After three seasons as the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, Josh McDaniels was the hottest coaching candidate in football. He learned that the grass isn't always greener on the other side, though, and may soon be a Patriot again.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, McDaniels and the Patriots have reached an agreement making him an offensive assistant under Bill O'Brien for the rest of this season. McDaniels would subsequently succeed O'Brien at offensive coordinator next season, as O'Brien was recently introduced as Penn State's new head coach.
McDaniels departed the Patriots in 2009 to become head coach of the Denver Broncos. He was an instant darling, as the Broncos started off 6-0, but they would lose eight of their final 10 games and miss the playoffs with an 8-8 record. On top of that, McDaniels essentially drove wide receiver Brandon Marshall out of town.
Things went awry the next season and McDaniels was fired after a 3-9 start, leading him to the St. Louis Rams offensive coordinating gig in 2011. McDaniels was expected to further the development of quarterback Sam Bradford, who had a fantastic rookie campaign in 2010.
Instead, Bradford and the Rams offense regressed and St. Louis finished with a measly two wins on the season. After head coach Steve Spagnuolo was recently fired, the Rams gave McDaniels permission to leave as well, which is why he'll be allowed to coach for the Patriots in the postseason.
McDaniels is just one in a long line of disciples of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick who have failed on their own. That list also includes Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennell and Eric Mangini. None of them have come crawling back to New England, but McDaniels has made the right decision.
No matter which offensive coaches have come and gone, the Patriots have had one of the best offenses in the league every year for the past decade. That is because the common denominator continues to be quarterback Tom Brady. Due to his fantastic play, Brady has turned a number of coaches—including McDaniels, Weis and O'Brien—into top head coaching candidates.
I'm beginning to think that it truly does not matter who coaches the Pats as long as Brady is in the fold. That is something that is lost on most outside observers, though, as New England assistants continue to be highly sought-after commodities offered high-profile coaching gigs.
Away from New England, McDaniels has proven to be an incompetent coach and his perceived value has taken a major hit. A couple years back with Brady will likely reverse that completely, however. The move works from New England's perspective since McDaniels is a familiar face, but it stands to help McDaniels even more.
McDaniels seemed poised to spend the rest of his career toiling in mediocre situations, so he had to accept when the Patriots came calling. It's hard to say whether McDaniels will ever be offered another head coaching job, but there is no better place for him to rebuild his brand than New England.