When Josh McDaniels went to Gillette Stadium on Tuesday morning, he was there to clean out his office and say goodbye, sources with knowledge of his thought process told NFL.com. Instead, sources say, McDaniels met for hours with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, owner Robert Kraft and president Jonathan Kraft, who laid out how they felt about him and the process going forward -- one that surely seems tied to Belichick's future plans.
By around 7 p.m. ET, McDaniels was calling Colts general manager Chris Ballard and backing out of a deal announced just hours earlier to become Indianapolis' new head coach, opting to stay with the Patriots as offensive coordinator instead of taking his long-awaited second shot to run his own show.
While the health of Andrew Luck's throwing shoulder and the prospect of working for owner Jim Irsay were part of McDaniels' thought process in taking the job, he'd gotten comfortable with those issues and neither were the deciding factor for him to spurn the Colts, one person who knows McDaniels well said. Neither was the contract -- the Colts were going to pay him "fabulously," another source said. It was about McDaniels making a decision for his family, including four school-aged children, and his future with the franchise with which he has spent 14 of his 17 NFL seasons.
Belichick, 65, intends to remain as Patriots coach for at least one more season, a source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. But McDaniels, 41, now appears to be the Patriots' head coach-in-waiting, if not contractually. (Like all teams, the Patriots would need to comply with the Rooney Rule before making a change.) McDaniels has one year remaining on his existing contract and didn't sign another immediately, a source said, though that's expected to happen at some point.
The conversations with Belichick and the Krafts changed the landscape in the hours after the Colts announced McDaniels had agreed to terms. The Colts were so far down the road with the McDaniels hire they'd already hired three of his assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus -- all three are expected to remain on staff if they choose -- and made plans to interview others. They'd scheduled a press conference for Wednesday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium. Now the Colts must turn their attention to rebooting a search process that effectively ended three weeks ago when they locked on to McDaniels as their guy.
The team interviewed five known candidates in its initial search process and McDaniels was the only one to get a second interview. Matt Nagy quickly accepted the Chicago Bears' job. Mike Vrabel had a strong interview, but has since taken the Tennessee Titans job. Kris Richard was subsequently let go as the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator and still could use some seasoning. It's unclear how serious the Colts were about Baylor coach Matt Rhule.
Other names that could surface in the new search include Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub, Saints assistant head coach/tight ends Dan Campbell, Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
For the Colts, they still have a selling point in Ballard, who's almost universally respected within the league as an evaluator and a person. They have Luck, albeit with some concerns surrounding him that nobody can dismiss until he plays again, and a viable backup quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, on a roster that Ballard is beginning to rebuild.
For McDaniels, the way things fell apart with the Colts likely ends his multi-year run as a coveted head coaching candidate. He also was considered the frontrunner with the Browns three years ago and the 49ers last year before pulling out of those searches. Sources told NFL.com's Mike Garafolo that even McDaniels' own agent, Bob LaMonte, told McDaniels he was making the biggest mistake of his professional life.