The Patriots got some good news on Tuesday when it was reported by Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports that the Carolina Panthers were finalizing a deal with Baylor's Matt Rhule to take over their head-coaching gig, followed by Adam Schefter reporting that the Giants were hiring Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge as their next head coach.
From this vantage point, the Panthers gig was the most attractive of the three jobs for which McDaniels was scheduled to interview this week. McDaniels was slated to meet with Carolina first, then the Giants, then the Browns.
There were a number of factors that made the Panthers job an appealing one. Owner David Tepper, a hedge-fund billionaire going through his first head-coaching search, appeared ready and willing to hand over the keys to the castle to whomever was hired. General Manager Marty Hurney remains in place, but Tepper appears open to adding an assistant GM or chief operating officer into the mix to potentially one day take over for Hurney, who's in his 60s. Perhaps that person will be selected by the next head coach.
There aren't many contracts hamstringing the team-building process in Carolina, and despite the fact that Cam Newton is dealing with an injury, the Panthers can feel safe in at least preparing itself to invest in The Next Guy at quarterback. If Newton (whose contract is up after next season) is healthy, then a young quarterback could sit a year behind him.
The Giants job appeared to be the least likely destination for McDaniels. General manager Dave Gettleman remains in place, which was the case when McDaniels interviewed there following the 2017 season. Gettleman has made it clear in the past that he'll be making the final call on roster decisions — a scenario which doesn't appear to be changing any time soon. Felt like a non-starter. McDaniels should want control over the roster wherever he ends up.
The only job left — and the one that could end up being the fit for McDaniels is with the Browns. He's from the area. He played college ball at John Carroll University, in Cleveland. He has family there. And after clearing out both GM John Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens, owner Jimmy Haslam appears to have things set up for a head-coach centric operation.
Taking over a talented roster down the road from where he grew up? Not a bad setup for McDaniels, though he could be wary of how Haslam has run things to this point, as Haslam is conducting his fifth head-coaching search since 2012. Additionally, Haslam is reportedly having analytics guru Paul DePodesta run the coaching search. There are conflicting reports out of Cleveland as to how much say DePodesta will have in the roster's direction, making the football operations hierarchy there murky.
Perhaps McDaniels is simply looking to move on from New England. Maybe he feels like it's the right time.
It's unclear how much longer Bill Belichick will be coaching, so there's no guarantee McDaniels would be given the reins here any time soon. Plus, the Patriots roster could be in line for some serious shakeup. Tom Brady could be moving on. Joe Thuney, the team's best offensive lineman this year, is set to hit free agency.
It was not a productive offensive year for the Patriots in many regards. If McDaniels doesn't think it'll get any better in 2020, he may want to strike while the iron's hot and take an imperfect head-coaching opening because he's not sure when the next will present itself to him.
But the Patriots may be able to entice McDaniels to stay. They could always give him a raise, though he's already well taken care of as a coordinator, reportedly signing a deal that pays him in excess of $4 million after he turned down the Colts job two years ago.
The team could also point out to him that if he turns the Patriots offense into a competent one with a roster in transition — perhaps led by a young, inexperienced quarterback — his stock will be as hot as ever. And even if it's another down year for the Patriots offense, a lowly performance in 2019 didn't hurt McDaniels' value across the league; he had three interviews lined up. That's an indication teams respect his résumé. A second consecutive down year for a rebuilding offense shouldn't erase whatever potential teams currently see in him to be a good head coach.
Beyond the obvious factors, the Patriots would benefit by keeping McDaniels because it would present the organization with a certain level of stability at a crucial position in what feels like it's about to be a period of flux. The Patriots are a team whose offensive line coach will be 72, whose running backs coach is 65, whose receivers coach/special teams coordinator has head coaching interest at both the college and pro levels, and whose front office could lose several of its highest-ranking executives.
McDaniels is still just 43 years old. He may be ready to move on. If that's the case, he can't be blamed. There are only 32 NFL head-coaching gigs out there. They all carry a certain level of appeal for anyone in the profession with a certain level of ambition.
But if McDaniels is looking for the perfect opportunity for his second go-round as an NFL boss, neither the Browns nor the Giants jobs appear to fit that description. The Panthers gig was close, but now it's off the table.
McDaniels could still very well leave to head up his hometown team. Still, in an offseason that could be rife with change for the Patriots, the hirings of Rhule and Judge could mean McDaniels will be staying put.