It was supposed to be a done deal, they even put out a tweet confirming it and scheduled a press conference to announce it. For weeks it was a sure thing that Josh McDaniels would depart the New England Patriots to be head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. In the blink of an eye that all changed.
Everything happened very quickly, but it does seem to have actually happened. What was a slam dunk hire for the Colts has turned into a nightmare of rather epic proportions.
The likely scenarios
So the question now is what exactly happened between the time McDaniels said he would take the job and now?
Robert Kraft may well have thrown more money at him to stay, and Tom Brady’s ridiculous performance on Sunday could also have helped any worries that McDaniels had about the longevity of the Patriots’ offense, but there is surely something larger at foot here.
There have been plenty of worries about Andrew Luck’s health of late. After all, his shoulder was supposed to be healed enough for him to play in 2017. He ended up missing the whole season. With a healthy Luck the Colts job is pretty attractive to an offensive-minded coach, perhaps even the best of all the jobs that were available this year. Without him though, the shine disappears and you are left with a roster riddled with holes and very sparsely populated with stars. Who is there that really excites you to work with? TY Hilton, Malik Hooker and that is about it.
If you are an offensive guru do you really want to step into a situation where your best option is a rookie or the guy who used to be your third stringer? I’m not so sure.
The other potential possibility is that McDaniels was given a firm timeline for taking over the Patriots. There were questions about Bill Belichick’s future after the Super Bowl loss on Sunday, and while he decisively confirmed that he would be back for 2018 he will be 66 years old when the Patriots next take the field in anger and has been in the NFL for nearly 40 years. Retirement is not far for Belichick, and taking the reins from his mentor and leading the way for the next generation of Patriots would surely be an enticing opportunity for McDaniels.
However, there is a far less attractive, and more realistic, option on the table. And that is simply that McDaniels didn’t feel the Colts job was right for him, regardless of who might be quarterback. He reportedly did his own interviews with former Colts employees about what it is like to work with and under Jim Irsay. He had a second meeting with Irsay and the Colts to try and get comfortable with the move, seemingly it didn’t help.
There are plenty of reasons to stay at a successful organisation as the right-hand man, especially given how poorly McDaniels’ time away from the Patriots went. His two years in Denver as head coach were marked by poor personnel decisions and a shaky offense. His season as the Rams offensive coordinator saw the team finish last in points per game. Then there is the Tom Brady factor… When you are working with the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, what more could you possibly want?
There isn’t a single situation in the NFL right now that could lead to more success than he is having with New England. At 41 there is still plenty of time for him to be a head coach again, but there is not plenty of time to work with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
What next for the Colts
Indianapolis declared victory before it was won. They announced McDaniels’ arrival and scheduled a press conference before he had put pen to paper. Now they are left without a head coach.
Their other candidates were Matt Nagy, Mike Vrabel, and Steve Wilks, who have all accepted and signed on as head coaches elsewhere. Outside of them there was Baylor head coach Matt Rhule who has committed to staying at the school and former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard who signed a deal with the Dallas Cowboys. Their shortlist is empty.
Jim Irsay and Chris Ballard are almost certainly reeling from the news and on the hunt for new candidates. One team that has been untouched by coaching hires are the newly crowned world champion Philadelphia Eagles. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz may not be the ideal candidate after he displayed a complete inability to stop Tom Brady, but offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo are surely must-interview coaches right now. There are also the likes of Detroit offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to consider.
The cupboard isn’t bare for the Colts, but they are as far behind the 8-ball as it is possible to be heading into next season. With their star quarterback’s future up in the air and no head coach as they barrel toward the new league year things are pretty bleak for the Indianapolis Colts, that much is clear.
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