Why Josh McDaniels is back and what it means for the Patriots

Why Josh McDaniels is back and what it means for the Patriots

Josh McDaniels is “content” with how things went in Cleveland, a source tells me.

Though disappointed that he didn't get to interview for the Giants and Panthers before those openings were filled earlier in the week, McDaniels was not going to leap to the Browns before he looked long and hard at the setup. And when he did look, his vision didn’t mesh with Cleveland’s.

As we reported last week, McDaniels went into Cleveland with eyes wide open. It was important to him that the Browns express an understanding of why they’d been unsuccessful under owner Jimmy Haslam and that they were willing to yield to some new ideas.

That didn’t happen.

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Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository reported in a column published Sunday that McDaniels went in with definitive plans for remaking the Browns.

Would the Browns show a willingness to applaud his detailed presentation on the sweeping makeover that would be needed for him to want the job? This is where the trouble with his candidacy came to a head.

The Browns were as detailed with him as to the parts of their system they wanted to keep, or expand, as he was with them as to necessary changes.

In the end, both came to a similar conclusion: It wasn’t a great fit.

The Browns want to hang on to some of the ideas they still think can work. McDaniels had quite different ideas.

Kevin Stefanski, the 37-year-old offensive coordinator for the Vikings, got the job. He was more amenable, Doerschuk wrote, to the Browns' requests, especially the weighty role of Paul DePodesta, Chief Strategy Officer, according to Doerschuk.

(Stefanski) made it clear he was willing to yield to certain DePodesta standards, such as an analytics person with a headset and access to the coaching staff on game days, in addition to certain Haslam likes, such as hours-long, Monday-after, owner-coach meetings.

Stefanski interviewed with the Browns last year. McDaniels didn’t. That, reportedly, gave him a leg up in that the Browns were comfortable with him. Also, this is Stefanski’s first head coaching gig.

He has more willingness to eat a poop sandwich with no bread than McDaniels does at this point. And giving free rein to DePodesta and owner Jimmy Haslam to add a dash of this or a splash of that at the end of the week is precisely that. Some people can’t help themselves.

Browns fans are pissed. They wanted McDaniels. And he wanted the chance to go back to Ohio, stand on the Browns sideline and guide a franchise he grew up following.

But the gap between how the two sides saw it coming together made it easier to walk away.

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Indications McDaniels wasn’t getting the job began coming Friday night when two of the assistants he was targeting for his coordinator positions — Brandon Staley and Kevin O’Connell — were reported to be closing in on positions with the Broncos and Rams respectively.

Once the Vikings played — and lost — the Browns were clear to go get their guy.

McDaniels' consolation prize, of course, ain’t bad. He comes back to the Patriots where he’s the NFL’s most highly-paid assistant coach. He continues his role working for an organization where he’s been a part of six Super Bowls and ridden in the front seat between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady on the road to six Super Bowls.

But it’s even better for New England because McDaniels means stability. With Joe Judge — who was moonlighting as wide receivers coach along with his special teams duties in 2019 — leaving for the Giants, there’s an opening with the Patriots raw wideouts, a group in desperate need of improvement.

Adding a vacancy at coordinator/quarterbacks coach (a duty McDaniels also handles) would have been an issue. And it’s not like Bill Belichick could just leap to do that. He was largely the defensive coordinator in 2019 after Brian Flores went to Miami and Greg Schiano backed out of the DC job.

The offense was McDaniels’ job more than ever last year. Belichick’s role in weekly offensive preparation was diminished in 2019 because of his defensive responsibilities. Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio assumed some of those. Otherwise, it was McDaniels’ show.

If McDaniels left AND Brady had gone, that meant a full-on offensive rebuild.

Which brings us to whether or not McDaniels’ return makes it more or less likely Brady returns. It really doesn’t.

McDaniels has been here the past eight seasons. The contractual stalemate and the team’s preference to go “year-to-year” with Brady were not McDaniels’ decisions. The personnel decisions/misses that left the team scrambling for wideouts the past two years and without a tight end of note in 2019 were not McDaniels’ decisions.

Meanwhile, we’ve gotten indications over the past six months that Brady’s input — which has never been comparable to other elite quarterbacks around the league — is even less sought now. Publicly, he’s made a number of “Don’t ask me, I just work here”-type comments.

A sampling of quotes:

“The reality is I don't make any personnel decisions. I don't decide to sign players, I don't decide to trade them, I don't decide to release them, I don't decide to draft them. I don't get asked. I show up and I do my job. I'm an employee like everyone else.”

“The best teammates are the ones I have to think about the least. I don't want to expend my mental energy on things that aren't really my job.”

“I just expect to play (in preseason games), and if he (Bill Belichick) says, 'You're not playing,' then I'm not playing. I think there's a lot of things that factor into his decisions, but I'm not involved in any of those, so I just show up and practice. That's been my role, that's been my job, so I'm trying to show up and do a good job.”

“One thing we talk about here is just doing our jobs. I mean, I can do what I can do. Every player can do what they can do. I can’t do anything for anyone else; they can’t do anything for me. So a lot of it is just trust and trying to communicate trust and communication.”

Brady and McDaniels have had a long, successful and respectful partnership. There’s a bond and affection between the two that’s indelible. The same bond between Brady and Belichick exists.

But for Brady, just “running it back” in 2020 with or without verbal assurances it’s going to be vastly different in a number of ways this year may not be that compelling for him.

And for the Patriots, re-signing a 43-year-old quarterback who’s made it clear he’s a bit weary of the team’s approach has to give them pause too.

There was talk after news broke that McDaniels didn’t get the Browns job that Brady would be more likely to return. But that choice isn’t solely Brady’s to make.

Rob Gronkowski: Joe Judge was 'out of control' with Patriots (in a good way)

Rob Gronkowski: Joe Judge was 'out of control' with Patriots (in a good way)

Patriots fans didn't see or hear much from Joe Judge during his tenure in New England.

Apparently they missed out.

Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski dropped an eyebrow-raising quote Tuesday about Judge, who recently became the New York Giants' head coach after eight years in New England.

"Joe Judge is a great guy,” Gronkowski said on an "NFL on FOX" media panel in Miami, via "He’s out of control and I love it."

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If the guy who once used the Lombardi Trophy as a baseball bat says you're out of control, you must be really out of control.

Gronkowski didn't get into specifics, but suggested Judge brought quite the sense of humor to Patriots team meetings.

“He’s out of control in all ways,” Gronk said. "He’s fun to be around, he has a lot of great jokes and they’re funny ... He had me laughing many times in meetings."

Judge rarely gave interviews as a Patriots special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach, so only his players saw this side of the 38-year-old Philadelphia native.

But Gronk also saw the side of Judge that he believes will make him a great head coach in New York.

"He knew where every single player needed to be on every single play," Gronkowski said. "It was unbelievable. ... He knew it in a split second, so it wasn’t like he had to think of where this player needed to be, he knew it in a split second. You just knew he’s made for the game of football."

Judge may have to tone down his inner jokester now that he's a head coach in a major media market. He clearly has a kindred spirit in Gronk, though.

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Revisiting the 'enlightening' lesson Kobe Bryant taught Bill Belichick, Patriots

Revisiting the 'enlightening' lesson Kobe Bryant taught Bill Belichick, Patriots

In a statement Tuesday, Bill Belichick said he had "never witnessed a group as captivated" as the New England Patriots when Kobe Bryant spoke to the team in May 2018.

Belichick wasn't just paying lip service.

On Tuesday, NFL Films resurfaced a clip from HBO's "The Art of Coaching" documentary about Belichick and Alabama head coach Nick Saban in which both coaching legends reflected on their interactions with Bryant.

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These comments came in March 2019, more than 10 months before Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others were tragically killed Sunday in a helicopter crash.

Here's what Belichick had to say at the time about Bryant's message to the Patriots:

Another thing he said to us, which was an awesome message, was, "When I was 25 (years old), I could go out and score 30 (points). When I was 35, 38, I could score 30, but it wasn't the same way. I had to learn how to play without the ball. I had to learn how to play in less space. I had to learn how to use picks differently. I couldn't just drive to the basket like I could in my younger days. I could still score, but I had to change my game."

That was so enlightening for all our players that heard that. Because you're sitting there looking at his career and then we're all thinking about ours. It's changed for me just like it's changed for the players.

Belichick is a student of football. He has won six Super Bowl titles over 20 years in New England by constantly adapting, changing his approach as a head coach and general manager to stay ahead of the game's shifting trends.

Belichick clearly saw the same trait in Bryant, who averaged 22.3 points per game at age 36 (after tearing his Achilles tendon) by altering his style of play after hours of study and practice. The 42-year-old Tom Brady obviously took Bryant's message to heart, as well.

Bryant is gone much too soon at age 41, but the impact he had on players and coaches of all sports will live on.