Monday, firing Ben McAdoo a full month before the end of the regular season. I’m told the Patriots fully expect the Giants to inquire about offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who wouldn’t be able to interview for the job until the first week of the playoffs at the earliest - assuming the Pats have a bye. 
 
McDaniels, 41, was asked if he had any interest in the vacancy on his conference call Tuesday. He stammered for a second before delivering a firm answer, “I have...I’ve just...I’m just interested in the Dolphins right now. That’s where my focus is at and that’s where it’s going to stay.”

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The Patriots play Miami on Monday Night in Miami.
 
McDaniels hasn’t been a willing participant in coaching roulette over the past two years. After the 2015 season, he didn’t interview for a post. Prior to the Super Bowl win over Atlanta last year, McDaniels had a meeting with San Francisco but withdrew from consideration, citing satisfaction with his current post and his family’s love of the area. 

Still, this isn’t that, or the Cleveland Browns or Los Angeles Chargers that are going to come calling. This is the New York FOOTBALL Giants, one of the marquee franchises not just in the NFL but in all of sport. And it’s not as if the longtime Belichick disciple doesn’t want another kick at the head coaching can. He spoke to that a little more than a year ago, also on a conference call.
 
“I definitely would love to be a head coach again,” he said on November 22, 2016. “There are only 32 of those in the world. They are opportunities that don’t come around very often, and if you would ever be so fortunate and blessed to have another opportunity to do it -- for myself, it would be a second time -- that would be an opportunity I would look forward to.”
 
But McDaniels is fully aware that this shot will likely be his last. He washed out of Denver after just 28 games, with zero playoff appearances and an 11-17 record. But that experience when he was 33 and 34 has helped shaped his mindset toward the next opportunity.
 
“It would have to be at the right place and the right time, which is what I’ve always said,” he recalled last year. “I try to make good decisions, what’s best for my family and myself. Again, somebody would have to offer that opportunity because you’re lucky if you get that. That’s my mindset, and anything that was reported about my thinking or my plans or the things that I want to do - the other day I saw that; those things I would say are unfounded.”
 
Bill Belichick gave his blessing to McDaniels when he took that Denver job. It had all the hallmarks of being a stable post, with a long-standing owner, a great fanbase and plenty of control over personnel. Obviously, it didn’t go as planned. Was McDaniels too inexperienced? Did he try to mold his style after Belichick and not be his own man? There were all kinds of rumblings post-firing. How does an assistant know he’s ready for that next step? I asked Belichick to recall his own situation many moons ago. But trying to get him on the record with less than a week to prepare for a divisional rival on the road went as you would expect.
 
“I really appreciate the question and I respect it but right now I don’t really care about anyone else’s coaches or some other team or anything else,” said Belichick. “I’m just trying to get this team ready. I’m trying to do a good job as a coach to prepare this team to play Miami. It's going to be a tough game down there Monday night, which it is always is and that’s really what I really need to focus on and see if I can help our team do a good job of that. It hasn’t been easy down there.”
 
That said, Belichick has known for some time that he may lose one or both of his coordinators (defensive coordinator Matt Patricia interviewed for two jobs, Cleveland and the L.A. Chargers, last year). He has a strong, veteran staff that could help to shoulder those departures without upsetting the incredible continuity this organization has had in that regard. But as for whether both men are ready to spread their wings, today wasn’t the day to dive deep into that possibility (likelihood?).
 
“I think I’ve been on the record so many times about our coaches our coaching staff and questions along those lines,” he deadpanned. “There’s gotta be notebooks full of my answers to that.”
 
Indeed there are. Again, from a year ago November, Belichick stated “I think both Josh and Matt are great coaches who should absolutely be on any head-coaching list. I can’t imagine that there are many other coaches that could present a résumé equal or comparable to theirs. They’ve done a great job here for a sustained period of time, so great track record.” 
 
There is no arguing that. Since his return to New England, McDaniels has been the coordinator on two Super Bowl winning teams. He also has the 2007-08 record-setting offense on his resume. He’s also developed a softer touch with his players, something he apparently lacked as the boss in Denver. 
 
“I think it’s important for them to understand how much I care about them personally and their well-being not only as a football player but as a human being,” he said Tuesday. “I think any good relationship is going to start with your connection to the person and as long as they know how much you care, then they’ll listen to what you have to say about helping them improve as a player, and get better and help your football team. That’s important to me. I love the guys we have. I love the guys we work with. I love our staff. Those guys understand that we’re all in this together and we gotta work hard to try to maintain those relationships and ultimately produce on the field. That’s what our job is.”
 
That job is always easier to do when you have Tom Brady as your quarterback. He and McDaniels are close. They have been since Josh’s first go-round with the team. That relationship remains as strong as ever, despite what you may have seen Sunday in Buffalo. It was there that the 40-year signal caller erupted - be it ever so briefly - at his offensive coordinator. Brady is already on record as saying he wished he hadn’t done that. McDaniels on Tuesday said the page has been turned.
 
“Tommy is a very emotional person and emotional player,” he said. “It’s part of what makes him great you understand that those things happen. It's never personal. You move on quickly from it. We did and we have. I love Tom and all the things he stands for and does for our team.”
 
That relationship may enter a new phase once this season ends, but for now, don’t sweat it. McDaniels is committed to the Patriots, and the team will benefit from that in the short term, even if the job with the Giants ultimately is too enticing for him to say no to.
 

Steelers lock up AFC North with 39-38 win over Ravens

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Steelers lock up AFC North with 39-38 win over Ravens

PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Shazier was everywhere. His helmet rested on the Pittsburgh Steelers' bench. His jersey too. His face and #Shalieve stitched on specially-designed cleats. His familiar No. 50 printed in white in the middle of a gold circle on T-shirts worn by teammates searching for a way to let Shazier know he is never far from their mind as he recovers from a spinal injury that put the linebacker's blossoming career in jeopardy.

Shazier may never play football again. That doesn't make him any less of a Steeler. And the men who have taken so much from him over the last three-plus years decided it was time they gave him something back in return: the AFC North title he ordered them to lock down without him.

Chris Boswell made a 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds left and Pittsburgh's defense overcame a shaky night without their most dynamic player to shut down Baltimore's last-gasp drive and hold on for a 39-38 victory on Sunday night to capture their third division title in the last four years.

"We are riding with that guy," head coach Mike Tomlin said of Shazier. "He is strong. He is strengthening us."

Looked like it.

The Steelers (11-2) trailed by 11 points going into the fourth quarter but capped an emotionally draining week to rally for their eighth straight victory, one they couldn't wait to share with Shazier, who joined the giddy postgame celebration via Facetime.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to top 500 yards passing three times. Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards, including two long gains in the fourth quarter that allowed the Steelers to recover after blowing an early 14-point lead. Le'Veon Bell had 125 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns .

"We can win a shootout against anybody," Bell said. "I feel like we can score points whenever we need to."

Good thing, because Pittsburgh might have to. The Ravens (7-6) rolled up 414 yards against the NFL's fourth-ranked defense and recovered from a slow start to score on five consecutive drives and six out of seven to take a 38-29 lead on Javorius Allen's second touchdown with 6:44 left.

Not much time against most teams. Far too much against the Steelers.

Roethlisberger and Brown, who is mounting a legitimate MVP candidacy, hooked up on a 57-yard connection set up an 11-yard sprint by Bell with 3:29 to go. The Steelers forced the Ravens into a three-and-out and Roethlisberger calmly led Pittsburgh within field goal range, including a 34-yard lob down the sideline to Brown that set up Boswell's winner.

Baltimore's Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception but was strip-sacked by rookie linebacker T.J. Watt on the Ravens' final snap.

"This one hurts," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We lose to them the same way we did last year. This one sucks, but we've got to get over it. Yeah, this one's going to hurt but it's best for us to have a short memory on this one because if we win out there's a good chance we'll be in (the playoffs)."

Shazier, who's been in the hospital since injuring his spine in the first quarter of last week's victory over Cincinnati, told his teammates to finish the work he helped start. Even as they celebrated an important step in a journey they hope will carry them deep into the postseason, they were making plans to keep Shazier involved, starting with a late-night trip to the hospital to deliver him his AFC North champions' swag.

"We are going to give him the hat and T-shirt tonight," good friend and fellow inside linebacker Vince Williams said.

When someone mentioned visitor's hours were probably over, Williams repeated "tonight." Then, it was home to rest before preparing for a showdown with New England next Sunday.

"That's the crazy part about the NFL, things constantly change and you've got to keep rolling," Williams said. "So you've got to find a way to roll with the punches even though it may be a haymaker, got to find a way to recover."

HONORING SHAZIER

Linebacker James Harrison took to the field shirtless during warmups even as temperatures hovered in the low-30s, a nod to one of Shazier's pregame rituals. When Roosevelt Nix drilled Moore on the opening kickoff, Nix lifted his jersey to show the T-shirt most of the Steelers wore at some point during the night.

BRING ON THE PATS

The Steelers fell to New England in a one-sided loss in the AFC championship game 10 months ago. They're not exactly intimidated by the prospect of facing Tom Brady and company.

"You act like they're coming in with Kryptonite, Superman and Batman and Avatars and stuff," Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey said. "Heck yeah, it's a regular football game, what do you mean? We're going to go out there, tackle the football and run the football."

UP NEXT

Ravens: Visit winless Cleveland next Sunday. Baltimore beat the Browns 24-10 on Sept. 17.

Steelers: Will try to beat Brady and New England for the first time since 2011 next Sunday.

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