News broke late Tuesday early Wednesday that Josh McDaniels had rejected the option to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts to remain the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. Amongst this news were rumours of Andrew Luck health or lack thereof and suddenly the Colts went from an outside bet for the AFC South to a contender for the number one overall pick.
Let’s start with McDaniels who is generally being lambasted on social media for this decision and in a way rightly so. McDaniels has apparently hired other members of his staff in the three weeks since agreeing the Colts job and those guys will have told their former employers and likely been replaced. Those coaches are now potentially stuck in limbo where they may be able to go back to their old employer or may still get a job with the Colts or possibly neither. There have been some stories that the Colts will honour the contracts of those coaches and members of staff but even so their futures do not look as rosy this morning as they did a few days ago. That is what looks truly bad on McDaniels because that is a lot of families he has now potentially uprooted with the possibility they may not be long for their new job which has to be a worrying time for them and that is inexcusable from McDaniels.
However, McDaniels is also right to have made the decision which he feels is best for his career and perhaps more importantly his family. He came out of the Super Bowl smelling of roses after a generally wonderful offensive game plan that put up 600+ yards on the Eagles and rightly the Patriots made a last ditch attempt to keep him. Equally some blame has to go to the Colts because they must have known the situation with Luck and how he was progressing. It is hard to believe that McDaniels rejecting the Colts is a complete coincidence with these Luck rumours and it is possible that McDaniels received some sort of indication from the Colts that Luck would be fine only to now find out he may not have him for a large chunk of last season and perhaps even, in a worst case scenario, forever.
A lot of what I have seen is people saying that this makes McDaniels toxic outside of New England when it comes to head coach hires. Well you know what else makes you toxic as a head coach? Another failure as a head coach and if he isn’t going to have Luck the odds of that happening goes up a lot. By staying in New England McDaniels will likely now truly be groomed as the successor to Bill Belichick which in itself might be a poison chalice in replacing a legend, see David Moyes replacing Alex Ferguson for comparison, but it also gives him the chance to be in the draft room this year and choose his new QB to groom for when Brady departs. That is a luxury he may not have had at the Colts as they have two QBs on the roster now they feel good about so trying to convince them to pick another QB high in this draft might be tough. The final part is that by staying in New England he gets the chance to continue working with Brady and that team which means that rather than being with a team with an outside bet to win another Super Bowl he is on a team who are currently favourites to win the Super Bowl next year.
The last point on McDaniels is for Patriots fan. Yes it is great he is staying and it means there will be an in house guy ready to take over from Belichick. However, these sort of things have a nasty habit of coming back on people and teams and Brady and Belichick will be gone at some point in the near future so gloating about this right now might not be a very smart move.
What does this mean for the Colts?
Firstly the head coach role is a mess because all of the main candidates have been snapped up and what is left would be scraping the barrel a little at this point. Additionally, if they have promised the staff McDaniels hired their jobs then the new head coach will have to work with guys he did not hire and that won’t be a fun situation for him or those coaches most likely. The option is to try and find some sort of stop gap or interim head coach but that would have to be a free agent of which the options are limited. The two names that spring to mind are Jeff Fisher and Ben McAdoo who are both guys who might take the job simply to try and earn themselves a big money contract either in Indy or elsewhere the following season. Neither of those feel like great options so maybe they look at guys currently employed elsewhere and that might mean having to look at position coaches who are looking for the chance to jump two rungs of the ladder straight to a HC role but again not getting to pick your coaches might make those guys hesitate. The final option is to try and persuade someone with a previous history with the franchise to come back and take the head coaching job. Leslie Frazier, currently DC for the Bills, is a name I have seen in a couple of places but for that to happen they will likely need to offer him some kind of guarantee of either a long term role or at the very least a front office role if things do not work out.
Whatever the Colts decide to do they need to do it quick because free agency and the draft are fast approaching, they play in a suddenly competitive division, they have a lot of holes which need filling and they play in a city which has become used to success and is likely getting frustrated with failure. On the subject of those Colts fans don’t underestimate the animosity that will be directed not just a McDaniels but also the team that they have been left humiliated by non-other than their old rivals who don’t really consider them a rival anymore. Last year it didn’t feel like the Colts could sink any lower but unless they move quick they may find an even lower point in 2018, think about the non-Manning season a few years back for comparison, and unlike last time there may be no Andrew Luck pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow.