FOXBOROUGH — Success, and timing, frequently link a handful of coaches to a handful of coaching positions, whether the job is currently available.
Pat Shurmur remains the head coach of the Browns, but league sources indicate that he and general manager Tom Heckert will not keep their jobs after this season, with Michael Lombardi a serious candidate to join the Browns’ front office.
ESPN Cleveland reported Wednesday that Lombardi will be joining the team as director of personnel after the season.
Should that occur, these sources say, Lombardi will have Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a short list of head coaching targets, which would include (and likely start with) two college coaches: Alabama’s Nick Saban and Oregon’s Chip Kelly.
Saban, considering his professional and personal comfort as the king of college football, and Kelly (who will be able to demand personnel control if he wants it) are considered long shots for the Browns job. That would leave McDaniels as the most viable candidate.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, citing an unidentified source, said McDaniels would jump at the chance to coach the Browns. He’s been an assistant with the Patriots for nine seasons (2001-08, 2012), and was 11-17 as head coach of the Broncos from 2009-10.
McDaniels is an Ohio native and graduated from John Carroll University, which is located near Cleveland. For those reasons — and because his first head coaching job was with the Browns — Patriots coach Bill Belichick might support such a move for McDaniels.
The big question for the Patriots is, under that scenario, who would succeed McDaniels as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach? The only viable candidate on the current staff is receivers coach Chad O’Shea, who is in his third season and, like McDaniels, was a college quarterback. Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, a Patriots assistant from 2009-11 before leaving to coach under his father, Kirk, could be another option.
If Lombardi and McDaniels land in Cleveland, sources said one of their first moves could be an attempted trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, whom Lombardi endorsed to Belichick before the Patriots selected him in the third round of the 2011 draft.
Brady sits out
Tom Brady met with the media on Wednesday morning, as is his weekly custom during the season. He was in the locker room following practice, also not uncommon.
But for the first time since the season began, Brady did not practice, sitting out Wednesday’s workout with what the team listed as a right shoulder injury. He attempted a career-high 65 passes in Sunday night’s 41-34 loss to the 49ers, so it’s likely that Brady was the beneficiary of a “maintenance day,” to borrow a hockey term.
“It was a physical game, so I think everyone’s a little bit sore from that game,” Brady said, when asked if he needed to ice his arm down after the loss.
Linebacker Mike Rivera was the only other eligible player to miss practice. He left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and did not return.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who left Sunday’s game with a knee injury and also did not return, was back at practice, participating in a limited role. He was of 18 Patriots listed as being limited, a group that included tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Brady is one of the winningest quarterbacks in NFL history, but it’s the losses that leave a lasting imprint, he said. Losing to the 49ers is the most recent defeat (of the 39 he’s suffered in the regular season during his career), but Brady said they don’t get easier to deal with.
“I don’t think you get over any loss you ever had. I probably remember every single one,” Brady said. “That’s part of being mentally tough, is to move forward and learn from your mistakes, understand what you need to do better. That’s what the last two days have been about, as well as getting ready for Jacksonville and the different things that they do to try to screw up offenses.”
Brady spent much of his news conference talking about learning from the mistakes made against the 49ers, especially when it comes to reducing turnovers. The Patriots lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions, losing the turnover battle for the first time this season. They came in with a plus-24 turnover margin.
In Brady’s opinion, have there been any good losses during his time with the Patriots?
“I don’t think losing is the key to that. I think learning from your mistakes, whether you win or lose, is important,” he said. “Progressing over the course of a season, through practices and games, and realizing what you do well and what you don’t do well. The final score, I don’t think, really does the trick. It’s your ability to accelerate through the course of a season, and not really level off or regress.”
Hitting the mark
With 506 points, the Patriots are guaranteed to average at least 30 per game during the regular season, even if they get shut out in their final two games. It marks the third straight year they’ll average more than 30 points a game, joining the Bears (1941-43) and Rams (1949-51, 1999-2001) as the only teams to hit that figure for three consecutive seasons . . . The Patriots have scored more points since the bye week (244 in six games) than the Jaguars (219) have scored all season . . . Three Patriots — Gronkowski at tight end, guard Logan Mankins, and linebacker Jerod Mayo — led the AFC Pro Bowl fan voting at their positions . . . Brady is 5-0 against the Jaguars, including 2-0 in the playoffs.