When Josh McDaniels was hired for his first head coaching job in Denver as a precocious 32-year-old, he flamed out almost immediately because he realizes now that he didn’t really know what the job entailed.
The experience with the Broncos that ended with his firing before the end of his second season humbled McDaniels, who then went back and spent another decade as a coordinator.
Now 13 years later, he’s ready for his next shot as a head coach with the Las Vegas Raiders and hopes the lessons he learned back then lead to more success his second time around.
“When I went to Denver, I knew a little bit of football,” McDaniels said today after being introduced as Raiders coach. “I didn’t really know people and how important that aspect of this process and maintaining the culture and building the team was. I failed, and I didn’t succeed at it. Looking at that experience has been one of the best things in my life in terms of my overall growth as a person, as a coach.”
After backing out of a deal in 2018 to coach Indianapolis after it had already been announced, McDaniels jumped at the opportunity to coach the Raiders where he will be teamed with a general manager he has known for decades.
McDaniels and new GM Dave Ziegler were teammates in college at John Carroll University, worked together in Denver and then again the past nine years with the Patriots.
That trust was a factor for both McDaniels and Ziegler for taking the job and for owner Mark Davis, who set out during the process to replace coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock to find a coach-GM combo that could work well together.
While McDaniels comes in with the higher profile, Ziegler said he will have final say on personnel.
“Obviously Josh and I are tied in many ways in our vision of how to build a team and our vision of what we want in terms of the players that we bring into the building is very connected,” Ziegler said. “But at the end of the day when it’s time to make decisions on personnel, while we’re work together, those final decisions will be made by me.”
Davis made the change despite the Raiders making the playoffs for just the second time in the past 19 seasons. Gruden resigned in October after the release of his old offensive emails and interim coach Rich Bisaccia led the team to the playoffs where they lost in the wild-card round to Cincinnati.
Davis then fired Mayock after the season and looked for a clean slate to build on the foundation in place. He said this is not a “rebuilding” situation and that he believes the experience McDaniels and Ziegler had in New England will help the Raiders get to the next level.
“I’ve just always seen the Patriots as a team that not only adapts from week to week or half to half, but maybe even series to series,” Davis said. “I just believe in Josh’s ability to assess a situation and make the changes in real time, and that’s always been something that’s impressed me.”
McDaniels is viewed as one of the brighter offensive minds in the game with his many years working with Tom Brady on the Patriots and his work this season helping to develop rookie Mac Jones.
But his first experience as head coach fell apart quickly following a 6-0 start in 2009. Denver finished 8-8 that season and McDaniels was fired with a 3-9 record in 2010, losing 17 of his final 22 games as coach.
McDaniels was also fined $50,000 by the NFL for not reporting that the team’s director of video operations videotaped a San Francisco 49ers walk-through practice before the teams played a game in 2010 in London. The investigation determined that McDaniels did not know about the taping in advance and declined to view it, but he was punished for not immediately reporting the infraction to the league.
McDaniels takes over a team that has several key pieces in place, including quarterback Derek Carr, who is entering the final year of his contract. The new regime will need to make a decision about whether extend Carr’s contract and build around him, trade him for draft picks or push a decision off until after the 2022 season.
“I think the one thing that we all understand is there’s going to be a process of us learning Derek, Derek learning us, and fitting all those pieces together,” Ziegler said. “I think that’s going to be step one is building the relationship, understanding what Derek does well. Derek understanding what Josh and the offensive staff is trying to build, and I think as that collaboration goes, then you kind of see how everything fits together. You have to see how everything fits together and kind of work from that point.”