Josh McDaniels' Heel Turn Reinforces Patriots' Place as NFL's Supervillains

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterFebruary 7, 2018

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reneged on a verbal agreement to become the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reneged on a verbal agreement to become the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.Elsa/Getty Images

The NFL is now the WWE, and Josh McDaniels, along with the Patriots, has become the top heel.

The Indianapolis Colts announced Tuesday that McDaniels had agreed to become their next head coach, prompting them to call a press conference to introduce him Wednesday, according to Dakota Crawford of the Indianapolis Star. On Tuesday night, McDaniels reversed course and went back to the Patriots, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

This prompted a league reaction unlike few I've ever seen before. It was fast, vicious and unrelenting. The reaction was also sanctimonious and over-the-top. In other words, it was typical NFL.

"He's a weasel," one NFC assistant coach said of McDaniels.

"Such a gutless thing to do," another NFC assistant said.

"He knows he can't win without Tom Brady," an AFC front office executive said.

Hoo boy. Told you this was rough.

It went on and on and on. "He made me like [Colts owner] Jim Irsay," an NFL source said. An NFC general manager added: "It's easy to mock the Colts, but what Josh did was unprofessional. I know that's not a popular take, but it's true."

Actually, it's highly popular. McDaniels isn't just getting destroyed by NFL personnel; he's also a pariah on social media. He is seen as a coward—that was another way NFL sources described him—and the Patriots are viewed the biggest heels in league history.

Life is always far more layered. Plenty of people get nervous and change their minds about jobs. It's happened, in fact, throughout the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Belichick's mentor, Bill Parcells, agreed to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1991. He then backed out, leading then-owner Hugh Culverhouse to declare he was "jilted at the altar," as Frank Litsky of the New York Times noted at the time.

Josh McDaniels isn't the first head coach candidate to leave a team at the altar. Bill Parcells did the same to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1991.
Josh McDaniels isn't the first head coach candidate to leave a team at the altar. Bill Parcells did the same to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1991.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Belichick agreed to coach the New York Jets in 1999 before having one of the most infamous about-faces in league history. Belichick quit after just one day on the job, writing on a napkin he was resigning as "HC of the NYJ." Classic Belichick.

Now comes this. Perhaps McDaniels discovered something about Andrew Luck's much-discussed shoulder that scared him. Maybe the lack of weapons on defense made him nervous. He may not have wanted to uproot his family.

Regardless, the view of McDaniels appears to have changed irrevocably for the worse. Meanwhile, the view of the Patriots as shady has hardened like a nuclear bunker. 

League sources say Patriots owner Robert Kraft played a significant role in McDaniels staying. Kraft still despises the Colts over Deflategate, I'm told. These sources also say McDaniels got assurances from Belichick that he was staying for at least several years as head coach of the Patriots.

There are indeed many factors at play, yet none of that really matters. What matters is perception, and the perception is that McDaniels not only took the easy way out, but assured his place in the Heel Hall of Fame.

The constant among the texts and phone calls to me as the news broke was the feeling that McDaniels wouldn't win without Brady. Humans can't see alternate universes (yet), so who knows what McDaniels can or can't do without Brady? But that's still the belief around the league.

Sources around the league feel Josh McDaniels cannot win without Tom Brady.
Sources around the league feel Josh McDaniels cannot win without Tom Brady.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Yes, it's true, we don't know about Andrew Luck's shoulder, but that would be part of the challenge of going to Indianapolis. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia went to coach the Lions. The Lions. Coaching the Lions is the NFL equivalent of jumping out of a plane without a parachute.

It's stunning how McDaniels changing his mind seems like a storyline ripped straight from professional wrestling. You have a despised but great franchise and an offensive coordinator from that team who agrees to coach a hated rival. Then he doesn't. Because he wants to coach Brady, a star who is also despised.

The only thing missing is a commercial break, a controversial catch and an appearance by Roger Goodell.

The idea that McDaniels' career is over outside of the Patriots is far-fetched. If he keeps getting to Super Bowls, someone will take a chance on him.

For now, McDaniels and the Patriots are supervillains. So villainous, they make wrestling jealous.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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