GREEN BAY — Josh McDaniels may not be the next coach of the Green Bay Packers, given their plans to interview a host of other candidates — including McDaniels’ New England Patriots colleague, Brian Flores — after McDaniels’ sit-down with the team on Friday.
But it appears McDaniels has decided it’s either the Packers job or his current job — as Patriots offensive coordinator — for him.
The NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Thursday that McDaniels had declined an interview request from the Cincinnati Bengals, who are in the market for a new coach after parting ways with Marvin Lewis on Monday after 16 seasons.
At this point, while the Packers are one of eight teams in the market for a new coach, Green Bay is the only confirmed interview for McDaniels, who was set to become the Indianapolis Colts’ coach last year before having a change of heart. And considering that assistants on coaching staffs of the top two seeds in each conference can only be interviewed this week, it’s apparently the Packers or nobody for McDaniels at this point.
The Packers, meanwhile, are reportedly set to interview not only Flores on Friday but also New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell in New Orleans on Saturday, and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur on Sunday in Green Bay. Interim head coach Joe Philbin reportedly had his interview for the job this week as well.
Once the weekend’s wild card playoff games are over, the team could conduct more interviews, as multiple sources have said the team intends to cast a wide net in its search for Mike McCarthy’s replacement.
But assistants on the four top seeds (New England, New Orleans, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams) will only be available for second interviews after the divisional playoff rounds. That means the Packers could do second interviews with McDaniels, Flores, Campbell and Carmichael in advance of Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3
When he backed out of his agreement with the Colts last year, McDaniels received a five-year contract worth $4 million annually to stay with coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots, according to a report by the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport before the regular-season opener in September. That would certainly give McDaniels the ability to be selective when it comes to becoming a head coach again.
McDaniels, 42, has spent most of his career in New England working for Belichick. He started there in 2001 as a personnel assistant, followed by two years as a defensive assistant. He moved to the offensive side of the ball in 2004 as quarterbacks coach, then added offensive coordinator duties in 2006. After the 2007 season, when the Patriots set the NFL single-season scoring record, McDaniels was viewed as a head-coaching candidate but pulled his name from consideration during New England’s postseason run.
A year later, though, he left at age 32 to become the Denver Broncos’ coach and led the team to a 6-0 start before the Broncos stumbled to an 8-8 finish. After a 3-9 start in 2010, he was fired and spent the 2011 season as the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator under then-head coach Steve Spagnuolo, whom the Rams fired after the 2011 season.
McDaniels returned to New England during the 2011 playoffs as a special offensive assistant, and he returned to his offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach position in 2012 when Bill O’Brien left to become the coach at Penn State. McDaniels earned his fourth and fifth Super Bowl rings with the 2014 and 2016 Patriots Super Bowl XLIX and XLI championship teams.
“Before you leave and you do that, it’s hard to say that you know what he’s going through because you really don’t,” McDaniels told Ohio.com during the week before Super Bowl LII in Minnesota last year. “I’m very happy for the experiences that I’ve gone through. A lot of the failings in my career have been some of the best teachers that I’ve had. I’ve really learned a lot from them. I think I’m a better coach, a better communicator, a lot of things because of the things that I haven’t done well.”
Given his work with future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, McDaniels’ candidacy for the Packers job certainly makes sense. He’d be working with two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, who knows Brady well and grew increasingly frustrated with the Packers’ offensive scheme.
It also seems unlikely that McDaniels, if he ends up being Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy’s choice, would leave a team at the altar again after what happened with the Colts a year ago.
When McDaniels reneged on his agreement to become the Colts’ coach on the night before the team was set to introduce him, there was some speculation that he was Belichick’s heir apparent in New England. That seems like a tall task for any coach, and perhaps rebuilding a Packers team that has missed the playoffs two consecutive years after eight straight postseason berths would hold more appeal.
Also, Belichick has shown no indications that he’s planning to retire, even at age 66. And Brady, at age 41, plans to keep playing after this season as well.
During one of his weekly appearances on WEEI radio in Boston in November, Brady acknowledged that McDaniels would likely draw head-coaching interest but said he hoped he’d stay with the team.
“Josh will have as much opportunity as anyone out there because he’s the best in the league at what he does,” Brady said. “Everyone is going to want that. I know the Patriots want him coaching for us. He’s under contract with our team for a long time, and that is a great thing for the Patriots.”
Speaking during the week leading up to Super Bowl LII, McDaniels called becoming a head coach something that has “been a dream of mine forever,” growing up as the son of well-known Ohio high-school coach Thom McDaniels.
“My dad’s been a football coach all my life. I grew up around the game and I wanted to coach,” McDaniels said then. “I’d play as long as I could, but I’m not very big. I’m not very fast. I’m not very good. I knew I was going to end up being a coach somewhere, somehow. I always wanted to just continue to get better and whatever the cards held for me, that’s great.
“I know I haven’t reached my potential as an individual coach,” McDaniels said. “Whether that’s coaching a position, a coordinator designing it and calling it, making adjustments and working with our staff. All of those things, every day, you can get better. I’ll never reach that ceiling. I understand that, but that gives you something to keep shooting for each year.”