If you don't succeed the first time, go to the dark side for redemption in Silver and Black. That's what Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels will try to do in his second stint as the leader of an NFL team.
After going 11-17 with the Denver Broncos between 2009 and 2010, McDaniels hopes to make the most of another opportunity. In a return to the AFC West, he has a much better grasp of his head coaching responsibilities and how to achieve success.
McDaniels' father, Thom (who had his own coaching career at several Ohio high schools), told The Athletic's Vic Tafur he believes his son took the Raiders job at a much better time in his career than when he became the Broncos head coach.
"As an NFL observer, I think a lot of NFL first-time coaches may not want to be desperate to get their first opportunity, but sometimes they are. I think that Josh was. There was zero desperation about the second opportunity, and he’s had interviews and been part of the process more than once."
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for (general manager) Chris Ballard, (Colts owner) Mr. (Jim) Irsay and their whole organization. "They were great. I think they ended up with the person they should have ended with (Frank Reich) and I ended up where I was supposed to be.”
Composed and up-front about his missteps, McDaniels talked about the lessons he learned from his time in Denver.
"When I went to Denver, I knew a little bit of football. I didn't really know people and how important that aspect of this process and maintaining the culture and building the team was. I failed, and I didn't succeed at it. Looking at that experience has been one of the best things in my life in terms of my overall growth as a person, as a coach."
Based on McDaniels' assessment, he focused on the X's and O's but didn't pay enough attention to the relationships with people in the building. The Broncos fired him before the end of the 2010 season having seen his tenure go sour after a 3-9 stretch.
So, what's different now?
McDaniels brought strong bonds with him to Vegas. The Raiders hired him and general manager Dave Ziegler as a pair. They played together as collegiate teammates at John Carroll University, worked with each other in Denver and had roles within the Patriots organization between 2013 and 2021, which included three Super Bowl title runs.
“Our relationship has always been built on honesty and respect,” McDaniels said about his connection with Ziegler when he was introduced to the media.
McDaniels also added former Patriots coaches to his staff, which include offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo. He's built a network of familiarity, which may help his transition from New England to Las Vegas.
With the Patriots, Lombardi served as an assistant quarterback coach and wide receivers coach between 2019 and 2021, Graham held the defensive line and linebacker position coaching jobs from 2012 to 2015, and Bricillo served as a coaching assistant and offensive line coach between 2019 and 2021.
Also of note, McDaniels took a job that didn't require him to make a hard decision on the quarterback situation.
Back in 2010, McDaniels had an influence on Denver's move to trade up for Tim Tebow, who flopped as a passer on the pro level, throwing for 2,383 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 47.3 percent completion rate as the Broncos quarterback.
McDaniels already had eyes on quarterback Derek Carr before he took the job. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Patriots "considered trading for Carr before the (2021) season."
While at the NFL Scouting Combine, McDaniels said Carr would be the Raiders' Week 1 starter, and weeks later the team signed him to a three-year, $120.5 million extension and added a no-trade clause.
McDaniels doesn't have to mold a rookie quarterback into a pro. He has a three-time Pro Bowler who's thrown for 4,000-plus yards in each of the last four campaigns while completing at least 67.3 percent of his passes in that stretch.
Furthermore, McDaniels and Ziegler didn't have to completely tear down a Raiders roster that finished 10-7 with a postseason berth in 2021. They just needed to add on to a playoff-caliber squad, and that's what the duo did in March.
On consecutive days, the Raiders signed edge-rusher Chandler Jones and acquired wideout Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers—two offseason splashes that will strengthen the team on both sides of the ball. They both have ties to the roster, which underscores the emphasis on organizational synergy in McDaniels' second head coaching stint.
As most already know, Adams played with Carr for two collegiate years at Fresno State. Between 2012 and 2015 with the Patriots, Jones played under Graham, who coached both levels of the front seven.
In contrast, McDaniels initiated a rebuild project when he became the Broncos' lead skipper. On his watch, Denver traded quarterback Jay Cutler and moved wideout Brandon Marshall after he had back-to-back Pro Bowl years. Perhaps he felt the need to take that approach after the team missed the playoffs for three consecutive campaigns before his arrival.
This time around, McDaniels inherited a ready-made postseason contender with core players in Carr, tight end Darren Waller, wideout Hunter Renfrow and edge-rusher Maxx Crosby. Instead of subtracting foundational roster pieces, his front office added two of the most accomplished veterans at their respective positions.
Though Vegas traded edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue to the Indianapolis Colts, Jones is an upgrade over him based on their resumes.
Clearly, McDaniels has a much different plan for building a winner than he did with the Broncos more than a decade ago. While some have labeled it the Patriot Way, the 46-year-old has tried to break away from that mold and create a unique culture for his regime. Safety Duron Harmon talked about that distinction on NFL Network's Good Morning Football:
In his own words, McDaniels said he isn't trying to become a carbon copy of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
"I'm not Bill [Belichick] and I can't be," McDaniels said. "I'm just going to try to be myself and hopefully I can be a good leader for our team."
Well, McDaniels is off to a good start.
Though Belichick has shown support for the Boston Bruins, can you imagine him cranking a siren before a hockey game with a big smile?
Since his arrival in Vegas, McDaniels has shown humility, a great awareness of his past mistakes and an engaging side of his personality. Most importantly, he doesn't seem interested in emulating the Patriots' culture, which is notable because we've seen that formula flame out with Belichick's assistants in the recent past.
Brian Flores became a decent NFL head coach, yet he finished his three-year Miami tenure with a 24-25 record and zero playoff appearances. While his departure from the organization came as a surprise and is now under scrutiny in a racial discrimination lawsuit, a losing record never makes anyone's job secure.
ESPN's Jeff Darlington also reported Flores had strained relationships with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and general manager Chris Grier, though Flores denied that suggestion on the I Am Athlete podcast.
Matt Patricia's Belichick-esque coaching style didn't go over well with the Detroit Lions, and the team relieved him of his head coaching duties after he went 13-29-1 from 2018 to 2020.
As one of the most successful Belichick assistants, Bill O'Brien led the Houston Texans to four division titles, but he struggled to establish strong working relationships with his former general managers, as Aaron Wilson and John McClain reported for the Houston Chronicle. O'Brien eventually took over front-office duties himself.
Perhaps the Patriot Way outside New England isn't an effective approach, and McDaniels probably realized that on the way out of Denver. If so, he's on the right path.
While some Raiders fans may be skeptical of a Belichick assistant and former Patriots front-office executive venturing out on their own, McDaniels and Ziegler could run a smooth operation after their humbling experiences with the Broncos.
Sometimes, the road to success starts with an early failure, but an individual's personal growth can become the deciding factor between stories of perpetual disappointment and redemption.
McDaniels may have picked the right time and team to exercise self-correction. He'll win a lot more games with the Raiders than he did with the Broncos.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.