Former Patriots coach Josh McDaniels spurns Colts

UPDATE: After the Indianapolis Colts announced their new head coach would be Josh McDaniels, the Patriots coach changed his mind. He returned to New England to remain with the Patriots.

Previous story below:

INDIANAPOLIS -- After weeks of rumors, the Indianapolis Colts have found their new head coach. The team hired New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as its 20th head coach, it announced Tuesday.

Seven years ago, Josh McDaniels was a laughingstock. 

In 2011, McDaniels, at 34 years old, had just been fired as head coach of the Denver Broncos after a little less than two seasons with the team. His tenure was, by almost any standard, disastrous. Besides the 11-17 record, McDaniels alienated (or outright traded) key players, made poor drafting decisions, and embarrassed the team with a rule violation.

But the Indianapolis Colts are hoping he's learned a lot in the last seven years. 

A couple months after McDaniels was hired, he managed to get into a feud with 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler. Soon after, he traded Cutler. McDaniels drafted underperforming players like Knowshon Moreno, Alphonso Smith, and, yes, Tim Tebow. And in 2010, McDaniels and the Broncos were each fined $50,000 after the team's video operator broke league rules by filming an opponent's practice. McDaniels was fined for not immediately reporting the incident. 

After he was fired, McDaniels spent one year as the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, before returning to New England to re-join the Patriots. He won Super Bowls with the Patriots in 2014 and 2017. With New England, McDaniel’s offenses have finished in the following positions in points scored:

  • 7th
  • 1st
  • 8th
  • 1st
  • 3rd
  • 4th
  • 3rd
  • 3rd
  • 2nd

To his credit, McDaniels has been very open about the mistakes he made when he was head coach of the Broncos. After he was fired, McDaniels started writing an Excel document, called "lessonslearned." It was filled with all the things he'd do differently, according to a 2016 Bleacher Report story.

Some of the lessons he learned from Denver: 

  • Make patient decisions: "Never rush into anything—all things are important. Impulsive—is a bad word—listen to everyone and make the RIGHT decision. Nothing gets fixed quickly."
  • Listen better: "There are so many people who can help us win & have wisdom I don't have. I will do my part in teaching but can never stop learning myself. Best results come from a group effort!"
  • Value the players' time: "I need to lighten the load and REALIZE the value in allowing the players to feel good about that. Players who feel you are taking care of them will give you all they have during the week and on Sunday."

The Colts are hoping those lessons stick. 

The team is coming off a disastrous season of its own. The Colts finished the 2017 season with a 4-12 record (the worst since 2011), star quarterback Andrew Luck missed the entire season while rehabbing from shoulder surgery, and the team ranked in the bottom five in countless statistical categories, both on offense and defense. 

As McDaniels steps into the head coaching spot for the second time in his life, he does have a few things in his favor. The Colts have a young, promising general manager and indications that Luck will return healthy in 2018. 

Fans and players will focus on that -- the sense of optimism and a fresh start that comes from hiring a new coach, not what happened seven years ago. 

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