INDIANAPOLIS — Josh McDaniels is no longer Patriots offensive coordinator, but he still has great insight into the organization he spent eight seasons with before leaving in January to become head coach of the Denver Broncos.
McDaniels, who was one of the 20 NFL head coaches or front-office personnel that addressed reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine today, gave glowing reviews of both his former quarterback, Matt Cassel, and his ostensible replacement as playcaller, Patriots quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien.
One knock on Cassel that has picked up some momentum in recent weeks is that the backup-turned-franchise tagged QB isn’t valuable in the trade market because he’s strictly a product of McDaniels’s tutelage and the Patriots system; he wouldn’t be able to experience the same success playing for another team.
McDaniels shot down that notion.
“There are a lot of things about Matt that are very ideal for that position, he’s got size and all the rest of it,” said McDaniels. “I was a small part of his success, and he was a big part of my success. I think whatever challenge Matt Cassel has in front of him, whether that be in New England or if it happens to be somewhere else, I think he’s going to respond to it the same way he has responded since he walked in the door in New England, which is to meet it head on with a great attitude, an incredible work ethic and to try to do everything he can to make himself better.
“So, if that’s what you’re looking for in an NFL quarterback you probably got a shot.”
As for O’Brien, who replaced McDaniels as the team’s quarterbacks coach and presumptive playcaller, but was not given the title of offensive coordinator (the Patriots don’t have one), McDaniels said O’Brien is “very, very deserving” of his promotion from wide receivers coach.
“I know he’ll do a great job, very well prepared, awesome, awesome to work with,” said McDaniels. “[He is] a very, very good friend of mine, who will be a good friend forever, and I know he’s going to do a great job. He’s ultra-prepared, and the players respond to him. He got the opportunity to work with the receivers last year, and I think that’s vital, and he’ll do a great job I know he will.”
McDaniels was in a similar role in 2005, when he replaced Charlie Weis as lead offensive coach, but was not given the title of offensive coordinator.
Just how much input did Patriots coach Bill Belichick have in 2005, when McDaniels was in O’Brien’s role?
“As much as Bill needed to give us,” said McDaniels. “If he felt like it was going ok then it might not be a lot. If he felt like we needed more then he would give us more. He has a great sense of the pulse of that. If he really needs to step in, and do a lot then he will. But that’s something that I’m sure he’ll sense as he goes through this process.”
When asked if he had called the plays in 2005, when he was in O’Brien’s position, McDaniels only offered a wink.