By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Saturday, Jan. 10 2009
A year ago at this time, as he was helping to orchestrate one of the most
potent offenses in NFL history, Josh McDaniels turned down offers to interview
for head-coaching jobs at Atlanta and Baltimore.
Not this year.
McDaniels, at age 32 the "boy wonder" of Bill Belichick's coaching staff in New
England, already has interviewed with Denver and Cleveland. On Friday evening,
he interviewed in St. Louis for the Rams' head-coaching job.
According to league sources, Green Bay assistant head coach-linebackers coach
Winston Moss left the impression that he wasn't ready to be an NFL coach
following his Rams interview last Saturday. Thursday's interview of former New
York Giants head coach Jim Fassel is being viewed in league circles as more of
a favor to get Fassel's name back out in circulation. (Fassel hasn't worked in
the league since 2006.)
So does that make McDaniels, the Patriots' offensive coordinator-quarterbacks
coach, the first legitimate candidate (other than Jim Haslett) to interview
with the Rams? We'll see.
Just 10 years ago, McDaniels was catching passes and majoring in math at John
Carroll University in suburban Cleveland. It's the same school that produced
former Rams linebacker London Fletcher, as well as Don Shula, the winningest
coach in NFL history.
McDaniels, whose father Thom is a legendary Ohio prep football coach, left
college a year early to work for Nick Saban's staff at Michigan State in 1999.
In 2000, he was out of football selling plastics.
But then Patriots assistant Brian Daboll, who was with McDaniels in '99 at
Michigan State, recommended him to Belichick in 2001. Thus began McDaniels'
meteoric rise in the NFL.
After three seasons as a Patriots defensive assistant, an entry level job,
McDaniels was named the team's quarterbacks coach in 2004. He kept that QB
coach title in '05, but after Charlie Weis left for Notre Dame, McDaniels began
calling plays for the Pats.
At age 29, he was offensive coordinator — without the title — supposedly a
decision made by Belichick to protect McDaniels from the scrutiny that comes
with that job description.
Beginning with the '06 season, McDaniels was given the coordinator's title by
Belichick while maintaining the quarterbacks coach duties. In '07, the Patriots
set NFL records for touchdowns scored (75) and points scored (589).
This season only enhanced McDaniels' reputation. Following Tom Brady's
season-ending knee injury in the 2008 season opener, the Patriots won 10 of
their final 15 games with Matt Cassel starting at quarterback. Cassel hadn't
started a game since high school.
Those who know McDaniels say he has learned well from Belichick, that he has a
great feel for personnel — what Patriots players and what opposing players do
well and don't do well.
Described as smart and calculating, McDaniels will be picky and selective when
it comes to a head-coaching job. As part of that evaluation process he will
look more to the structure of a club's front office and the ownership situation
than perhaps some other candidates.
So McDaniels may have some questions about the Rams' front office makeover as
well as the club's status as a franchise that may or may not be for sale.
Undoubtedly, Rams general manager Billy Devaney had some questions of his own
for McDaniels on Friday night. After all, it's one thing to coach quarterbacks
and call plays. But can McDaniels lead men, many of whom may be older than him?
What kind of a staff can he put together? What kind of defense does he want to
How will he deal with everything else that goes along with being a head coach
these days? From the media and the constant scrutiny, to a knowledge of the
salary cap and free agency. His thoughts on player discipline and the
importance of character. And more specifically to the Rams, how he can change
the losing culture at Rams Park and develop good will in the St. Louis