The last of four head coaching vacancies was filled Sunday when the Cleveland Browns hired Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
That means Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is sticking in New England … for now. Here’s what that means:
1. McDaniels still could potentially leave
Let’s get this one out of the way first. While it seems extremely unlikely that another head coaching position could open, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Here’s the scenario where McDaniels could still leave the Patriots: If a team believes they could sign quarterback Tom Brady in free agency but only if he comes with McDaniels, then that team potentially could fire their head coach and add the Patriots’ QB-OC tandem.
Let’s think big market here. The Los Angeles Chargers are coming off of a 5-11 campaign in which they came in with high hopes but finished fourth in the AFC West. Starting quarterback Philip Rivers is a free agent, and head coach Anthony Lynn is 26-22 in three seasons.
Would the Chargers fire Lynn late to bring on McDaniels and Brady?
What about the Chicago Bears? They went 12-4 in Matt Nagy’s first season in 2018 but finished third in the NFC North with an 8-8 record in 2019. Would they rather have Nagy and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky or McDaniels and Brady?
2. Patriots will keep the same offense in 2020
This is a point of contention for some Patriots fans, who, despite his three Super Bowl rings, were ready to see McDaniels go.
The problem there is the Patriots had no real backup plan to McDaniels unless they brought back former wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea as offensive coordinator or hired from outside the organization. There’s been no real indication that tight ends coach Nick Caley is ready to run the offense, and wide receivers coach/special teams coordinator Joe Judge was hired by the New York Giants to be their next head coach.
But there is something to be said for the Patriots potentially needing a new look on offense. The offense McDaniels has crafted around Brady is notoriously difficult to learn. It’s good for Brady, running back James White and wide receiver Julian Edelman that McDaniels will return, but what about newer players like receivers N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu or rookie and veteran wideouts and tight ends who will be new to the team in 2020?
McDaniels’ return doesn’t really solve the problem that only certain, very intelligent and experienced players can immediately succeed in New England’s option-route based offense.
3. Tom Brady is more likely to return
If McDaniels had left and the Patriots had to restart on offense, then perhaps Brady would have seen that as an opening to leave the team. But Brady and McDaniels are close, and continuity seemingly would help keep Brady around.
So, unless that situation from No. 1 occurs, this seems like a good sign for Brady’s return.
4. What happens with Nick Caserio?
If McDaniels had gone to the Cleveland Browns, then it would have been possible director of player personnel Nick Caserio could join him as general manager. Caserio was on the last year of his contract last season, so he could freely leave the organization this offseason.
The Browns, Washington Redskins and Houston Texans are the only teams with vacant general manager positions. The Browns likely will pair someone with new head coach Kevin Stefanski. It’s unclear if Caserio would be a good pair with Ron Rivera in Washington. And the Texans reportedly aren’t looking to hire a general manager and could stick with head coach Bill O’Brien and executive vice president of team development Jack Easterby in top personnel roles.
It’s still possible Caserio could join Houston. Or maybe he just re-ups with the Patriots, who could certainly use him in his varied roles. Some teams decide to fire their general managers after the draft, so Caserio could find a new job in the spring depending on when his contract actually expires.
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