Bill Belichick is the New England Patriots’ head coach.
Rightfully so, Belichick, alongside future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, get most of the love when it comes to New England’s four Super Bowl triumphs since the turn of the millennium.
This year, even after a 3-0 start to the season with their superstar signal caller missing, it’s someone else on the coaching staff making waves in Foxborough. That man is offensive coordinator/qb coach Josh McDaniels.
McDaniels was in the deep end well before the season started. He knew he’d be missing Brady for four games at the start of the season, but despite the magnitude of the loss, he’d had ample time to prepare.
But when magnetic tight end Rob Gronkowski went down with a hamstring injury before a snap had even been taken, the 40-year-old oc knew he had a situation on his hands.
Even starting left tackle Nate Solder was going to be missing the season opening away tie with the Arizona Cardinals.
But the prospect of facing last year’s NFC West champions with a first time starting quarterback did not bother the Patriots in the least, leaving Cardinals Stadium with a 23-21 win, with Jimmy Garoppolo going for 264 yards on 24 of 33 with a touchdown.
Missing two of their offensive stars, McDaniels’ offensive game plan was simple, effective and best of all, it worked. Without a lot of time in the pocket, Garoppolo got the ball out quickly to receivers to make plays and ground.
This was best on display during the Pats’ game winning drive in the fourth quarter.
Despite missing more offensive than you could wave a stick at, NE’s play calling and execution looked effortless – the sign of good preparedness which stems from good coaching.
Jimmy Garoppolo and New England arguably looked even better in week two against the Miami Dolphins, which saw much less conservative play calling, until again, their sheriff went down.
Enter third string rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who took charge of unadventurous Patriots offence the rest of the way, similar to week one, which made the 23 year old look like he had taken over 1,000 snaps in the NFL.
This week against the Houston Texans was a mauling – the Pats were clinical on both sides of the ball, but in his first start, Jacoby Brissett looked as home as Garoppolo had in week one.
Most pundits pointed out that McDaniels’ specially tailored option offence for Brissett went a long way to making the young man feel like the team belonged to him.
Very few of the plays run against Houston looked like they belonged in a Tom Brady playbook.
Of course, mention must go to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia here also. NE’s first shutout of the season likely built a lot of the confidence Brissett enjoyed in his first full NFL game.
Patricia has been mentioned many times in the “head coach in waiting” category, but it looks as if Josh McDaniels has finally entered that echelon as well.
During his first time around with the Denver Broncos, that was not the case. Many will point out that McDaniels was not put in a position to win, which was indeed the case, but equally, McDaniels was probably not ready also.
He came back to New England in 2012, after a stint in the St. Louis Rams’ staff also, and had returned a much better coach than when he’d left.
Seven of Bill Belichick’s past assistants have gone on to be NFL head coaches, with varied success, but given the right situation, Josh McDaniels looks as if he is finally ready to thrive.