Josh McDaniels

Colts DC Matt Eberflus Discusses McDaniels Ordeal

Back in January, Matt Eberflus was hired to be Josh McDaniel‘s defensive coordinator in Indy. Of course, things quickly changed. After having accepted the gig, McDaniels rejected the Colts and decided to stick with the Patriots.

The Colts ended up settling on Frank Reich as their new head coach, but general manager Chris Ballard still ended up honoring the coaching contracts that had already been signed. That meant that despite the unexpected coaching change, Eberflus ended up sticking around as the Colts’ defensive coordinator.

While the Colts’ front office has been pretty clear about their feeling on McDaniel’s flip-flopping, the team’s coaching staff has been relatively quiet. Thanks to an ongoing interview series by Andrew Walker on Colts.com, we’ve got to hear some of Eberflus’ thoughts on the ordeal. While the entire article is worth reading, we’ve highlighted some of the notable soundbites below…

On his reaction to Josh McDaniel’s decision to not take the Colts coaching gig and remain with the Patriots:

“Yeah, when you get a situation like that — and I was here with Chris (Ballard), because Chris and I had been talking and I got hired here beforehand — so to me it was a situation where I trusted in Chris, where Chris’ vision was and what he was doing, what he’s all about — the kind of man he is; really the kind of organization this is, from Mr. (Jim) Irsay all the way down. And, to me, it was not unsettling at all. It was very calming to me; it wasn’t a problem, and I knew I wanted to be here, and I’m excited to be here in Indianapolis.”

On whether he was questioning his job security after the team hired Frank Reich as their head coach:

“No. Nope. As soon as it happened, Chris walked right in my office and we had a conversation, and it was done from that point.”

On his feelings about the defensive coordinator gig after learning about McDaniel’s decision:

“Well, you know what? In life adversities happen, and it’s how you handle them that count.”

On transitioning his mindset from being McDaniel’s defensive coordinator to being Reich’s defensive coordinator:

“Well, I just found out right from the beginning what kind of guy Frank Reich is. I mean, he is a high-character — same with Chris, same with Mr. Irsay. You find that out when those things happen, and you’re dealing with solid individuals and a solid franchise. And, to me, it was, ‘Step forward from there and let’s go.’”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Pats, Eagles, Gregory, Redskins

Josh McDaniels said recently his role remains the same, despite Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick helping to convince him to stay and thus spurn the Colts. But the longtime Patriots offensive coordinator’s presence in what’s generally a “notoriously small” draft room was indeed an expansion of McDaniels’ responsibilities, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Although many teams may have written McDaniels off after his controversial flip-flop, he was a perennial fixture in HC carousels leading up to his 11th-hour decision to back out of a Colts deal. But the 42-year-old assistant insists he still wants to be a head coach, and taking part in draft-day proceedings would stand to further bolster those hopes.

Here’s the latest from the Easts:

  • The surgery Brandon Graham underwent will keep him out for the entirety of the Eagles‘ offseason program. Graham is hopeful he will be ready for training camp, per Les Bowen of Philly.com. The 30-year-old defensive end decided to go under the knife to accelerate the healing process from a troublesome high ankle sprain suffered on Christmas night. Graham remains in pursuit of an Eagles extension. His contract expires after the 2018 season.
  • Mychal Kendricks also underwent offseason surgery, per Bowen. The veteran linebacker and perpetual trade-block mainstay had minor ankle surgery. This duo follows Timmy Jernigan and Derek Barnett among Eagles defenders to undergo offseason procedures.
  • Arie Kouandjio will undergo surgery, but his recovery time will be far longer than the Eagles’ spate of defensive players who opted for operations. The Redskins guard suffered an injury which Ian Rapoport of NFL.com is calling a partially torn quadriceps and will soon have surgery (Twitter link). It’s unclear at this point how long Kouandjio will be out, but Rapoport notes the recovery time will likely be several months. A recent report pegged Kouandjio as a possible IR candidate, but after this update categorizes the malady as a partially torn quad, the interior blocker may be able to avoid such a distinction.
  • Randy Gregory will apply for reinstatement soon, and Matt Miller of Bleacher Report notes a Cowboys front office source is optimistic the defensive end will be reinstated this year. Popped for repeated violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, the former second-round pick has only played two games since the 2015 season.

Josh McDaniels “Definitely” Wants To Be HC Again

It’s been a hectic offseason for Josh McDaniels. The coach committed to becoming the next head coach of the Colts before changing his mind and returning to New England. The offensive coordinator told Patriots.com (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com) that he was “thankful” for the opportunity to rejoin the coaching staff, but he acknowledged that he still has a desire to be a head coach.

“You know, there’s a lot that goes into those things. It can be very complicated,” McDaniels said. “I’ll say this, I’ve stated again and again that I definitely want to be a head coach again. At the same time, I love being here. This is where my kids were born and raised. And we’ve made a pretty special life here and that’s not an easy thing to leave. So, there’s a lot to consider.

“Certainly, leaving here, I don’t take lightly, ever. I would never take that lightly. It was a difficult process and I’m very happy with the decision that we made and grateful to be here and continue working towards the 2018 season.”

McDaniels’ first head coaching stint was a mixed bag, as he went 11-17 in one-plus seasons with the Broncos. Add in his flip-flopping on the Colts head coaching gig and it may be difficult for the coordinator to secure another offer. Of course, there’s some assumption that McDaniels will eventually take over for Bill Belichick in New England, but the 42-year-old said he hadn’t received any guarantees on a future promotion.

“Nope. Nope. I mean, my role is the same,” McDaniels said. “Look, I think if you’re here, you have an opportunity to work with and for some of the best people in our game. Maybe some of the best people that have ever done those things in our game. So, I feel like it’s a great opportunity to be here in my role.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Cowboys, Smith, Collins, Patriots, Jets

After sitting out his rookie year with ACL and LCL injuries in his left knee and playing last season in an AFO brace for drop foot, Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith has confirmed that he is no longer wearing the brace, the Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill writes.

Smith said he has not worn the brace since he began working out in February. “Getting that flexion back is going to help tremendously … speed, quickness, explosiveness,” Smith said. “I have been feeling great. Everything is about getting back to 100 percent. Every day I am improving.”

A highly touted prospect coming out of Notre Dame, Smith fell to the second round in 2016 after suffering the serious knee injury in his final collegiate game. He returned to the field in 2017 and finished second on the team with 99 tackles despite inconsistent performances.

After a subpar showing in 2017, the Cowboys decided to address the linebacker group in the first round of the 2018 Draft by selecting Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch. The rookie is expected to slide right in at middle linebacker, while Smith and Sean Lee man the outside spots.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Sticking with the Cowboys, it was reported earlier in the week that third-year defensive tackle Maliek Collins broke his foot during the team’s offseason program. The Dallas Morning News’ David Moore now reports the run-clogging lineman is likely to undergo surgery early next week (Twitter link). The injury is expected to sideline him for around three months, and the hope is he will return around the middle of training camp.
  • The Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spurned a head-coaching gig with the Colts to return to New England in 2018. Though head coach Bill Belichick has said he would take his mentorship “to the next level,” McDaniels told the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels that his role remains the same in 2018. Though his role will stay the same, McDaniels is surely being groomed to take over once the future Hall of Fame coach decides to call it quits.
  • Jets CEO Christopher Johnson is convinced first-round pick Sam Darnold will be a turning point in the franchise’s history, the New York Post’s Brian Lewis writes. “I honestly think they’re going to look back 20 years from now and say this is the moment the Jets shifted into a new year, that they became a great team,” Johnson said. Darnold was heralded by many as the top quarterback in the draft but fell to New York when the Browns opted for Baker Mayfield at No. 1.
  • Also with the Jets, the teams lost its director of college scouting, Matt Bazirgan, who left to become the Texans’ director of player personnel, the New York Post’s Brian Costello writes. He had been with the Jets since 2004 as a college scout. This marks the second straight year the team has had to replace the position.

Extra Points: Bucs, Hargreaves, Seahawks

A video of Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves smoking a cigarette containing an unknown substance surfaced on Instagram this week, as Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times details. Hargreaves, a University of Florida product, has struggled in the first two years of his young career. Last year, the Bucs tried employing Hargreaves as their nickel cornerback before a hamstring injury ended his season after nine games.

The video alone is unlikely to get Hargreaves into trouble with the law or the NFL, but a positive test for a banned substance such as marijuana would violate the league’s substance abuse policy. All in all, it’s simply not a good look for a player who has failed to make good on his first-round status.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • At the owners’ meetings, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter link) heard Mark Sanchez‘s name “as a possibility” for the Seahawks. Someone like Sanchez could serve as a veteran backup to Russell Wilson now that Trevone Boykin is out of the picture.
  • The “Josh McDaniels rule” which would have allowed assistant coaches to sign on as head coaches elsewhere during the playoffs did not pass at this week’s owners’ meetings. Surprisingly, Colts GM Chris Ballard was not among those in support of the rule. “When you’re a playoff team, you’re trying to eliminate all the distractions that you can. And we’re going to be a playoff team and we’re going to have these issues,” Ballard said (via Stephen Holder of the Indy Star). “It becomes a slippery slope. We have rules in place for a reason. I think they’re good rules. It gives you a chance to interview and then, after the season, whatever happens, happens. In our case, he changed his mind and we moved on.”
  • New Broncos defender Su’a Cravens has the ability to play both safety and linebacker, but the team views him strictly as a safety, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Broncos acquired Cravens from Washington on Wednesday in a deal that will net the Redskins a fifth-round pick plus upgraded picks in the fourth and fifth round and a conditional sixth-round choice in 2020.

Patriots’ Josh McDaniels Discusses Colts Flip Flop

Josh McDaniels turned down his second chance to become an NFL head coach this year when he left the Colts at the altar. Nearly two months later, the Patriots offensive coordinator opened up about what took place and the circumstances that led him to staying put in New England. Here’s a look at the highlights of his chat with Jim McBride of the Boston Globe:

On why he remained with the Patriots:

I wasn’t 100 percent sure what the future was. I just hadn’t had any clarity on that. So, where did I fit in? Where there any plans? I just didn’t have much clarity on what my role was here moving forward. Once I heard from Robert and Bill on that Tuesday, it just gave me reason to pause and consider this whole situation. The opportunity to stay here and work for who I think is the greatest owner in sports and the best head football coach in the history of our game, to work with the best quarterback that has ever played . . . Look, I’m privileged to have the opportunity to do that and when they kind of crystallized that — ‘Hey, here’s what we see going forward and here’s how we would like you to fit into it’ — it gave me a reason to stop and say, ‘all right, what’s the best decision for me?’ And certainly it was difficult. But I made the decision on my own, nobody pushed me into it.

On Colts GM Chris Ballard:

Chris was tremendous the whole entire time. He’s an incredible human being. He’s great at what he does. He’s going to be successful. It was difficult. I had a friendship with him — I still do . . . He’s a guy that I have a lot of respect for and admiration for. He was a big reason why I was interested in that job in the first place. It was as difficult a decision as I’ve ever made professionally. He handled it extremely well, he was a complete professional about it.

On his would-be Indy assistants:

I spoke to all of them that night right away, shortly after I talked to Chris. They were professionals. Like I said, it wasn’t easy for anybody. I apologized to them if it put them in an awkward position. They’re all there [in Indianapolis], which I’m very happy about. They have great opportunities, they’re great coaches, they’re great people, and I’m happy that it worked out for them in that regard. Again, it was never my intention to go into this and put anybody in an awkward position or do any harm to anybody or do anything to hurt anybody’s career. That certainly wasn’t a part of my thought process. I just felt like, once I knew the whole picture and I had the opportunity to make a decision, it was tough but I feel like I made the right one.’’

On speculation that his family persuaded him not to relocate:

My family was ready to go to Indianapolis because at that point that was the decision I had made. So, this isn’t a thing where I’m telling you, ‘I couldn’t move and all that’ — that’s not the case. If that were the case I wouldn’t interview. They’re very supportive. My wife’s incredible, my kids are great. Do they love New England? Absolutely . . . And have we been blessed to be part of this organization? No doubt. But I’d say in the long run, this coaching profession is kind of crazy. And they know that. And at some point, if I have to move or if we end up moving, they understand that’s part of the situation and they were ready to do that.’’

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Notes: McDaniels, Rookie QBs, Gronk

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe offers an interesting theory as to why the Patriots made an eleventh hour push to retain offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, a theory that has been proffered by two separate league sources. Volin says team brass was taken aback by Bill Belichick‘s controversial decision to bench Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII, and he says the Krafts were also surprised that Belichick was able to wrangle only a second-round pick in exchange for Jimmy Garoppolo. As such, Volin suggests that keeping McDaniels really may have been less about having a succession plan and more about giving the Krafts more control over the situation. He writes, “[i]f the tension between the Krafts, Belichick, and [Tom] Brady persists, or if Belichick decides to leave the organization in the next year or two, the Krafts now have a backup plan in McDaniels.” 

Now for more out of Foxborough:

  • Former Patriot Willie McGinest said on the NFL Network that he spoke with McDaniels, and that McDaniels said there was “absolutely not” any type of guarantee that he would succeed Belichick as New England’s head coach (link via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). McDaniels did indicate, however, that he would have job security with the Patriots.
  • Citing a “high-level executive” with a rival team, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says that there is another angle to the Pats’ efforts to keep McDaniels. That executive believes that New England is going to find its quarterback of the future this offseason, and the team wants McDaniels to be around to identify and develop that player.
  • Speaking of QBs the Patriots might target in this year’s draft, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com spoke to Senior Bowl executive director and former Browns GM Phil Savage to see who might be Garoppolo 2.0 (assuming, of course, that the upper-echelon passers will be long gone by the time New England is on the clock with the No. 31 overall pick). Savage named Washington State’s Luke Falk, Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky’s Mike White as potential fits, with Lauletta’s skill-set most closely mirroring Garoppolo’s.
  • In the same piece, Reiss reports that the sources close to the situation that he trusts the most say that the decision to bench Butler in Super Bowl LII was purely a football decision, as the team has insisted from the jump. Nonetheless, Reiss does not seem entirely convinced, as he indicates he will do more digging into the matter.
  • Reiss believes, as most do, that Rob Gronkowski will return in 2018 and will not hang up the cleats just yet. Volin says it would be hard to blame Gronk if he did walk away, but he believes the tight end’s comments about retirement are probably just laying the foundation for a new contract, or at least for an incentive package similar to the one the Patriots gave him in 2017.

Belichick Did Most To Sway McDaniels?

Josh McDaniels‘ seminal Tuesday in Foxborough included conversations with both Robert and Jonathan Kraft, but afternoon discussions with Bill Belichick had the most influence on the longtime Patriots OC, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports.

Belichick’s offer included involving McDaniels in conversations about the inner workings of the franchise, from roster construction to cap considerations, and Reiss reports the 42-year-old OC viewed this opportunity as “extremely valuable.”

While Reiss reports Belichick did not explicitly talk McDaniels out of going to the Colts, he could see his longtime assistant was wavering on this decision. The hours of meetings with the Patriots on Tuesday led to a five-minute phone call with Chris Ballard on Tuesday nightReiss notes. While Ballard wished McDaniels luck and didn’t try to talk him out of the about-face maneuver, Reiss reports the second-year GM was “pissed and angry” because this decision “blindsided” him.

Ballard and McDaniels had spoken earlier that morning, with the second-year Colts GM calling to check in on McDaniels and finalize plans for his Wednesday arrival in Indiana. The would-be Colts coach informed Ballard his press conference suit was already chosen, per Reiss. But this obviously changed once Patriots brass — whom multiple outlets have reported did not exercise previous opportunities during the season to express their desire to keep McDaniels — went to work.

However, Reiss notes McDaniels has said privately in the past he does not want to succeed Belichick as HC. He might not have a choice, in the event McDaniels wants to rebuild his reputation as a head coach after a dubious run with the Broncos, after the events of this week.

I don’t think he can ever be a head coach in the NFL,” a former GM told ESPN’s Mike Sando. “I wouldn’t take a chance hiring him. I know it is a stressful time, but what happens again with Josh when the s— gets tight? Does he do the same thing? That is what I would worry about in hiring him as a head coach. That is why I would just pass.

If the owner develops a relationship with him, he has a chance, but GMs will be scared to death.”

McDaniels and perennial GM candidate Nick Caserio‘s close relationship may be the biggest key to a possible chance outside of New England, if/when Caserio takes a GM job. But for now, these two and Belichick will remain as the Patriots’ top decision-makers.

Latest On Josh McDaniels’ Decision, Future

Josh McDaniels will be staying in New England on an unusual contract, with Albert Breer of SI.com hearing the Patriots‘ OC is expected to sign a four- or five-year extension. Coordinators’ deals typically do not run this long, but with the Patriots convincing their longtime play-caller to make this kind of a decision, it makes sense they’d want to keep McDaniels around long-term. Breer notes McDaniels’ current contract is believed to expire after the 2018 season, so the sides figure to hammer out an agreement soon.

Here’s the latest on the McDaniels saga:

  • Nick Caserio‘s presence was a key factor in McDaniels’ decision to spurn the Colts, Breer reports. The Patriots executive’s choice to stay in Foxborough last year likely kept McDaniels from moving to the Bay Area. The tandem would likely be running the 49ers had Caserio become their GM. The two played college football together in Ohio in the 1990s and will continue to be Bill Belichick‘s right-hand men.
  • As for Belichick, Breer notes he’s not operating like a coach who is planning an exit strategy. “He’s certainly not acting like he’s leaving anytime soon,” a source informed Breer. The 65-year-old coach will be entering his 19th season with the Patriots in 2018. While McDaniels may be the heir apparent, Belichick staying on for multiple years would likely drain the remainder of Tom Brady‘s historically long prime and make it more difficult for the prospective McDaniels teams to build on the Belichick squads’ legacies.
  • It appears McDaniels did call the three non-Patriots assistants who were set to be on his first Colts staff. Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets McDaniels phoned Matt Eberflus, Mike Phair and Dave DeGuglielmo to alert them of this seminal about-face. The three have signed deals with the Colts, leaving Chuck Pagano‘s actual successor with an interesting predicament. Chris Ballard said he wanted Eberflus to run his defense regardless of McDaniels’ arrival, however.
  • As for why McDaniels initially became enamored with the Colts, their second-year GM served as the chief reason he was once all set to move to Indianapolis, Breer notes. McDaniels holds Ballard in high regard, and although Andrew Luck was a prime selling point, the Colts’ top decision-maker was the primary reason behind the would-be McDaniels New England exodus.
  • Despite the Patriots’ offensive success under McDaniels, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com writes NFL teams were slow to offer him a second chance after how badly his Broncos tenure went. Robinson noted some around the league questioned whether the 42-year-old assistant had really matured much since his failed Denver stint. The Giants appear to have felt he didn’t. McDaniels became a hot commodity in recent years but now has effectively set a potential bridge to an HC job outside of Massachusetts ablaze. Although, Cesario landing a GM job could lead to an attempt to sell his owner on McDaniels sometime down the line.
  • Not only do the Colts not have any legal recourse they can take after being burned here, Mike Wells and Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com write they don’t look to have grounds for a grievance with the league. McDaniels never signed Colts contract or stopped being the Patriots’ OC.

Bears Questioned McDaniels Leaving Pats

Before Josh McDaniels flip-flopped on the Colts, he was in the running for other head coaching gigs, including the Bears. The Bears ultimately settled on Matt Nagy as their HC, in part because the team questioned whether McDaniels was actually willing to leave the Patriots, Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Josh McDaniels (Vertical)

[RELATED: Bears Meet With CB David Amerson]

Before the Super Bowl, McDaniels spoke glowingly of the Bears and Ryan Pace, using adjectives like ‘‘tremendous’’ and ‘‘very well-prepared’’ to describe the GM. However, it seems that Pace & Co. picked up on McDaniels’ very real trepidation in leaving New England. The Colts had a funny feeling about McDaniels waffling days before they announced his hire, but they surely wish that they had a sense for his cold feet before settling on him and passing on runner-up Mike Vrabel.

Now that Vrabel and other top names are off the board, the Colts will be forced to start from square one with a whole new cast of candidates. As of this writing, the team has interviews scheduled with Saints assistant Dan Campbell and Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich while an interview request has been put in for Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub may also be in consideration.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.