Josh McDaniels took a second foray into an NFL head coaching position with the Las Vegas Raiders, ending a second stint as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. McDaniels moved from New England alongside general manager Dave Ziegler to Vegas in the bid to revive the fortunes of the franchise. Jon Gruden left the Raiders in the middle of the 2021 campaign following a controversy, and although Rich Bisaccia kept Oakland competitive, owner Mark Davis opted to hand the reins to McDaniels for a new start for the franchise.
The AFC West has become the most competitive division in the NFL in the off-season due to the Denver Broncos’ trade for Russell Wilson to go along with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs and Justin Hebert and the Los Angeles Chargers. The Raiders are 6/1 outsiders in the NFL betting odds to win the AFC West, putting McDaniels and quarterback Derek Carr under the spotlight. McDaniels will be under pressure anyway after an interesting tenure in the NFL in his previous posts. Or even check out NFL predictions.
McDaniels last earned a berth as a head coach in the 2009 campaign as a rising upstart at the Denver Broncos. At the age of 32, he was named the youngest head coach in the NFL due to his success in New England, orchestrating a record-breaking offense alongside Tom Brady in 2007 and then managing quarterback Matt Cassel to an 11-5 record following a season-ending injury for Brady in 2008. Despite a fast start to his reign winning his first game games, McDaniels washed out at the Broncos, losing 17 out of his next 20 games.
It took a return to New England and three Super Bowl titles in five years alongside Brady and Bill Belichick to restore his reputation. However, he was on the verge of taking the head coaching position with the Indianapolis Colts in the 2018 campaign before backing out at the last moment. There were doubts whether McDaniels would receive another offer after his treatment of the Colts, but the Raiders have taken the plunge with the 45-year-old.
McDaniels has admitted that he was too brash and inexperienced in his first foray into head coaching. He notably fell out with quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall. McDaniels’ demeanour with his players resulted in a near mutiny in the 2010 campaign before he was fired. It has been a common trait for former assistants of Belichick to struggle to implement his methods. McDaniels is not alone as Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge have all failed in their bids to emulate the GOAT coach.
On the other hand it took Belichick himself a second turn to learn from his mistakes at the Cleveland Browns. McDaniels has seemingly learned from his last experience reaching out to quarterback Derek Carr in a bid to form a rapport that he enjoyed to great effect with Brady in New England. McDaniels’ success with quarterbacks other than Brady at the Patriots was notable, thriving with Cassel in 2008 and with rookie Mac Jones in 2021. If McDaniels can return Carr to his form of 2016 when he was a contender for the MVP award then the Raiders could well punch above their weight.
A trade for Davante Adams stunned the NFL, but has handed the Raiders a true number one wideout to pair with Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller. Defensively, the Raiders secured a savvy move for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who performed heroics with the New York Giants’ defense under Judge over the last two seasons. If McDaniels and Ziegler have found the right blend, the Raiders may well have benefitted from the Broncos, Colts and Patriots’ loss as one of the brightest minds in the game could have found his feet.