That creates at least five head coach openings, and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels might generate attention as a potential replacement. McDaniels spent one full season, and part of a second, as the Broncos head coach in 2009-10, compiling a record of 11-17. He rejoined the Patriots late last season, and this season has been overseeing the offense, which scored 557 points in the regular season, third-highest total in NFL history.
Asked on Monday about the possibility of becoming a head coach again, McDaniels stressed how happy he is working for the Patriots. But he certainly didn't slam the door on potentially going elsewhere.
"Hereís what Iíll say about that: Iím thrilled to be back here, I came back here for all the right reasons, to learn, and to get better as a coach, to work in an organization that I really have a great deal of respect and appreciation for," McDaniels said. "Iím happy here, my familyís happy here, and weíre excited about whatís ahead of us here in the playoffs.
"To talk about any other opportunities at this point is, to me, irrelevant, because Iím totally focused on this season and what this season holds, and couldnít be more excited to be here and be a New England Patriot and try to do the best job that I can with the title that I have now."
If he has the chance to change titles and become an NFL head coach again, McDaniels was asked, would he be better equipped the second time around?
"I think that every opportunity that you have, and that certainly Iíve gone through, since I started a long time ago, in 2001 here, has been a learning experience for me," McDaniels said. "Thereís certainly going to be mistakes along the way in every role that you hold and that you have an opportunity to work in, and as long as you can go through that process and try to get better from each mistake you make, or each positive result that you get, thereís always something to learn from those things that try to make you a better coach, a better leader, a better teacher, a better person, a better communicator, a better staff member.
"Hopefully thatís what Iíve tried to do with all my experiences, including the ones that Iíve recently had that werenít here in New England. I hope every day that Iím better than I was the day before, and every year I can say the same thing, so hopefully going forward, in any role that I have, I want to be as good as I can be for that organization that Iím working for. And like I said, I couldnít be more happy to be here in New England."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said McDaniels benefited from his return last season, since plenty of the team's personnel had changed since McDaniels first left, and has been pleased with the coordinator's performance this season.
"Josh, he does a good job in all areas: player evaluation, scheme, technique, play calling, getting everything coordinated. He does a good job," Belichick said. "Heís done a solid job for us. Heís meant a lot."
As for possibly losing McDaniels again to another team in need of a head coach, Belichick said, "As far as any other situation, I really couldnít comment on any other team or situation. I have no idea what somebody else is looking for or what their criteria are or what their situation is, for that matter, as an outsider. As I said, I think Josh has done a great job this year. How that fits into some other situation, I have no idea."