Josh McDaniels is no longer the prettiest boy at the party. For the last half-decade, McDaniels’ name has been connected to almost every high-profile head coaching vacancy in the NFL. His atrocious one-and-a-half-year stint in Denver and experience leading the 31st-ranked offense in St. Louis hasn’t deterred teams from requesting interviews with Tom Brady’s Whisperer. McDaniels is a hot candidate every year, regardless of his brief history of failure without Brady and extensive track record of empty flirtations.
But it seems like that has changed. McDaniels told reporters Tuesday the “book is closed” on head coaching for now and he looks forward to returning to the Patriots for the 2019 season. He took one interview with the Packers, who opted to go with Sean McVay understudy Matt LaFleur. Though McDaniels was reportedly “enthusiastically interested” in the suddenly attractive Browns job, the feeling did not appear to be mutual. Cleveland passed on interviewing McDaniels this time around, despite almost hiring him in 2013 and 2014. McDaniels, unsurprisingly, pulled himself out of the running each time. (The Browns wound up hiring offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens for the position.)
When it comes to the Browns job, perhaps McDaniels’ proclivity to spurn interested suitors worked against him. As Tom Curran points out, the man leading Cleveland’s head coaching search, general manager John Dorsey, is close with Colts GM Chris Ballard. McDaniels agreed to coach the Colts last January, but abruptly pulled out following the Super Bowl, even after hiring several assistant coaches. The bait-and-switch was so off-putting, McDaniels’ agent quit and publicly lambasted his former client.
"My word is my bond,” Bob LaMonte told Sports Business Journal. "Once you break that, there's nothing left.”
You can only tease people for so long before they move onto new prospective partners who don’t have a history of flaking. With Brady’s passing numbers in decline –– due to age, an underwhelming supporting cast, or more accurately, a combination of both –– the Patriots no longer run the most innovative and explosive offense in the NFL. That honor belongs to high-flying teams in Kansas City and Los Angeles, which explains why seemingly anybody who's sniffed McVay’s farts in recent years suddenly finds himself at the top of numerous coaching lists.
That's pretty much the reason why the Cardinals says they hired Kliff Kingsbury, who finished with a sub.-500 record in six seasons at Texas Tech. "Rams coach Sean McVay – the 32-year-old offensive genius who has become the blueprint of many of the new coaching hires around the NFL – reached out to Kingsbury after Texas Tech let him go to see if Kingsbury wanted to join the Rams’ staff for the stretch run and postseason as an offensive consultant," the team's press release reads. "Kingsbury considered it but ultimately joined USC."
It has been assumed that McDaniels is Bill Belichick’s designed heir apparent, especially after The Hoodie reportedly offered last year to “open up his world” to the now-42-year-old apprentice. But with the publicized Belichick and Brady tension now in the past, it doesn’t look like the Patriots job is going to open up while Brady is still capable of winning Super Bowls. There have been no recent reports or speculation about Belichick hanging it up in the foreseeable future.
To state the obvious, the Patriots’ job is far less attractive without Brady. But that might be the corner McDaniels has backed himself into. The NFL cosmic universe is striking back, leaving him only with an offer to interview for the Bengals opening, which he, of course, turned down.
Fascinations change. Much like the governor who waited too long to run for president, McDaniels’ time may have passed. At one moment, you’re touted as the next leader of the party. But if you wait too long to strike, Donald Trump makes you order the meatloaf at lunch.