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What Happens in Vegas? - What Josh McDaniels’ Potential Departure for Raiders’ HC Job Means for the Patriots

The potential loss of Josh McDaniels would be tough for the Patriots to overcome. Who might be in line to fill his shoes in 2022?

As legendary play-by-play commentator Jim Ross would say, ‘Business is about to pick up’ in the NFL coaching carousel; especially when it comes to potentially poaching the staff of the New England Patriots.

With Patriots’ defensive assistant Jerod Mayo having already received two requests, one name has been conspicuous by its relative absence from head coaching rumors: offensive coordinator Josh McDanies. However, over the past 48 hours, McDaniels’ name has begun to surface as a possible candidate for the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coaching vacancy. On Thursday, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones indicated that McDaniels’ name was being mentioned among the Raiders’ potential targets :

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler strengthened the promise of Jones’ initial report by offering his findings regarding Las Vegas’ coaching vacancy : “I’ve also been told to watch out for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as a candidate here,” Fowler wrote.

The Raiders have already reached out to the Patriots to request interviews with Mayo and with director of player personnel Dave Ziegler for their vacant GM spot. At present, no formal request has been made by Las Vegas regarding McDaniels. However, team owner Mark Davis has stated his intentions on making a “splash” when it comes to hiring his next head coach. Hiring McDaniels would certainly qualify.

McDaniels spent nearly two seasons as the Denver Broncos’ head coach between 2009 and 2010. He had initially accepted an offer become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. However, he made an eleventh-hour decision to remain with the Patriots, as offensive coordinator. The 45-year-old has interviewed for one head-coaching position in each of the last three hiring cycles, meeting with the Green Bay Packers in 2019, the Cleveland Browns in 2020 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021. His prowess in developing rookie quarterback Mac Jones, and helping him make the transition from the college level to the NFL last season, was expected to make McDaniels a sought-after commodity in the head coaching searches of multiple teams.

Should McDaniels’ depart New England for Las Vegas, it would create a sizable void on the Patriots’ offensive coaching staff. While a complete list of qualified candidates is still being compiled, here are a handful of names to watch in the coming days.

The ‘Internals’

With long-time running backs coach Ivan Fears expected to be near-retirement, it is highly-unlikely that the most-tenured assistant on the Patriots staff would be eager to accept the team’s top coaching position, save for the head job.

Despite assistants such as Mick Lombardi (wide receivers), Carmen Bricillo (offensive line) and Vinny Sunsieri (running backs) showing promise, each appears to lack the pro experience required to navigate a pro-level offense in all phases.

As such, two names on the Patriots current coaching staff may receive serious consideration:

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Nick Caley

Nick coached at the collegiate level for 10 years before becoming part of the Patriots' staff in 2015. In 2017, Caley was promoted and became the tight ends coach for the Patriots. Caley added to his resume in 2020, by adding the title of being the teams fullbacks coach in addition to his duties as tight ends coach. During his time in New England, Caley has earned a solid reputation for his leadership and knowledge among his colleagues, as well as his players.

Troy Brown

A beloved New England Patriots during his playing days, Brown has earned a great deal of respect in the coaches room throughout the past couple of seasons. At the beginning of the 2019 NFL season, he began coaching in an unofficial capacity by assisting then-wide receivers coach Joe Judge, who was often busy with his other role as special teams coordinator. In 2020, Brown officially joined the Patriots coaching staff, serving as the teams running backs/kick returners coach. In 2021, Brown was announced as the wide receivers/kick returners coach. No stranger to success, Brown would immediately command the respect needed to direct the Patriots offense, if chosen for the role.

Bill O’Brien

Though he may be recently remembered for his struggles as both head coach and general manager of the Houston Texans, O’Brien is a quite accomplished offensive coach. He joined the Patriots in 2007 as an offensive assistant, before being promoted to wide receivers coach. Following McDaniels’ departure in 2008, O’Brien became the quarterbacks coach and offensive play-caller following the 2008 season. He was officially promoted to offensive coordinator in February 2011, before leaving the team after the 2012 season to accept the head coaching job at Penn State University.

Should McDaniels take his talents to the Nevada desert, O'Brien would once again appear to be the most logical choice to succeed him. Despite the blemishes on his head coaching resume, O’Brien helped navigate a Patriots offense in 2010, which featured ball protection, efficient running and spreading the ball to multiple pass catchers; including a fearsome two-tight-end-set of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. O’Brien might be able to find similar success with New England’s current tight-end-tandem of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. He also has familiarity with an offensive system designed to accentuate the ability of current Patriots’ quarterback Mac Jones. Having spent the past season as Alabama’s offensive coordinator under head coach Nick Saban, O’Brien ran a similar scheme for the Crimson Tide in 2021. This, combined with his previous experience working under Belichick, would lessen his initiation period with New England.

Anthony Lynn

Though the most unlikely of the Patriots potential choices, Lynn is still capable of coordinating a versatile offensive system. Prior to his four seasons as the LOs Angeles Chargers’ head coach, Lynn was primarily a running backs coach during his career as an assistant. He is no stranger to the AFC East, having spent time with both the New York Jets (as RBs coach) and with the Buffalo Bills. Lynn was the Bills’ OC for most of the 2016 season. That year, the Bills had the league’s top-ranked rushing offense with the second-most attempts. Lynn, a former running back himself, is known for his run-game prowess. Should Fears leave via retirement (in addition to McDaniels), his ability to direct a rushing attack led by Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson could make him an appealing option for the Pats as offensive coordinator.

Lynn often receives criticism for his ability to orchestrate an equally stout passing game. However his resume with the Chargers offers notable opposition to that argument. Throughout his four seasons as head coach, the Chargers were top-10 in the league in pass attempts three times, ranking among the league’s best in DVOA. Having coached both Phillip Rivers and Justin Herbert to tangible success, there is evidence which supports Lynn’s capabilities of coaching a stout passing attack with the right personnel. In New England, many of those pieces are already in place. Lynn is well-versed in the offensive skill set of former Bolts’ tight end (and current Patriot) Hunter Henry.

Admittedly, it may be a long shot. However, much like O’Brien, Lynn’s struggles as a head coach should not fall upon his potential as a solid offensive coordinator. Having recently parted ways with the Detroit Lions, Lynn might be in line for a call from New England as both sides gauge interest.

Chad O’Shea

O’Shea has long been linked to the Patriots' as a potential successor to McDaniels. In 2009, O'Shea became New England’s wide receivers coach, and remained in that role until 2019. However, it should be noted that his input into the Patriots offensive strategy continued to grow during that time.

In February 2019, the Miami Dolphins announced O'Shea as their offensive coordinator, where he joined Brian Flores. Despite being familiar with each other from their shared time in New England, Flores and the Dolphins elected a new direction for the Fins’ offense, thus firing O'Shea after one season. Though rumors of a Foxboro reunion began to swirl around him, O’Shea was hired by the Cleveland Browns. For the past two seasons, he has served as Cleveland’s wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator, under head coach Kevin Stefanski, with whom he worked as an offensive assistant with the Minnesota Vikings. O’Shea’s ability to work with quarterbacks in the passing game means that he would at least get a look from the Patriots brass in their pursuit of a potential McDaniels’ replacement.