Why Josh McDaniels will be Patriots' most vital coach in 2020

Why Josh McDaniels will be Patriots' most vital coach in 2020

It’s Robert Kraft’s franchise. It’s Bill Belichick’s team.

But it’s Josh McDaniels’ offense — and he is the most important coach for the Patriots in 2020. 

For years, the Patriots have been able to rely on the metronomic efficiency of Tom Brady. His complete understanding of the Patriots offense, his encyclopedic knowledge of every possible defensive scheme, understanding what plays to get into and out of, when to throw it away and fight another play, when to stand in and take the hit, situational football, clock management, all of it. 

Brady’s interceptions and gaffes were so few over the years, the fact they are easily recalled speaks to the fact a Brady mistake was a noteworthy moment. 

But he gone. 

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If and when the NFL returns to business as usual, McDaniels will be charged with creating an offense around someone other than the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

And that won’t be easy.

The Brady-McDaniels collaboration did a tremendous job of masking how bad the talent/experience drain on the Patriots offense really was. From the 2017 Super Bowl through to the start of the 2019 regular season, the Patriots ran at a trade deficit.  

Now? With no tight ends to help as either receivers or in the running game, a running game that spun its wheels most of last season, a wide receiver group the team hopes isn’t as impotent as last year and a promising quarterback in Jarrett Stidham who’ll be Zooming all tutelage for the foreseeable future? 

There’s no free agent cavalry coming. There’s no draft day panacea. It’s McDaniels and Stidham/Brian Hoyer/whoever gets added in the draft. 

And make no mistake, the offense is all McDaniels. 

As Bill Belichick explained in NFL Films’ production of “Do Your Job III” after Super Bowl 53, “I give him a little bit of input, but 90 to 95 percent is his plan, his vision. 

“Rarely do we see things that differently. But sometimes there will be things that I suggest. Sometimes he’ll say, ‘I think that would be great,’ and sometimes he’ll say, ‘I don’t really think this is the right time for us to do that. Here’s the reason why.’ And he’s usually right.”

Obviously, after 45 seasons in the NFL, Belichick could coordinate an offense as well as just about anyone. But defense is Belichick’s bailiwick and that’s where he spends his time. 

This excellent but perhaps overlooked story by Phil Perry in January illustrates the game-day division of power between Belichick and McDaniels. It was written after the Patriots' back-to-back losses to the Dolphins and Titans ending their season and detailed what game day on the Patriots sidelines looks like.  

When it was written, there was a very real chance McDaniels could wind up with a head coaching gig. The Panthers, Giants and Browns were all in pursuit. 

But McDaniels never got the chance to sit down with either the Panthers or Giants. He was tied up with end-of-season evaluations in Foxboro and when the Panthers made a quick move to hire Matt Rhule, the Giants moved quickly too and hired Joe Judge, who’d been liberated from Gillette to talk to Big Blue. 

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When McDaniels and the Browns agreed the fit wasn’t right in Cleveland, McDaniels was back with the Patriots. 

Boon for them. An even bigger boon now that Brady is gone. 

Losing Brady and McDaniels in the same offseason could have been disastrous. It’s arguably the best OC/QB collaboration in NFL history. Actually, since McDaniels has had so much offensive latitude given to him by Belichick, McDaniels/Brady can be compared to the Bill Walsh/Joe Montana-Steve Young, Mike Holmgren/Brett Favre partnerships even though McDaniels wasn’t a head coach. 

The issue facing McDaniels — having to coach up a young player without having direct access to him or the chance to correct in the classroom or on the practice field — isn’t unique this offseason. 

But the Patriots do have an edge. McDaniels was key in the development of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. He’s an excellent teacher and he’s got the ability to coach guys who have different styles. 

McDaniels also got help last season from assistant quarterbacks coach Mick Lombardi, who worked extensively with Stidham all season to bring him up to speed. 

Meanwhile, the Patriots have added longtime college and NFL assistant Jedd Fisch to the offensive coaching room. His role and title aren’t defined but he’s ping-ponged from the Ravens to the Broncos (where he was McDaniels’ wide receivers coach) to the University of Minnesota to the Seahawks to the University of Miami to the Jaguars to Michigan to UCLA to the Rams since 2004. 

It’s logical to think Fisch may have appeal because of his familiarity with spread and read-option at the college level. So many quarterbacks — like Stidham and whoever else the Patriots may add — come into the league with that as their knowledge-base that Fisch could be an asset in that regard. 

None of it matters much until the rules of coaching engagement for 2020 come down. When they do, if there’s an actual season to prepare for, the Patriots will consider themselves lucky that they only lost one hemisphere of their offensive braintrust. 

Tom Brady takes shot at Charles Barkley after 'The Match'

Tom Brady takes shot at Charles Barkley after 'The Match'

Tom Brady engaged in plenty of trash-talking with his opponents Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods during "The Match" on Sunday. But they weren't the only ones going back-and-forth with the six-time Super Bowl champion.

NBA legend Charles Barkley was a commentator for the charity golf match and didn't hold back from letting Brady hear all about his lackluster performance through the first few holes. On the seventh hole, however, the ex-New England Patriots quarterback birdied a par-5 with what was unquestionably the best shot of the day to silence Barkley. 

The real mic drop from Brady came after the match, though, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB jabbed Barkley for his inability to win a championship during his NBA career.

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Boom, roasted.

Of course, the trash-talking was all just good fun. And it provided phenomenal entertainment while those involved in "The Match" helped raise more than $20 million to go toward COVID-19 relief efforts.

'Man In the Arena' producer sheds light on what to expect from Tom Brady documentary

'Man In the Arena' producer sheds light on what to expect from Tom Brady documentary

Last week it was revealed Tom Brady will have his own Last Dance type documentary titled Man In the Arena.

ESPN will air the nine-episode series, with each episode covering one of the ex-New England Patriots quarterback's nine Super Bowl runs. Gotham Chopra, a name Pats fans may recognize as the director of Tom vs. Time, is a producer for the docuseries which is set to premiere in 2021.

Chopra recently caught up with Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated's MMQB to chat about the upcoming documentary and what fans should expect.

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“It’s not Tom Brady’s Last Dance,” Chopra told Breer. “It’s not that. That may or may not exist 20 years from now, I don’t know. There’s this sort of immediacy to this.… The premise [of The Last Dance] was telling stories about the seasons, whereas [Brady’s], it does feel a little bit more real time. Tom continues to be an active player. So the idea is, ‘O.K., let’s talk about these nine seasons, this incredible body of work across 20 years, and how it’s still sort of affecting him.’”

“Jordan’s sitting on a couch, looking back, literally looking at stuff on the iPad, reminiscing about things. Tom’s kind of, just when you’re talking to him, it’s still very fresh, because he’s still processing a lot of things that may have happened across a season.”

As for who else will make appearances in the series, that remains to be seen. Chopra notes the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the interview process, but important figures in Brady's career such as Bill Belichick and Drew Bledsoe have already been reached out to.

“This is inside the mind of Tom,” Chopra said. “So we’ll ask Tom, I’ll use the most obvious one, 2001, What was it like working with Drew [Bledsoe] that season? Got it, now we go talk to Drew, and get his perspective on that. So yeah, there are other voices, other players, coaches, etc., and people off the field that had a lot of influence across those specific seasons that we’re trying to get. Now, we’ve got the added layer of complexity of getting to those people, like everyone else in the world, we’re dealing with that.”

Along with the Super Bowl appearances, Chopra says Man In the Arena will cover both the "Spygate" and "Deflate-gate" controversies. As for whether Brady's 2020 campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be included in the series, Chopra says there are no plans for that as of now.