The Eagles remain one of two NFL teams still in the market for a head coach, and a handful of quality candidates who have already interviewed for the job remain available.
Last week when Doug was fired I argued that Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was my preferred replacement, and while I stand by that, Daboll is reportedly “not interested” in the job, according to Rob Maadi of the Associated Press. Beyond the obvious influence that he had on Josh Allen and the Bills offense, my argument was that Daboll comes from the Belichick (and to a lesser degree, Saban) coaching tree—that was a big part of the appeal for me.
Another name from the Belichick coaching tree that recently interviewed for the Eagles top job is long-time Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Despite these reports predictably being met with groans from the fan base, I believe he’s the exact sort of offensive mind the Eagles should be looking for.
Call me radical, but I still think the organization that’s won six Super Bowls in the last two decades is onto something. You can roll your eyes at “The Patriot Way,” and the fact that nobody from the Belichick coaching tree has been able to successfully translate this philosophy to another organization is discouraging, but I’m buying this stock while it’s low.
While everyone is busy poaching the latest knock-off Andy Reid, the Kyle Shanahan disciple, or the Sean McVay protégée, the Eagles ought to return to a coaching philosophy that emphasizes the roots of winning football and is less obsessed with the vanity of innovative minds.
“The Patriot Way”—a term Belichick has never actually used—represents a team-first approach: accountability above all. I could overwhelm you with buzz words, but there’s not much more to it than doing your job and having a disciplined eye for detail.
However, beyond the vaguery of “The Patriot Way” or whatever nebulous way we brand the New England culture, what appeals to me most about McDaniels and the Patriots organization is an offensive philosophy that strikes at the heart of how winning football is played—limiting mistakes, staying on schedule, and a versatile scheme with game plans dictated by the weaknesses of the opponent’s defense (a tried-and-true recipe for success).
I’ve heard McDaniels and various Patriots assistants described as “unsexy hires” relative to Daboll, Lincoln Riley, Eric Bienemy, etc… and in reality that’s probably a compliment. Winning football isn’t “sexy” and rarely is it as innovative as some would lead you to believe. Is it important to be ahead of the curve in terms of scheme/strategy? Absolutely—but execution, discipline, and attention to detail win the day. No level of offensive genius is going to make up for shortcomings in these departments.
Here’s McDaniels‘ scheme, in his own words:
“The biggest thing for us is adapting to what our players do and try to put them in as many successful positions as we can during the course of a game. I think sometimes the word ‘system’ is overused. The best thing for us is our foundation is broad enough that we can accommodate most players and then fit them in and figure out what we do well as a team and do it as many times as we can.”
It’s hard to disagree with that sort of philosophy.
One obvious slant on McDaniels is that you could very easily chalk up his success to Tom Brady, but it’s harder to separate his success from Brady’s than it is most Patriots offensive assistants. Aside from a three year hiatus from 2009-11, McDaniels has been with Tom from the beginning, and has been a part of all six Super Bowls (spending 13 total seasons as coordinator).
As far as coaching trees go McDaniels isn’t just another branch, he’s a root.
There’s Belichick—there’s Brady—there’s Kraft—and then who? Josh McDaniels. Again, it’s not unreasonable to want to divorce him from the overall success of New England for the same reasons that it’s not unreasonable to cite the poor track record of Patriots assistants as head coach. But I’m choosing to put faith in McDaniels as the man best suited to buck that trend.
What about his first stint as head coach in Denver?
Another one of the main knocks against McDaniels is his messy effort as a first-time head coach with the Broncos. Despite being hired with sky-high expectations at the ripe age of 33, he couldn’t have fell more flat. From almost immediately getting caught up in drama with incumbent QB Jay Cutler upon taking the job, to his firing less than two years later, it was pretty much all bad in his first run as head coach.
With that said, I don’t think McDaniels is being given the benefit of the doubt in terms of learning from his mistakes that we afford most first-time head coaches (not to mention 33-year old coaches).
True to his Belichickian roots, he‘s reported to have done a thorough accounting of his time in Denver, and was eager to learn from those mistakes. On the day of his firing from the Broncos, McDaniels was encouraged by his father to keep a log of everything that went wrong and everything he would do differently if he ever got the opportunity to head coach again.
While such actions may seem trite, they’re the mark of a mature operator who understands how to continue growing his craft, and frankly I’m not sure how or why the narrative became something different—his work in Denver was 12 years ago. It’s ridiculous (not to mention lazy and unfair) to assume he’s the same coach/leader he was in 2009.
What about his decision to back out of the Indianapolis job a few years ago?
Another oft-mentioned blemish on McDaniels’ record is the bait-and-switch he pulled on the Colts in 2018; first accepting, then backing out of the then-open head coaching position (later filled by Frank Reich, ironically enough). From an Owner’s standpoint, that’s a more than fair reason to distrust the man, despite him having possible justifications.
With that said, it’s wise to keep an open-mind when judging those actions, and it’s clear Lurie and Howie have done that. We weren’t in the room for the interview of course, so we can’t truly know for sure, but you can safely assume McDaniels was able to answer those questions in a way that put Lurie’s mind at ease (he wouldn’t be in the running for the job otherwise).
Truthfully, it’s hard to stake out a true position on each of these head coaching candidates. After all, we’re not the in the room conducting these interviews, and there’s only so much we can know about them before they take over—most of which is influenced by factors beyond their control (roster, other coaches, luck, etc…).
As far as McDaniels goes, we can’t ever be sure how much a part of the Patriots success he actually played. It’s possible he’s been riding their coattails to an impressive resume this entire time, and it’s also possible he would be qualified for this coaching job without his success in New England. All I know today is that I’d be comfortable with Josh McDaniels as the next Eagles head coach, and I’d welcome an attempt to bring “The Patriot Way” and their tried-and-true offensive philosophy to Philadelphia.