The Los Angeles Rams are one of several NFL teams that likely will be looking for a new head coach this offseason. And there’s one former employee who’s reportedly at the top of their list. It’s been speculated that the Rams, who recently fired head coach Jeff Fisher, are interested in replacing him with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who served in the same capacity for the Rams in 2011. But Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman added more validity to that speculation Friday in a breakdown of L.A.’s potential coaching targets. ADVERTISING “Jim Harbaugh is out,” Freeman writes. “… There’s no way a Nick Saban or Urban Meyer goes, which brings us back to McDaniels. The Rams are focusing on him, I’m told, because he’s more realistic, and he’s a big enough name to sell in L.A.”
Normally I would write this off as a writer beat-sweetening for a Pats source. (Let’s call him “Mike L.” No, no, that’s too obvious. How about “M. Lombardi”?) But this seems pretty widespread, and it would be awesome, unless you cheer for the Rams.
We’ve been through this before, but McDaniels’s first NFL coaching gig was a disaster on every possible level. [Shorter version here.] Oh, and in his one year as the offensive coordinator of this very franchise he presided over the worst offense in the NFL. With the unusual exception of Mike Shanahan, I don’t think you could name a successful NFL coach who failed anything like that badly in his first gig. (And to preempt the inevitable, in Cleveland Belichick improved the team by 200 points in its first year and the team declined by 150 points as soon as he left, even though his last year was an impossible situation given that Art Modell had shot the hostage and was in the process of absconding to Baltimore with the proceeds. And Pete Carroll in New England was more “mildly disappointing” than “utter trainwreck,” plus he built a powerhouse at USC before getting another chance.)
McDaniels was very young when Denver hired him, and it’s possible that he could be more successful. But as CF says, the obvious next gig for him would be as the offensive coordinator for a team with a hand-off defensive head coach (like a theoretical Rex Ryan who was employed as an NFL head coach next season) to show that he can be an effective play-caller outside of Belichick’s system and supervision and roster. But as a head coach for a team like this? Dan Graziano says it’s a perfect fit:
But McDaniels is going to be among the hottest head-coaching candidates when that cycle opens up next month, and the Rams job is going to be appealing for a number of reasons: big market, top young quarterback prospect, stars at running back and on the defensive line, and patient ownership willing to spend, among others. McDaniels and Los Angeles are a match that makes sense, and this won’t be the last time you read about it.
Well, the defensive line I’ll give you, but that’s it. Gurley is certainly more talented than he’s shown this year, but he’s been substantially below replacement level. (Yes, yes, Fisher is a terrible offensive coach. But I don’t recall Barry Sanders or Adrian Peterson playing a lot for coaches on their way to Canton. A “star” running back shouldn’t be dependent on the system to be effective, and certainly should never put on the Trent Richardson impression Gurley’s put on this year.) The “top prospect” QB was a reach from a system that’s never produced an effective NFL starter, was deemed worse than Case Keenum by the coaching staff, and he has justified that by somehow being considerably worse than Keenum by every metric. I’m not saying he should be written off entirely, and neither the coaching nor the surrounding personnel are much help, but I’d also hold off on the EXCITING YOUNG PROSPECT talk. In the contemporary NFL, a grade A prospect should not be anything like this bad as a rookie.
And it’s worse than this. As Collinsworth observed on Thursday, the Rams drafts of 2015 and 2016 are a classic example of a half-assed organization stumbling around in the dark. Spending a top-10 draft pick to build around a power running game is a dumb idea to begin with (as amply demonstrated in 2015, when Gurley played well and the Rams still had a dreadful offense.) But if that’s the direction you’re going in, why trade up to draft a QB who’s worked exclusively in an extreme version of a shotgun-with-4-wideouts offensive scheme? To paraphrase Robert Christgau, the Rams roster is worse than the sum of its parts, and most of the parts are negligible. And they’ve traded away their 2017 1st and 3rd rounders to acquire the QB who is giving off a very distinct aroma of “bust.”
This is, in other words, a long-term rebuilding project, which makes it an especially bad fit for McDaniels. It’s reasonable to assume that McDaniels has learned enough to be a good play-caller anywhere, but his worst characteristics as a head coach were in personnel evaluation and management. You can click the links above, or I could just note that he traded up to blow a first round pick on Tim Tebow and drop the mic. This is a situation that calls for a Marvin Lewis type, a patient team-builder who will retain the respect of his players even in a lean year. It’s not a team that’s ready to win if it can just get a more imaginative offense scheme. If he interviewed well I could see taking a chance on McDaniels with an underachieving veteran team with a QB already in place. But this seems like an awful fit. It’s would be like San Fransisco, only worse. (Chip Kelly obviously has a much better track record as a coach-although-not-GM than McDaniels, and I’d be interested in him for a program like Tennessee’s, but he’s not who I want presiding over a loooong term rebuilding project.)
As a Seahawks fan, I of course approve of all of this and urge Kroenke to hire McDaniels. Also, surely the Cardinals are tired of Bruce Arians and will be looking at the cornucopia of coaching talent that will be out there this offseason. Gus Bradley — he knows Carroll’s playbook! Rex Ryan — perfect fit for Trump’s America! Or imagine Jeff Fisher motivated by revenge! So many great possibilities, and I hope Arizona won’t miss out.