Making The Case For/Against Josh McDaniels Leaving

As of this writing (typing), Josh McDaniels is still the Offensive Coordinator of the New England Patriots. There are droves and droves of Pats fans that get irrationally angry over that statement, but it’s the truth. But fret not Patriots Nation. Help may be on the way in the form of spiked elbow pads and an owner who has a propensity for weird haircuts.

The Las Vegas Rrrrrrrrrraaaaaiiiderrssss are apparently closing in on bringing McDaniels over as their new head coach. Before I break down the pros and cons of that happening, I think it’s important to give a quick history lesson.

In McDnaiels SEVENTEEN (14 as offensive coordinator) years with New England, it’s safe to say that his relationship with the fanbase has been a tad bit tumultuous. I’m not sure how many more 3rd down shotgun runs with Brandon Bolden the fans can take before they rush the field and haul him off themselves. Or how many more 3rd and 1’s where he gets away from the run and goes 5-wide for some odd reason. But I digress.

While a fair amount of McDaniels playcalling has befuddled the majority of us, we can’t look past the fact that he’s been a major piece in some potent offensive units. It’s going to sound like I’m somewhat defending the guy, and to that, I’d say I sort of am. Going backwards from this season, here’s where McDaniels’ offenses has ranked overall in the league:

  • 2021 – 6th
  • 2020 – 27th (COVID year)
  • 2019 – 7th
  • 2018 – 4th
  • 2017 – 2nd
  • 2016 – 3rd
  • 2015 – 3rd
  • 2014 – 4th
  • 2013 – 3rd
  • 2012 – 1st
  • 2008 – 8th
  • 2007 – 1st
  • 2006 – 7th
  • 2005 – 10th

I’ll never claim to be the most knowledgeable person in the world when it comes to the NFL. But I do believe I can read and comprehend numbers and understand what they mean. So if you run an offense for 14 years and in that timeframe, save for a season that was ravaged by a pandemic, you’re top 5 eight times and top 10 the remaining five times, I’d say that’s pretty damn good. I know he sometimes get’s ‘too cute’ or sticks with a certain play design too long, but let’s not sit here and act like McDaniels isn’t a top OC in the league.

And you can sit there and say “Brady made him” all you want. But last time I checked, Brady was running the plays that Josh designed and installed while he was here. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but Tom wasn’t on the Patriots this year and McDaniels still had the 6th best offense with a rookie QB. Moving on…

The Case For McDaniels Moving On

Sometimes you just need a new face in the building. While I don’t really have any facts or stats to back this one up, I still think it’s worth mentioning. There’s a reason that every player, coach or executive eventually moves on from their team. Everyone has a shelf life with their team. Things eventually run it’s course and you either lose the room, lose the fire to play for that team or simply become stagnant with your playcalling. I think the latter is the case for McDaniels. No one can explain it or break it down scientifically, but there comes a time where it’s just time to move on.

The Pats no longer have the ultimate cheat code to keep them in games or bring them back when they’re down multiple scores and their defense is slipping. Other than 12 being back there, McDaniels’ offenses never necessarily scared you. They’ve essentially been the football equivalent of Tim Duncan: boring but extremely effective. But I believe the days of those types of offenses consistently succeeding are pretty much done. You need to work in plays designed to get chunks and score quickly if need be. While I’ll never diminish the value of a nice check down or ‘dink and dunk’, I think it’s time the Pats involved more ‘shot plays’ or designs to get big yards.

The main criticism I have of Josh McDaniels, the only real black eye on his play calling, is the fact that he doesn’t seem to utilize what he has on the offense correctly. Whether that’s because he’s incapable or unwilling, I do not know. The Patriots were towards the bottom of the league in running two tight end sets this year and that should infuriate you. How is that possible when Belichick went out and signed Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, the two top available tight ends, this offseason? The league average last season was 28.4%. The Pats, with two extremely talented tight ends, only had them both on the field a shockingly low 18.6%! Again I’ll ask, HOW IS THAT ALLOWED TO HAPPEN!?

The great part about having both tight ends on the field is that you can also run out of that formation. That seems like something McDaniels would’ve wanted to utilize considering the Pats were very clearly a run first team last season. In a time where defenses are getting smaller and quicker, why not bludgeon them to death with two big-bodied, pass catching tight ends who can also block? THAT is the number one reason I think McDaniels needs to get the boot. The Pats offense is and should be moving in a new direction, and it’s apparent that Josh isn’t the guy for the Job. Who is? I’ll get to that in a bit.

The Case For Keeping McDaniels

Now I will admit, keeping McDaniels or not isn’t really up to the Patriots. If he wants to leave, he certainly can. But the Pats can definitely sweeten the pot a bit to entice Josh to stay. Should they though? I think there’s a case to be made.

First and foremost is stability. Mac Jones is a rookie quarterback, need I remind you. For him to have 2 different offensive coordinators in his first two years with the team isn’t ideal. Consistency is key and the lack of it is a very big reason why so many of these rookie QB’s flame out before their careers even get started…

…HOWEVA, if I can poke holes in my own argument here, it all depends on who they bring in. If the rumored Bill O’Brien reunion does indeed come to fruition, I think Mac will be fine. Jones actually taught Billy O the offense Alabama used while he’s been there, so there’s a familiarity already. And O’Brien was the ‘mastermind’ behind the wildly successful two tight end offense the Pats ran when they have Gronk and He Who Must Not Be Named. I wouldn’t hate to see them run that back with Henry and Smith.

But let me get back to making the case for McDaniels staying. It’s tough to find an OC that can click with a rookie QB, nevermind a team itself. We know McDaniels works in New England. Could it work better? Sure. But what’s the saying? It’s best to stick with the devil you know. There’s no guarantee that whoever gets brought in here excels with this team and Mac as their quarterback. If a massive decline happens, Belichick and the Pats will be left looking pretty stupid for moving on from a guy who, at the very least, has consistent success.

Lastly, and this sort of goes with my last point, there’s really no need to move on from Josh. He and Bill clearly work well together. His team likes him. Other than the fact that his playcalling is frustrating from time to time, there’s no urgent reason to ship him off. And as for that last point, let’s stop pretending McDaniels is the only OC who frustrates his fans or messes up from time to time.


Listen, I’m not going to beat around the bush here. I think it’s best for both sides if McDaniels moves on. I tried to make an even argument for both sides, but I just can’t. Belichick clearly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and I doubt McDaniels wants to be a career OC with his last head coaching job ending up being quite the debacle. Sure, there’s risk in moving on and picking someone else up, but as I said, if that person ends up being Bill O’Brien, I think that risk is worth taking. Now, if it’s someone else, I’ll have a little more cause for pause. But in the end, I think Mac Jones and this offensive unit is ready for a new OC who can utilize everything they do well. And unfortunately, I don’t believe McDaniels is that man.

(Featured Photo Credit www.masslive.com)

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Mike Sullivan (@msully5433 on Twitter)


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