Most aspiring head coaches in the NFL would jump to take any head coaching job that was offered to them, much like Josh McDaniels in 2009 when the Denver Broncos offered him the gig.
McDaniels only lasted one full season and a handful of games as Denver’s head cheese. McDaniels posted an 8-8 record in 2009 but then couldn’t gain any momentum in 2010, and he was let go after an abysmal 3-9 start.
There’s no debate that McDaniels is one of the creative and innovative offensive minds in the NFL today, but taking into his rather laughable tenure with the Denver Broncos, one would assume that McDaniels only has one legitimate shot to land another head coaching job at the NFL level.
With news emerging from the past few days that the Patriots had cleared McDaniels to interview with the Cleveland Browns this weekend during New England’s bye week, it appears that McDaniels is Cleveland’s early leading candidate for their open vacancy.
Like I said, McDaniels could very well only have one shot left at claiming the reins of an NFL team.
Following McDaniels’s firing from the Broncos in 2010, he landed the offensive coordinator job with the St. Louis Rams under former New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. In 2011, McDaniels’s Rams finished second to worst in the NFL for total offense while accumulating the league’s worst third-down conversion percentage at 28 percent.
McDaniels’s quick stint with the Rams is certainly something that he’d love to have removed from his resume.
Despite having such an atrocious offensive season, the New England Patriots wanted McDaniels back. With New England’s then-current offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien accepted the head coaching job at Penn State on January 7, 2012, the Patriots were in need of an offensive coordinator. Prior to O’Brien accepting the Penn State job, McDaniels was hired as an offensive assistant for New England’s 2011-12 playoff run, with the Rams allowing him to walk away from his current contract. Following the 2011 season, McDaniels was promoted to offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots—a job that he had from 2006-08.
In McDaniels’s first year back with the Patriots, New England’s offense led the league in scoring, total offensive yards, and third-down conversion percentage. It was apparent that New England’s offense hadn’t changed much since his departure back in 2009.
Despite leading the league in just about every major offensive category, his first season back with the Patriots wasn’t perfect—as it was clear that he had influenced head coach Bill Belichick in some personnel decisions.
One player that comes to mind is wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Lloyd, who played for McDaniels during his tenures with Denver and St. Louis, was expected to have a major impact in the 2012 season. It was well-known that Lloyd certainly had his fair share of character issues, as he clashed heads with Joe Gibbs during his time with Washington and had played for four teams prior to signing with the Patriots since being drafted in 2003.
Despite putting up relatively impressive numbers, Lloyd did not have a big enough impact as Belichick had hoped. Lloyd finished with the most uneventful 74 receptions for 911 yards and four touchdowns that the NFL has ever seen in the history of the league. There were spurts when Lloyd just disappeared and was a non-factor.
One would assume that McDaniels had vouched for the signing of Lloyd; clearly it was not a success. Lloyd was released by the Patriots following the 2012 season March 16, 2013.
McDaniels’s woes in player personnel don’t end there. During his time with Denver, McDaniels’s most notable moment was drafting college phenomenon quarterback Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. I’d rather not get too deep into this, as I’m a huge Tebow fan and actually I actually do believe that he can succeed at the NFL level, but obviously I’m in the minority. With that being said, the majority of the NFL world laughed in McDaniels’s face when he made that draft selection.
Prior to the start of training camp in the summer of 2013, the New England Patriots had come to terms with Tebow—and there is no debate how this experiment ended: an epic fail. You can argue whether or not McDaniels had anything to do with this signing, but the writing is on the wall. It’s almost like Belichick was busy fishing for Nantucket Blues and let McDaniels take over as general manager for the day.
McDaniels’s putrid experience with Denver and the failures of Lloyd and Tebow are just a few reasons why this might be the last shot McDaniels has at earning himself a head coaching job. Therefore, McDaniels needs to find the perfect place.
Cleveland is not the perfect place.
The Browns have been the laughingstock of the NFL ever since the franchise returned to league in 1999. Since ’99, the Browns have fired seven coaches—and it would be safe to assume that McDaniels would be number eight if he were to accept the job.
Cleveland has no quarterback; the franchise has been unstable for quite some time; and it has to compete in the tough AFC North.
Ultimately, it is the greatest recipe for failure.
As I stated earlier, the 37-year-old McDaniels is something special. He has a mind that no one else has when it comes to Xs and Os on the offensive side of the ball. In his five seasons as offensive coordinator for New England, his offenses have averaged 24.85 points per game while on average sitting with the 4.16 ranked offense. Not too shabby.
Rather than venturing off again, away from Belichick and Brady—like so many coaches have tried and failed—the youngster needs to stay put. Cleveland is not a place where McDaniels wants to go. He could either wait until some franchise with a legitimate quarterback, like the Detroit Lions, comes calling, or simply wait until Belichick retires and hands the team off to him.
But becoming head coach of the Cleveland Browns? McDaniels might as well agree to be a life-long offensive coordinator at the NFL level.