It would be easy to surmise that after the last calendar year that new starting QB Mac Jones has had, that the biggest winner in the wake of Cam Newton’s release is Jones. After all, a year ago, he had only been a spot starter, injury replacement, at Alabama while backing up other NFL talent. He went on to throw for more passing yards in one season than anyone ever at his school. He became the 15th pick in the NFL draft, for a coach that most consider to be the greatest of all time at the NFL level and now has been given the keys to a rebuilt roster with much upgraded talent on offense. Pretty good year- huh?
He has earned and been given the opportunity to start his career in an almost ideal fashion.
But the biggest winner in all of this might be a somewhat forgotten soul who in his last trip under the intense spotlight, accepted a head coaching job in the NFL and later recanted, and left a franchise, the Indianapolis Colts, at the altar after he had held them hostage for multiple weeks after verbally committing to the task. Not an ideal career path move after failing a few short years earlier in his first head coaching opportunity with the Denver Broncos.
Josh McDaniels, New England’s 45-year-old offensive coordinator has had enough experiences since leaving Denver that he can now really appreciate the daylight at the end of the tunnel he must see for his offense this year. And this is nothing against Cam Newton, who frankly has shown a true professionalism that some doubted before he got to New England. In fact, add Cam’s plight to the redemption tour of Josh in 2021. The humility that Cam had to swallow and show over the last 18 months is exactly what McDaniels needed to witness to fully prepare for his own redemption tour in 2021.
Let me just say, I do not know Josh, have never met him, but I feel for his road through NFL circles. I was 39 when named General Manager of the New Orleans Saints. We all think we have answers, especially when we are young and have had a little success but we all seem to grow and appreciate our relationships and opportunities even more as we navigate in our career. The purpose of this column is to expand on the opportunity that Josh now has.
I’m betting he is smiling as he dusts off the files he used for many years while running one of the NFLs most versatile and efficient offenses. Files that he could not use last year as he tried to build and improvise with a totally different set of skills that his QB, Cam Newton brought to the table. The Patriots passing game was a one dimensional, paint by numbers scheme that had very little variety and options. They went into each weekend with limited perimeter weapons, an offensive line that was shaky and a QB who was and has been less than 100% healthy for various reasons. It was a tall task to say the least and akin to playing with one hand behind your back.
The makeover started with Bill Belichick's decision to jump into the free agent pool- overnight- and add much needed quality and quantity to a roster that was frankly, depleted of NFL talent. We can discuss why at another time. Now, Patriot fans can barely hide their high degree of optimism and I am with them. I think McDaniels is one of the brightest minds in football. I think he is an outstanding play caller and I think he has the respect and confidence of his players. His ability to “kick them in the butt” has never been questioned but what I can’t wait to see is can he devise game plans each week that evolve and scare defenses?
His chances have now improved greatly with Mac Jones as his QB. I wrote last week about a certain trust that coaches need to feel in the coach on the field- a QB in this case. Jones has earned that trust to this point and don’t think for a minute that McDaniels voice did not carry loud and clear in making this decision for the franchise.
The Josh McDaniels redemption tour is now just off stage and waiting to crash the curtain to take this opportunity and run with it. If Mac Jones can stay healthy (he was sacked 5 times in preseason) he will position himself to be the biggest free agent catch for NFL franchises looking for their next head coach. If his resume can boast a revitalized-post Tom Brady- offense and he teams himself with a general manager whose skills and personality combine with his on-field acumen, not only will Josh be the biggest winner in New England this season, his next team will reap the benefits as well.
If this season goes like I think it might, I think McDaniels will be a head coach again in the NFL in 2022.