Addition of a Familiar Face Could Save Belichick's Job

Jan 4, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and
Jan 4, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and / Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

For New England Patriots fans that are looking for owner Robert Kraft to clean house after a humiliating 4-13 season and yet another playoff-less season in the post-Brady era, new reports may not generate a ton of optimism.

Head coach Bill Belichick and Kraft held their initial post-season meeting on Monday to "discuss the direction of the franchise and whether Belichick will continue to be part of it". There is an expectation that the two will meet again this week before any decision is made. As for the content of those discussions:

"Belichick will need to lay out a firm plan to dramatically improve the on-field product after the Patriots’ worst record (4-13) of Kraft’s ownership. Part of that plan may include a reunion with former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is considered a candidate to return, sources close to the situation said."

Jeff Howe of The Athletic

McDaniels is a long-time Belichick disciple, having spent 19 seasons on the Patriots' coaching staff, including 13 years as the team's offensive coordinator. After leaving New England for the head coaching job with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2022, McDaniels was kicked to the curb by owner Mark Davis during a quasi player coup.

Bringing McDaniels into the fold would also raise questions about Bill O'Brien's future in Foxborough. The Patriots offense was the worst in the NFL in scoring and third-worst in yards, falling well short of the expected leap when O'Brien was brought in to replace the defensive coordinator-posing-as offensive coordinator Matt Patricia. It would be hard to envision a scenario where one of the two surrenders play calling responsibilities and they co-exist.

New England owns the third overall pick in this April's NFL Draft, and selecting a franchise quarterback with that pick is certainly on the table. If the Patriots do select a quarterback, the question of whose tutelage he will fall under will be paramount to the development of the young signal caller. McDaniels was able to get the most out of Mac Jones in his rookie season than any other offensive coordinator has. 2021 has undeniably been Jones' best campaign. After his rookie season, it looked like a very real possibility that Jones could be the best quarterback out of his draft class. Now, he could struggle to even find a roster spot in the league. Could a McDaniels return even throw a lifeline to Mac Jones?

The NFL is also a brotherhood, and the reaction of Raiders' players in the wake of McDaniels' firing spoke volumes about their respect (or lack thereof) for their former head coach. Players across the league talk to each other, and it would be ill considered to assume that players in the New England locker room, or even potential free agents, might have apprehensions about McDaniels joining the coaching staff. Obviously, some players will have already formed their own opinion about the former offensive coordinator if they crossed paths in New England, but it is an element to consider.

There is a growing thought that Kraft may be getting cold feet about parting ways with his head coach of 24 years, and that he could essentially place Belichick and company on "double-secret probation" for the 2024 season. If the Patriots once again fall short of expectations next season, then Kraft could completely clean house and wipe the slate clean. If Belichick and McDaniels reunite, there's a possibility that it is just enough to convince Kraft to let Belichick cling to his job for one more year.

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