On Tuesday morning, the Colts announced they were hiring Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to be their next head coach.
Everyone around the NFL knew this was a done deal a month ago. Everyone, it seems, except for McDaniels. Three hours after the Colts’ official Twitter account tweeted links for fans to livestream McDaniels’s press conference, and welcomed his trademark visor to the Indy sideline, and posted articles and videos helping you “Get to know Josh McDaniels,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter dropped a bomb: McDaniels has decided not to coach the Colts after all. Yikes!
Stunner: Patriots’ OC Josh McDaniels has decided NOT to accept Colts’ HC job and will remain with New England, sources told ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 7, 2018
(The Colts’ Twitter account deleted the posts, but don’t fret: We have screenshots!)
According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, the Colts had an inkling this could happen and have candidates lined up to interview for the job. (Their social media manager must not be in the loop.)
Schefter reported that McDaniels was “vacillating on this decision throughout the interview process, ever since meeting with the Colts on wild-card weekend. It is the reason a second meeting with Colts officials and team owner Jim Irsay was held. McDaniels was trying to get comfortable with the idea of taking his family out of New England and moving to Indianapolis.”
Also tilting the decision was a late push from Pats owner Robert Kraft, who sweetened McDaniels’s contract over the past two days, according to Schefter, and ESPN’s Mike Reiss added that McDaniels considered both his family and Bill Belichick’s long-term job status as part of his decision.
Meanwhile, Twitter has decided that Kraft is still salty about Deflategate, and one of Schefter’s sources agrees.
Text from one league source: “That’s Kraft putting it to the Colts again. He will forever try and (expletive) that place ever since deflate gate.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 7, 2018
McDaniels was also a leading candidate for jobs with the Titans and the Giants, among other teams, and was considered one of the best coaching prospects on the market before deciding on Indy. The pairing of McDaniels and Andrew Luck looked like it could blossom into one of the best HC-QB combos in recent memory, though Luck had shoulder surgery last January and hasn’t played since.
Assistant coaches on playoff squads are often in high demand for head-coaching gigs, though they are not allowed to formally accept jobs until their teams are eliminated from the postseason. However, due to the competitive realities of assembling a coaching staff, teams often verbally agree on deals with coaches during the playoffs, and the new hires begin assembling staffs in the shadows. That’s what happened with McDaniels and the Colts, and while McDaniels had not formally signed his contract yet, breaking a verbal agreement is rare, and the assistant coaches who left jobs to join the Colts staff are now in limbo.
Perhaps the highest-profile example of a coach reneging on an agreement to become head coach is Belichick, McDaniels’s mentor, who backed out of becoming the Jets’ next head coach in an infamous press conference in January 2000, and wound up with the Patriots a week later.
It’s safe to say the Colts are now behind in the hiring process, and though the cream of the coaching crop may now be gone, Indianapolis has the pick of the NFL litter to find its next coach.
Why McDaniels ditched the Indy job and whether he is the heir apparent to Belichick are still mysteries, but one thing is for sure: The Patriots will host the Colts this year, and when the NFL schedule comes out, it’s worth circling on your calendar.