A few quick-hit thoughts on ESPN's report, from NFL Insider Adam Schefter, that Josh McDaniels is expected to return to the Patriots (link here):
1. Great move. This was a slam dunk. I previously wrote strongly on the possibility because it looked like it had a realistic chance of happening with all the stars aligning (link here). While it hurts to lose offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien following the playoffs, this eases the blow, and sets up the possibility for a long-term net gain for the Patriots.
2. Immediate start. This is the most compelling aspect of Schefter's report -- McDaniels is expected to start working now. I wondered if Bill Belichick would shy away from this, the idea of tweaking the overall coach-player dynamic, and the staff dynamic, heading into the playoffs. This speaks to Belichick's trust in McDaniels.
3. Looks like the Rams just give the Patriots a gift. In a case like this, one wonders why the Rams wouldn't request some form of compensation from the Patriots for something so valuable. They didn't have to hold McDaniels "hostage", but they would have been doing what was best for the Rams by at least getting something in return. Perhaps they did and it simply isn't known at this point.
4. What can McDaniels provide now? In his work as Rams offensive coordinator this year, McDaniels drew up plans against these playoff teams -- Giants, Ravens, Packers, Saints, Bengals, Steelers and 49ers. There is significant value in McDaniels' work for the Patriots in this regard.
5. McDaniels-Belichick bond. The two coaches remained close since McDaniels departed to become Broncos head coach. In the documentary "Bill Belichick: A Football Life", there was the scene where Belichick met with McDaniels before the game and they talked about passing on the game-ending handshake. Belichick wanted to avoid the media circus. The two later had dialogue on trades, and would convene at league meetings, their bond remaining strong.