FOXBOROUGH - Coaching can be a humbling profession.
For much of last season, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was the maestro of arguably the greatest offense in the history of the NFL, one that set records for points in a season (589) and touchdowns (75). His name was bandied about for head coaching positions.
But in the biggest game of the season, Super Bowl XLII, the symphony of offensive precision the precocious Ohio native had conducted all season was silenced by the New York Giants in a 17-14 loss. Patriot protocol is not to talk about the past, but McDaniels did touch on what he gleaned from that game.
"Not that we want to stress too much about that game at this point because we have moved on, but I think offensively it takes all of us," said McDaniels. "It takes the coaches. It takes the players on every play to be successful. Every game is the same way. If you want to put together 10-12-play drives to go down and score touchdowns, then you need consistency, people to work together, and you can't have breakdowns, whether that be from a coaching standpoint or a playing standpoint. That game was one example of that."
Judging by McDaniels's mannerisms answering that question, he is motivated by the way the offense sputtered in the Super Bowl. He is eager and excited to correct his mistakes, starting tomorrow at Gillette Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Not satisfied with an offense that was nearly perfect last season, the 32-year-old McDaniels spent the offseason tinkering and tweaking and rethinking the playbook to counter any so-called "blueprint" the Giants may have laid down and to find new ways to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers.
"We are trying to do different things with all of our players. You will probably see some things this year that you didn't see last year for Randy [Moss], Wes [Welker], Jabar [Gaffney], the tight end position, and the running backs. That is just part of our growing process."
With his success at such a young age, sometimes it's easy to forget McDaniels is still growing, too. Yes, McDaniels, who officially became the team's offensive coordinator in 2006, has been the primary play-caller since 2005, but he is only a year older than Moss and quarterback Tom Brady.
Still, he is the unquestioned boss of the offense.
"Everybody knows that on our side of the ball he runs the show," said Gaffney. "That's him. He's the man. No questions, no doubts with his age or anything. We know when we come in here and open up our game plan to see what we have going in for that week that he's put in the time to put in the right plays for us whoever we're playing."
Gaffney, who played for Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida and spent training camp in 2006 with Philadelphia coach Andy Reid, said McDaniels is as innovative an offensive coach as he's had - and the most industrious.
"He's up there. He's real creative and has a great understanding of the defense," said Gaffney. "That allows him to come and put together offensive plays. Hat's off to him. With Bill, they're both here all day. If you want to find them, they're here. That goes to show that when we play out there they put us in the best situations to win."
In some respects, McDaniels is in a no-win situation this season. It's possible the offense could execute at just as high a level this year and still not top last year's 36.8-points-per-game average, especially if it takes Brady a few games to get up to speed after missing the preseason, in part because of a right foot injury.
McDaniels didn't seem that concerned about Brady's injury, citing his practice participation.
"We try to simulate situational football in almost every practice that we have," McDaniels said. "He has been in some situations that would occur in games."
Super Bowl XLII was a situation McDaniels probably couldn't have anticipated. That's part of his job, trying to anticipate the unanticipated. It's what drives him.
"I think from a coaching standpoint, every week you come in you are trying to 'crack the code,' " said McDaniels. "You have to figure out what to do and figure out, 'Is this the best way to approach this this week or not?' Whatever you did the previous week doesn't necessarily matter. You have to go to that next week and find out what gives you the best chance of being successful and trying to apply it and work like [heck] during the week to get it to work the way you want on Sunday."