As ‘Joliet’ Jake (portrayed by the late John Belushi) once said: “We’re putting the band back together.”
His brother Elwood followed up the sentiment with the decree “We’re on a mission from God.”
Of course, these quotes from the 1980-Comedy Classic, The Blues Brothers are now a part of the American pop-culture lexicon. However, they do ring true when considering the impact that the hiring of former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, Kevin Stefanski, as head coach of the Cleveland Browns had on current Pats OC Josh McDaniels…
…and more importantly, the impact it COULD have on the 2020 New England Patriots.
It is not exactly a secret that Josh McDaniels had interest in becoming the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns. In fact, some have touted this position as his ‘dream job.’ A native of Ohio, he grew up a Browns fan. McDaniels also played college football at nearby John Carroll University, and he maintains familial ties to the area. Per multiple reports, he had highly coveted the position for the upcoming 2020 NFL season.
Apparently, there was mutual interest between the two parties. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam brought McDaniels to town for his interview in-style; flying both he and his wife Laura to Cleveland via his private jet. McDaniels reportedly made a strong impression on the Browns in an interview that lasted over five hours. Throughout the evening on Friday (and for much of Saturday) social media remained abuzz about the potential of McDaniels’ hiring by the Browns.
However, Sunday morning gave way to reports that Cleveland had, indeed, decided to hire another offensive coordinator as their head coach for the 2020 season, Kevin Stefanski.
As a result, McDaniels pursuit of securing a head coaching position in the NFL is likely to be shelved for at least one more year.
So, how did a seemingly ‘hand-in-glove fit’ for both sides fail to come to fruition??
According to Albert Breer of SI’s MMQB, McDaniels did have a strong desire to take the job in Cleveland, had it been offered to him. The sticking point for both sides became Josh’s desire for “sweeping organizational changes” to the football operations department. Though unconfirmed, rumors have circulated that McDaniels wanted to place greater importance on the passing attack, likely meaning a greater amount of dependence on quarterback Baker Mayfield. Cleveland’s front office (which includes Haslam and Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta) reportedly sought an offense that would be more run-oriented. Stefanski is known to employ a primarily run-based offense.
As a result, McDaniels appears to be staying put in Foxboro. Coincidentally, that just might be a blessing in disguise for the New England Patriots.
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Despite some struggles throughout 2019, McDaniels has typically presided over some of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. He is an innovative coach known for instituting impressive, complex game plans. Still, one never gets the sense that he is trying to convince you that he is the smartest guy in the room. McDaniels is well aware of the needs of his players and is known to value their input in relation to game-planning and strategy.
Traits such as these are an important element in being an effective coach. They have also particularly endeared him to quarterback Tom Brady. The connection between McDaniels and Brady is well-known, and together, the pair have enjoyed a great deal of success. Although it has not been highly publicized (gratuitous use of sarcasm) Brady is set to become a free agent in March. With speculation abound that Brady and the Pats might be headed in two separate directions, the timing seemed to be ideal for McDaniels to take his leave of Foxboro, as well.
However, a return for McDaniels could also help to smooth the road for a return by Brady. At this stage in his legendary career, the soon-to-be 43 year-old signal caller is unlikely to be enthusiastic about having to learn a new playbook. At present, McDaniels’ options for a head coaching position are currently scarce. Therefore, Brady’s decision to join another team would result in his need to adapt to a new offensive system, or require his new squad to implement his offensive system. Remaining in New England, alongside McDaniels, would allow Brady to continue operating within an offense in which he has found great comfort for the past eight seasons.
While there still may be some financial barriers to Brady remaining in New England, the opportunity to continue his productive working relationship with McDaniels might just convince him that his best path towards a seventh Super Bowl Championship still resides in Foxboro. Whether a Blues Brothers-type cosmic epiphany is in store for the trio of Brady, McDaniels and Bill Belichick remains to be seen.
Until then, Patriots Nation continues to hope that “no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there’re still some things that makes us all the same….You. Me. Them.”
Long live the band???
Only time will tell.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC
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