NFL Nation: Josh McDaniels

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- The Super Bowl is a long way from the crossroads that led to it.

A long way from the moment when Adam Gase felt doubt creeping in, the moment when he had started to feel he could be many things in his life but a football coach was not one of them.

“I remember sitting in an Applebee's, interviewing for an insurance salesman job," said Gase, the Broncos' offensive coordinator. “And him basically telling me I would have to move back to Mount Pleasant [in Michigan] and me thinking that was what I was going to do."

Yes, the guy who will be on the headset to Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII, the guy who called plays for the highest-scoring offense in NFL history, the guy Manning has called “a superstar" in conversations with some around the team was sitting in a restaurant just minutes from his parents' house, about to call for the check on his coaching career.

[+] EnlargeAdam Gase
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliDenver offensive coordinator Adam Gase almost gave up coaching in his early 20s to sell insurance.
It was just after the LSU Tigers had won the 2001 SEC championship, and Gase, as an “eight grand a year" graduate assistant with student loans staring him in the face to go with the fact he “may or may not have been kicked out of grad school," was contemplating a future that was quickly becoming cloaked in uncertainty.

“It was just kind of that stage," Gase said. “… [LSU] was trying to find a role for me; that's not an easy thing to do at that level. I was back home to see my parents, and there was a part of me that was saying I might not go back [to LSU]."

At least until three friends -- Scott Angove, Nate Lambertson and Jeff Sablack -- who were, as Gase puts it, “beside themselves," got him to reconsider the notion of walking away. So Gase went back to LSU in 2002 and started stepping up the rungs from there. He went to the Detroit Lions, the San Francisco 49ers and the Broncos in the years and nameplates that followed.

He was a scouting assistant, an offensive assistant, a quality control coach, quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach. And then, when Mike McCoy left the Broncos to become the San Diego Chargers coach, Gase, at 34, was named the Broncos' offensive coordinator.

A short, a long and a winding road, all at the same time.

“He's bright -- very, very bright," Broncos coach John Fox said. “We knew his work. We knew how he handled himself. To me, when Mike left, it was a clear choice."

“I know there was a point when I thought it might not work," Gase said. "… I don't really think about sitting there in that interview anymore, but I'm glad I kept going."

Gase is not the product of a playing career that evolved into coaching once the on-field work was done. He is a product of from-the-ground-up work, of rolled-up sleeves to learn a profession. A process that started when he met current Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Gase was in high school, and Pees was at Michigan State.

Pees visited Gase's high school, handed him a business card and said when he arrived at Michigan State the following fall, as a student, he should come to the school's football offices.

“When I was in high school, I enjoyed the sport a lot; I was just terrible at it," Gase said. "… And I think [Pees] was thinking more like equipment manager and that. What ended up happening was Dean said here's my card and come see me when you get on campus.

“… And I showed up, gave the secretary the card. She goes OK, and I sat in [Pees'] office for like an hour and he gave me a self-scout [personnel evaluation] from when he was with the Cleveland Browns. I had just gotten a computer for my graduation, and he said, 'You know how to use a computer?' And I was like, 'I've got a computer' and I hadn't touched it yet. I kind of figured out how to put that together and set it up in my dorm room. I went through a lot of ink cartridges."

That's where it started, the get-it-done side it took to help McCoy dismantle the Broncos' playbook in roughly a week in 2011 and reconfigure it as a read-option attack with Tim Tebow at quarterback. The same guy who helped to then dismantle that when Manning arrived in 2012 and retooled it again when he was promoted to be the team's primary playcaller.

His go-for-it aggressiveness is rooted in Mike Martz's "Greatest Show on Turf" offense that powered the Rams to two Super Bowl appearances. Gase calls Martz “a mentor, a guy who taught me so much." The attention to detail and the respect for the need to play some power football come from his time with former LSU coach Nick Saban to go with some things from Josh McDaniels' Patriots playbook as well as his time with Fox and McCoy that helped him see the bigger picture, the one where he had to understand what defenses were doing and why.

“Adam is just a guy that was ready," McCoy said. “He's smart, creative, works very, very hard, a guy I leaned on a lot in my time in Denver. And you can see he's had a big impact in what they're doing."

What the Broncos did in the regular season was make history. From Manning's statistics to Denver's push-the-pace philosophy to the pile of touchdowns, the Broncos pushed the envelope on offense to a spot that had not been seen before.

None other than John Elway, still considered the final word on most things football for legions of fans across the Front Range, has said “I wish I could have played for him" and characterized Gase's decision not to interview with the Minnesota Vikings and Browns for their head-coaching jobs while the Broncos were still playing as “studly."

“Being somebody that did not play in college or at the professional level, I had to learn as fast as possible," Gase said. “It was an adapt-or-die situation for me. I said that a lot, especially with Peyton. You go from running an option offense to all of a sudden the protections are ‘you've got to be on it.' You have no choice but to figure out a way to speed up that learning curve.”

The curve now has a Super Bowl on it. The one where Gase will call the plays Sunday against the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

A game, an opportunity, that was almost left on the table. At Applebee's.

“I'm grateful for the chance, grateful to everyone who helped me, grateful to be a part of this organization," Gase said. “And I'm excited to be in this position, in this job. It's what I want to do, and you know, it really has worked out OK."
During Super Bowl media day on Tuesday, Denver Broncos receiver Eric Decker was asked about the role former Denver head coach and current New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels played in his career.

Decker
"He did draft me, and I’m very thankful that he gave me the opportunity to be playing in the NFL, especially with such a great organization like Denver," said Decker, who was a third-round draft choice out of Minnesota in 2010. "I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a coach. He’s a brilliant mind, offensively. I’m sure, like any coach, he’s excited and he’s happy for the guys that he drafted."

That McDaniels targeted Decker didn't come as a surprise to his former colleagues in New England, as Decker was also a player on the Patriots' radar as their third-round pick approached.

But Decker went off the board at No. 87, a few spots before where the Patriots were picking. At No. 90, the Patriots selected receiver Taylor Price.

Decker was one of McDaniels' best draft picks, having slipped to the late third round because a foot injury cut short his final season at Minnesota and affected his pre-draft workouts. The big target (6-foot-3, 214 pounds) has proven to be a durable NFL player, not missing a game over the past three seasons.

These types of scenarios unfold in every draft, and it's a timely one to revisit with the Broncos playing in the Super Bowl and with Decker scheduled to become a free agent in the offseason.

Browns back to being methodical

January, 21, 2014
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Adam Gase will not interview to be the Cleveland Browns' head coach.

Gase, the Broncos' offensive coordinator, withdrew Tuesday, according to the Denver Post and ESPN's Adam Schefter. Naturally soon after, the Browns put out the word they were moving on regardless.

So ... the purposefully methodical search marches on.

Gase was the first person the Browns sought permission to interview. They waited this long just to talk to him, but Gase evidently feels he’s in too good a spot and wants to focus on the Super Bowl.

That leaves candidates like Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak and Cowboys special teams coach Ron Bisaccia still available.

The names of Quinn and Pettine continue to circulate -- to the point that Pettine will be given a second interview. Bisaccia’s name has hardly been mentioned since his interview on Saturday. Munchak has interviewed to be the Steelers offensive line coach, but his name also has not been mentioned often with the Browns since his interview. A surprise candidate is always a possibility, though the chances seem slim at this point.

Schefter indicated the Browns will also consider other coaches, which might imply a coach off the 49ers' staff.

Whatever happens, the impression from outside is the Browns have followed a wayward path to find their coach. They never got to interview Bill O’Brien, Josh McDaniels pulled out early, James Franklin stayed in college and Ken Whisenhunt chose to coach in Tennessee. Others interviewed and pulled out, or went elsewhere. Twitter jokes abound.

Fan unrest and national criticism got to such a point that owner Jimmy Haslam released a letter saying the team was being purposefully methodical and asked for patience, which of course the Browns did not give former coach Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after one season.

Now the team can turn to Pettine, wait on Quinn or find another coach.

Methodically marching.

Seems there’s a Stephen Stills song in there somewhere.

And then there were two -- two teams that know most of what there is to know about each other, two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks who add to their legacies with every pass, all with a Super Bowl trip on the line.

The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, who have faced each other in each of the past three seasons and in the divisional round of the 2011 season, took it to overtime Nov. 24. The Broncos let a 24-0 halftime lead get away, and the Patriots won 34-31 after a punt bounced off Broncos cornerback Tony Carter's leg in overtime on a frigid night in Foxborough, Mass.

ESPN.com Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold and Patriots reporter Mike Reiss discuss Sunday's AFC Championship Game in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Legwold: Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick yet again. Do you think, in all your time around Belichick, that he tries to bring something new to the table every time he faces Manning? Or does he assume Manning has done the homework and put his efforts into getting people in the right position?

Reiss: I'd say there's always a new wrinkle or two, Jeff. Belichick has said in the past that Manning is too smart to just do the same thing over and over again -- both within a game and from matchup to matchup. Part of that discussion is also the state of the Patriots' personnel entering the matchup. A player like rookie linebacker Jamie Collins, for example, might give Belichick the flexibility to introduce something unique based on his breakthrough since the Nov. 24 meeting between the teams.

The weather forecast looks promising for Manning. No icy cold forecast. How do you think he approaches this game compared to the Nov. 24 contest? Do you think he will be less reluctant to hand the ball off?

Legwold: It will be a postcard day Sunday with the temperature expected to be 58 degrees with 0 percent chance of rain and light winds. So any decisions the two teams make on offense will have to do with what's in front of them on defense only. Manning will be inclined to hand the ball off if he sees the Patriots in some of those lighter personnel groupings deployed to handle Denver's three-wide-receiver look. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has a run option built into most things Manning can change into at the line of scrimmage. The Broncos certainly like how Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball are trending in the run game. They have split carries down the stretch, and both run with tackle-shedding power.

Gase, with coaching DNA that includes his time with Mike Martz, is an aggressive sort. With the next-generation numbers the Broncos' offense has put up this season, it's easy to forget they still averaged 28.8 carries per game and topped 30 carries per matchup nine times this season. If they get a look from the New England defense that calls for a run, the Broncos will be inclined to pound away.

Where is Tom Brady's game and the offense right now after some rough moments early in the season? Has Brady benefited from a run-heavy approach down the stretch and into the postseason?

Reiss: The biggest benefit for Brady with the run-heavy approach has been how it opens play-action opportunities. Danny Amendola's 53-yard catch in the divisional round is one of the best examples. Also, part of the reason the Patriots have gone so run-heavy is that it's the area where they have their most assets. They are limited when it comes to pass-catchers who create consistent separation at tight end and receiver. As for Brady's game, there have been no signs of decline in arm strength, accuracy or decision-making. The main reasons for the struggles early in the year, from my view, were more about the changes around him. That's not to say Brady didn't make his mistakes, but it's sort of interesting to look back on some of the media-based discussion around Weeks 6 to 8 about how maybe Father Time had caught up to him.

Now that we're a full season in, how would you sum up the Wes Welker signing? Just as the Broncos hoped for? Better? Worse?

Legwold: Welker finished the regular season with 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns. His presence in the slot, along with Julius Thomas at tight end, is part of the reason the offense had a historic season. With the Broncos lining up in a three-wide-receiver set the majority of the season -- and every snap of the divisional round win over the San Diego Chargers -- they force defenses into some difficult choices. Thomas is often in the slot on one side of the formation, and Welker is in the slot on the other side. When Thomas missed two games earlier this season with a knee injury, both the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs (Dec. 1) elected to double-team Welker. He missed three games after suffering his second concussion in a four-week span Dec. 8 against the Tennessee Titans but played last week against the Chargers without issue.

Welker did have some spells this season when he had a cluster of dropped passes -- three against the Patriots on a frigid night to go with drops against Washington and San Diego in the regular season. Overall, though, he was exactly what the Broncos hoped he would be in their offense. He meshed with Manning quickly and was a big part of the plan right from his nine-catch performance against the Baltimore Ravens in the season opener.

The Patriots did not face Thomas in the Nov. 24 meeting. Do you think they will try to match up Collins on Thomas this time around?

Reiss: That seems like the natural matchup, especially after seeing Collins splitting out wide on Colts tight end Coby Fleener on Saturday night and playing very well. Collins is unique in that, at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, he is fast enough to be competitive down the field in coverage (e.g., fourth-quarter interception versus the Colts) but powerful enough to play in the box and deliver a blow in the running game and as a pass-rusher. The Patriots' top draft pick in 2013, selected 52nd overall out of Southern Mississippi, he is an intriguing player whom Patriots fans really got their first extended look at Saturday as he played every snap against the Colts. He had been groomed behind the scenes up to that point, playing just 25 percent of the defensive snaps on the season in more of a reserve role.

Thomas may not have played in the first game between the teams, but Von Miller did. How does Miller's season-ending knee injury affect the Broncos' defense?

Legwold: Of all the players who were signed in the weeks after the initial leaguewide binge in free agency, the Broncos' signing of Shaun Phillips was easily one of the best. Denver signed Phillips to a one-year, $1 million deal during the draft weekend in April, well over a month after free agency had opened, a deal that didn't have a signing bonus but did have some incentives based on sack totals.

Phillips was initially how the Broncos planned to deal with the loss of Elvis Dumervil in free agency. When Miller was suspended for the first six games of the season, Phillips had 5.5 sacks in those games to lead the way. He finished the regular season with 10 sacks to lead the team. In Sunday's win, with Miller on injured reserve, Phillips had two sacks against the Chargers. He is the single-most important player in the Broncos' pass rush in Miller's absence. Denver may have to take more risks without Miller on the field, and that's always a tough choice against someone like Brady, who can easily find the holes in coverage. But if Phillips can consistently create pressure -- with both sacks on three-man rushes against San Diego -- it allows the Broncos to move things around a little more and cover more of the bases.

Did Belichick make a conscious effort to get big backs like LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley in the lineup when he knew he would get smaller defensive personnel against the team's passing attack?

Reiss: That's fair to say, as the Patriots pride themselves on creating those matchups during the game, with coordinator Josh McDaniels finding his groove in recent weeks. They refer to themselves as a "game plan" offense because they tailor their plan weekly based on what they perceive to be the weakness of the opposition. They'll shuttle in different personnel groupings early -- multiple receivers, two backs, two tight ends, etc. -- to get information on how the opponent is matching up and then focus on the one they like best. This week, what's fascinating to me is that I think they probably see vulnerability in the Broncos' secondary, but I wonder how they feel about their own personnel in being able to exploit it. So that could keep them grounded.

The Patriots have been running the ball very well. How is the Broncos' run defense?

Legwold: In a year when the Broncos have been forced, by injuries and Miller's suspension, to mix and match on defense, their run defense has likely been more consistent in comparison to some of the other issues they've had. When defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson went to injured reserve Nov. 27 with a hip injury, they did wobble a bit, surrendering 159 yards rushing to the Chiefs and 177 yards rushing to the Chargers in two of the three games that immediately followed.

They have regained their balance a bit since, moving Paris Lenon into the middle linebacker spot in the base defense, and rookie defensive tackle Sylvester Williams has played better each week. Overall, the biggest issue for the Broncos will be how they defend the run if the Patriots get them in nickel or dime personnel on defense and then run the ball at the smaller looks. The Broncos' safeties will have to tackle and tackle well to make it work.

Belichick has always tried to make "other" people beat him and take away an offense's front-line players. How do you think he would rank the Broncos' threats in the passing game, and where do you think the one-on-one matchups will be?

Reiss: One insightful point that ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi made in his weekly chat was the idea of defending the Broncos from the inside-out. Manning is still an accurate marksman, one of the greatest of all time, but I'm guessing that even he would agree that some of the downfield and outside-the-numbers throws he used to make don't come as easily to him. So it makes sense that the Patriots would focus more resources on the inside part of the field, where it would seem we would most likely see Welker and Thomas. With this in mind, I could envision the Patriots matching up cornerback Aqib Talib with Demaryius Thomas on the outside and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard with Eric Decker and taking their chances that those one-on-one matchups will be competitive. Trusting those cornerbacks in those one-on-one matchups would allow the defense to focus extra attention/personnel to the inside part of the field.

Any X factors or special-teams contributors we should keep on the radar?

Legwold: The Broncos have usually been lockdown tight on special teams -- opening the season with two touchdown returns and two blocked punts, one of those returned for a score, in the first four weeks of the season. Those normally reliable units, however, have wobbled plenty down the stretch. The Chiefs' Knile Davis had a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the Titans' Leon Washington had a 95-yard kickoff return, and the Texans' Keshawn Martin had a 51-yard punt return. Toss in the first blocked punt of Britton Colquitt's career in Oakland to go with Trindon Holliday's occasional adventures catching the ball, and it's been an unpredictable stretch. But Holliday is always a threat to uncork a return because of his breathtaking speed. The Broncos used wide receiver Decker as the primary punt returner against the Chargers last week, and he had a 47-yarder. So the Broncos have the potential to pop one at any time, especially in Denver, where Holliday returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in last January's playoff loss to the Ravens.

 
Some words from Freddie Mercury seem strangely appropriate at this point: Another one bites the dust.

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles informed the Cleveland Browns Tuesday that he was removing his name from consideration to be the team's head coach. Bowles interviewed Jan. 2, and simply did not want the job, according to a source close to Bowles.

The reason: The situation with the Browns is not perceived as a strong one, in part because of the team's constant flux and in part because Rob Chudzinski was fired after one season. The Browns insisted they could find a strong candidate -- and they still may -- but the perception is things are not going swimmingly.

Bowles had coached in Cleveland before, and he's a good coach. But he, like Josh McDaniels of New England, withdrew.

The team is being patient, and insists it is not flailing -- a picture painted by many.

But at this point, the team's coaching searches the past two years have hardly been smooth. Nick Saban and Chip Kelly turned the Browns down a year ago, and Kelly went to Philadelphia where he led the Eagles to the playoffs. The Browns were negotiating with Ken Whisenhunt a year ago when those talks fell apart; this offseason Whisenhunt interviewed with the Browns and Lions before taking the job with Tennessee. The Browns also could not lure McDaniels and now Bowles has withdrawn. Bob Stoops did not interview -- though it's not known if the Browns interest was serious in Stoops. Jim Tressel also has not been contacted. It all follows the decision to hire Rob Chudzinski, then fire him less than one year later.

The Browns still seem focused on Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, 35, the first person they requested permission to interview. He is expected to talk with the Browns once Denver is out of the playoffs, but with the Broncos in the Super Bowl that interview might wait three weeks. Also, Gase is not believed to be itching to get out of Denver, where he works with Peyton Manning and where his stature should only improve next season.

Other candidates interviewed include former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak, Green Bay quarterback coach Ben McAdoo and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. None of the remaining names have generated much buzz and excitement in Cleveland.

In a separate matter, the Browns have given former defensive coordinator Ray Horton permission to pursue other jobs. Normally a coach would have to take a promotion to leave, but the Browns have given permission for Horton to pursue any job. That information comes from ESPN Insider Adam Schefter.

Which of course means the team will have a new defensive coordinator, and most likely a new system, in 2014. Again.

When they hire a coach. Any coach.

Weeeee are the champions, my friend.
Another coach goes by the wayside for the Cleveland Browns.

It’s impossible to know how seriously Ken Whisenhunt was considering the Browns or how serious a candidate he was in the team’s eyes, but the bottom line is he accepted the Tennessee Titans job. The Browns either did not offer him the job, he did not take it or he didn’t think it was worth waiting to see what happened.

A lot of signs seem to be pointing to the team badly wanting to talk to Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase. They’ve interviewed several folks, are putting the word out they will be patient and Gase was the first person they requested permission to interview.

Gase has put off all interview decisions until Denver is out of the playoffs, and the Broncos play in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. Even then, there’s no certainty he’ll interview. Gase’s stock won’t sink as long as he has Peyton Manning throwing passes.

Gase is 35 and has spent one year as a coordinator. His hiring is a risk, but at this point any hire would be a risk.

In the Browns coaching search Josh McDaniels has withdrawn from consideration and now Whisenhunt -- the most viable candidate with experience -- has chosen Tennessee. (The ripple effect from Whisenhunt’s hiring could be that defensive coordinator Ray Horton joins him in Tennessee, although Whisenhunt could take another run at prying Keith Butler out of Pittsburgh.)

The Browns did interview Mike Munchak on Monday, and he is a take-charge kind of leader. But he had a mediocre record in Tennessee, and if the Browns choose to hire him they’d be hiring the guy Whisenhunt replaced.

Yes, the NFL world turns oddly sometimes.

Nobody has flat out turned the Browns down (that we know of). Gus Malzahn’s name won’t go away, Bob Stoops chose to stay at Oklahoma. Jim Tressel is sitting in Akron sounding like he’d love a chance.

Where does this leave the Browns as they search for a coach?

Same place they’ve been since the day the 2013 season ended: Looking.

Josh McDaniels, the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, interviewed to be the Cleveland Browns coach on Saturday.

Five days later, he decided to stay in New England.

Which answers a question that a few days ago seemed unanswerable: Why would a coach working in a good situation with an all-time great quarterback and Hall of Fame mentor want to take a job with a losing team that fired its coach after one season?

The answer: He wouldn’t.

The news that McDaniels withdrew came from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who reported McDaniels had an excellent conversation with the Browns, but decided he was better off with the Patriots.

McDaniels’ one experience as a head coach in Denver ended poorly. At the age of 37, he doesn’t need to take a chance with another risky situation, which clearly is the situation in Cleveland.

Which leaves the Browns a ways from the “proven winner” they said they would hire when they started the coach search.

They spent Wednesday talking to Green Bay quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo. He’s never been a coordinator, much less a head coach. Though most in the league feel McAdoo is not ready, Browns CEO Joe Banner was with the Eagles when Jeff Lurie hired an unknown quarterbacks coach from Green Bay named Andy Reid.

The Browns also have interviewed Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. They have asked for permission to talk to Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but he has declined to talk until Denver is out of the playoffs.

The Browns have been rumored to be interested in Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. But Franklin has been linked to Penn State and he met with his Athletic Director at Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.

Malzahn agreed to a contract extension at Auburn on Dec. 7.

In addition, rumors that the Browns were interested in Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops turned out to be untrue.

Where this leaves the Browns is anyone’s guess.

A search is never over until it’s over -- to paraphrase Yogi Berra -- and the Browns may have a surprise up their sleeve.

But if they don’t, they are left with some names that haven’t exactly inspired the fan population.

It doesn’t mean the new coach can’t win, but it does make what is already a tough sell a little tougher.
The Cleveland Browns brass is headed to New England to interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Saturday.

McDaniels
McDaniels
McDaniels chose not to interview with the Browns a year ago but this time will speak with the team. He cannot be hired until the Patriots are out of the playoffs.

McDaniels' stock with Denver was high in 2009, as he started 6-0 with the Broncos. But his reign quickly fell apart as the Broncos lost 17 of the next 22 games and McDaniels was implicated in illegally filming a 49ers walk-through.

He went to St. Louis for one year before returning to his roots, working with Bill Belichick in New England.

Mike Lombardi -- then working for NFL.com and the NFL Network -- wrote a passionate defense of McDaniels in 2010, saying the Broncos did not give him a chance to completely install his system and instead reverted back to Denver's old ways.

" ... when coaches leave an established program like the one in New England, not every owner is willing to embrace the time it takes to lay the foundation," wrote Lombardi, now the Browns' general manager.

That statement seems oddly ironic now.

Alas, we digress.

Lombardi clearly believes in McDaniels. But in Denver, McDaniels wanted and received major say in personnel. One of his decisions was to trade Jay Cutler and bring in Kyle Orton. Brandon Marshall was eventually traded as well -- Marshall has had seven 1,000-yard seasons in a row and has averaged 1,258 since the trade.

With the Browns, CEO Joe Banner oversees football, which means he oversees personnel.

Whether Joe Banner can work out an arrangement with McDaniels, and whether McDaniels can agree to Banner's structure, might be a major point in the discussions.
Owner Jimmy Haslam talked about hiring a proven winner to replace Rob Chudzinski, so it was odd when the first names that surfaced in the Cleveland Browns' coaching search were coordinators.

Then on Sunday, CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported that the Browns were interested in two college coaches: Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt's James Franklin. These names could fall under the category Haslam described.

[+] EnlargeGus Malzahn
AP Photo/Dave MartinThe Browns are reportedly interested in Gus Malzahn, who led Auburn to the BCS title game in his first season as head coach.
Malzahn's name is interesting. He's this year's Chip Kelly, the guy the Browns did not get a year ago. That failure stung, especially after Kelly initially indicated he'd return to Oregon but then joined the Eagles and led them to the playoffs. The timing isn't good for Malzahn, who is preparing his Auburn team to play Florida State in the national title game. But if Malzahn's goal is to be in the NFL, the timing won't matter.

Malzahn was Cam Newton's offensive coordinator when the Tigers won the national title. He spent a year as head coach at Arkansas State before returning to be the head coach at Auburn this season. Like Kelly, he has been tied to the read-option offense.

Franklin is a former Packers assistant who had success in one of the toughest places in the SEC to have success, Vanderbilt. He has also been rumored to be on the list of other NFL teams with openings, and his name has been floated in relation to Penn State, which needs a coach after Bill O'Brien left for the Houston Texans.

The college names are interesting, because it's tough for NFL coordinators to have proven records of winning. College head coaches can.

While most in the league shook their head at the firing of Chudzinski after one season, almost as many are interested to see who is hired. In the structure the Browns have, Banner is in charge of football and personnel. A coach would have to accept that structure.

Other names that have surfaced include:

New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. At first glance McDaniels would seem to be a front-runner. He's from Northeast Ohio and went to college at John Carroll in suburban Cleveland. But sources have said Banner must be convinced, and that could be a challenge. McDaniels would seem to want control over personnel the way Belichick has it in New England. Given the Browns structure, that demand might be tough to meet.

Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Good guy, respected coach. He worked for the Browns from 2001 to 2004 as defensive backs coach before moving on to the Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles and Cardinals, where he was Bruce Arians' choice to coach the defense. It's tough to find anyone who will say much negative about Bowles. He also would fill the league's Rooney Rule mandate.

Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. He will also interview with the Vikings. Under Quinn this season, Seattle led the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed, passing yards allowed and interceptions. He spent two years as the Florida Gators' coordinator, and has been an assistant with several NFL teams.

Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Every year there's a young coordinator who garners attention. It appears this year it's Gase, who had the benefit of working with Peyton Manning. That sure helps a coach look good, but it also helps a coach gain knowledge. Don't discount the recommendation Manning may have given on behalf of Gase; Manning and Haslam are friends. Gase, though, could hurt his chances by deciding not to interview until the Broncos' postseason run is over. It's an admirable stance, but the Browns may not wait.

Sources: McDaniels a Browns' candidate

December, 30, 2013
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New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is on the short list of the expected candidates for the Cleveland Browns’ head coaching vacancy, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The Browns fired coach Rob Chudzinski on Sunday night after a 4-12 season.

San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is also among the expected candidates, sources said.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If you really want to feel what the Denver Broncos-Oakland Raiders rivalry should be, what many of those who fill the seats in each city in each football weekend expect it to be, you’re going to need a few things.

Like …

Gray hair.

A good memory, as in a really, really good memory. You know, almost Mensa.

VHS.

Oh, and quarterbacks. Game-changing, rivalry-stoking quarterbacks.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsQB play has helped Denver dominate its rivalry with the Raiders in recent seasons.
As the Broncos and Raiders prepare to open up AFC West play for each on Monday night, these two ships will again pass in the night. The Broncos, with Peyton Manning at quarterback, consider themselves a Super Bowl contender, complete with plenty of eight-figure contracts and a parcel of off-the-field drama in tow.

The Raiders are in Year 2 of not just a re-build job, but they have largely scrapped the lot and elected to start from the ground up. With that the team's decision-makers, including general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach (and former Broncos defensive coordinator) Dennis Allen, have handed the offensive keys, at least for the moment, to quarterback Terrelle Pryor, their latest hope behind center.

The bottom line is it’s been quite some time since this long-standing, annual battle between two of the AFL’s original eight, has been a give-as-good-as-you-get rivalry. Even with all of the road the two have traveled together, the fact is they have rarely been good together, facing off at the peak of their powers.

One of the two has most often been up, flexing potential postseason muscle, and the other has basically been the welcome mat. There have been just five seasons when both the Raiders and Broncos made the playoffs in the same year. And since the start of the 1992 season, they have both made the playoffs in the same year just once -- in 2000 when the Raiders won the division at 12-4 and the Broncos were a wild card at 11-5. That’s a long way from the zenith, the 1977 season when the two didn’t just meet in the playoffs, they met in the AFC Championship with a Super Bowl trip at stake.

Or as Broncos Ring of Famer Randy Gradishar put it; “Now that’s what a rivalry looks like. If people ever want to know what it looks like, what it feels like, that was it right there."

Since, however, there’s also the Shanahan effect. When Mike Shanahan was hired by the Broncos, it was his second stint as an NFL head coach since his first stint had ended rather unceremoniously in Oakland four games into the 1989 season. Shanahan and the late Al Davis also had a long, well-chronicled tiff over some bonus money after the firing, adding some emotional hot sauce. So, needless to say, Shanahan liked beating Davis’ team and made it an organizational priority. And Shanahan did it a lot, going 21-7 against the Raiders in his time with the Broncos.

Current coach John Fox is 3-1 against the Raiders in his two previous seasons on the Front Range. The only time since Shanahan’s first season in Denver the Raiders have had an upper hand against the guy wearing the big headset for the Broncos was during Josh McDaniels’ just-under-two-year tenure when the Raiders were 3-1 against the Broncos.

But like most things in the league these days, success and failure over the long haul can often be traced back to what happened at quarterback, how the draft went and just how many ill-conceived contracts were handed out to free agents who didn’t perform.

While the Broncos have certainly had their draft/checkbook stumbles over the past two decades, they have had fewer than the Raiders. Even as the quarterback search in the post-Elway era has had some ups and downs in Denver -- seven different quarterbacks have started against the Raiders for the Broncos since Elway retired following the 1998 season -- it has gone far better than the mistake-filled search behind center for the Raiders.

Brian Griese, Jay Cutler and Peyton Manning have been named Pro Bowl quarterbacks for Denver in the post-Elway era while Gus Frerotte, Tim Tebow, Jake Plummer and Manning each started postseason games for the Broncos over the past 15 years. By contrast the Raiders have started 13 different quarterbacks against the Broncos since the start of Shanahan’s first season in Denver. And Rich Gannon is the only Raiders quarterback to have started at least five consecutive meetings with the Broncos over that span.

Sure, Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey will often say "we don't like them and they don't like us," when the division games come rolling by, but Broncos-Raiders is really a remember-when rivalry right now, something maintained and nurtured because folks feel it’s the right thing to do along the way. The bones are there, though, just waiting for both teams to cooperate and make it what all involved always seem to hope it will be.

What we learned from Pats coaches' calls

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
1:46
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels held conference calls this afternoon.

From a “what we learned” perspective heading into Sunday’s season opener against the Bills, here are some highlights:

1. Bills’ defense has Jet-like feel: As one would expect with coordinator Mike Pettine moving from the Jets to the Bills this year, Buffalo’s defense looks “a lot like the Jets,” according to Belichick. That means a lot of different looks (especially on third down, when a defensive lineman could play a linebacker-type role), multiple fronts, and a heavy percentage of blitzing. So as Patriots offensive players prepare this week, they are marrying two areas: Bills personnel that they’ve come to know in recent years playing a Jet-like scheme.

2. Scouting report on Mulligan: Asked about signing 28-year-old tight end Matthew Mulligan to the 53-man active roster, Belichick cited his experience and blocking ability before saying, “he’s a tough, physical player.”

3. A lot of no-huddle on offense from Bills: There is an element of unknown with any season opener, which Belichick repeated multiple times, but one thing the Patriots are most certainly expecting from the Bills is the no-huddle attack. “It’s really all no-huddle,” Belichick said of what he’s seen from the Bills’ offense, later adding the Bills’ fast pace on offense draws some similarities to the Eagles under Chip Kelly which the Patriots practiced against in August. Another point Belichick made was that there isn’t a lot of NFL-based film for the team to watch of Bills rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel.

4. Pleased with Talib’s presence. Patricia, the defensive coordinator, said he is “very, very happy” with cornerback Aqib Talib’s work ethic and approach. The Patriots acquired Talib last November, so as time has passed, coaches have had a longer look at Talib's integration into the team’s system and way of doing business. “He really practices hard and competes every day,” Patricia said. “He’s a good example out on the field for those guys that are coming into our program to get behind and follow along.”

5. Young receivers have grasped multiple roles. It is often said that the Patriots' complex offensive system can be tough for rookies to pick up, so it was notable that Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator, said that receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (undrafted), Josh Boyce (fourth round) and Aaron Dobson (second round) have all grasped multiple positions. "We've already moved them and played multiple roles with them, multiple positions with them," he said. "In our system, that's a really big 'plus' for us to have some flexibility with those guys. They've shown that they'll work and study on the mental side of the game to be able to be flexible and play in multiple spots when we need them to."

Robert Kraft endorses Tim Tebow

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
10:00
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The New England Patriots made a controversial decision to sign popular quarterback Tim Tebow to a two-year contract earlier this week. It’s the kind of move that doesn’t happen unless everyone in the organization is on the same page.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who drafted Tebow three years ago with the Denver Broncos, have always spoken highly of Tebow. On Wednesday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft weighed in on the new addition.

“If you want to win in this league, you need quality depth management,” Kraft explained. “In the age of the salary cap, whenever you can get a competitive, first-grade person to join your team, you never know what happens. But for me personally, having Tim Tebow on this team, he’s someone who believes in spirituality, he’s very competitive and works hard and has a great attitude and he’s a winner.

“Having him as part of our franchise is great but he has to compete just like anyone else. We’re blessed to have a lot of people like that, but the fact that spirituality is so important to him is very appealing to me.”

At best, Tebow is New England’s No. 3 quarterback. Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady is the unquestioned starter and Ryan Mallett is a promising backup. Belichick would not shed light on what Tebow’s role with the team would be. Tebow must first make the 53-man roster in training camp.

But Tebow has the support of New England’s owner, the man who signs the checks. That’s obviously a good sign in Tebow's favor.

Kraft said he saw “two or three” of Tebow’s games in person at the University of Florida. Kraft also met Tebow during the pre-draft process and has always been impressed with the quarterback.

“I think he’s hard-working and very cooperative,” Kraft said. “I don’t think there’s any coach who wouldn’t like to have a team full of people like he is. Like Brady, he comes out there and works hard or Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo. They come in, they work hard, they prepare hard and they’re all business. You can’t get enough people like that on your team. We’re honored that he’s with us.”

I completely believe New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick when he says he doesn't "hate" Tim Tebow. Hate is a strong word to use about anybody, especially with a person as nice and grounded as the former New York Jets and Denver Broncos quarterback.

Belichick
Belichick was stern this week in his rebuttal of a Yahoo! Sports report. He rarely takes the time to refute anything, true or not. So it’s notable when the tight-lipped Patriots coach publicly decries an article about the popular free-agent quarterback.

"I wouldn't get into the probability of us pursuing any free agent. Every single player has strengths and weaknesses, but regardless of that, for anyone to have represented that is the way I feel about Tim Tebow is completely untrue, baseless and irresponsible," Belichick told ESNBoston.com. "It is unfortunate that something so inaccurate was reported."

But I think Belichick slyly avoided the million-dollar question: While Belichick may not hate Tebow, does Belichick like Tebow as a player?

That is the void Belichick left unfulfilled in his response to the Yahoo! report. It's one thing not to hate Tebow. But there's plenty of evidence that Belichick isn't high on Tebow or in a rush to add Tebow to New England's roster.

For starters, Tebow has been on the market for weeks and there is zero interest from New England or any other team. Money certainly isn’t an issue, because Tebow is looking for work and would play for a low wage. There also would be zero quarterback controversy in New England because of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.

One of Tebow’s biggest NFL supporters is also New England’s offensive coordinator: Josh McDaniels. He drafted Tebow three years ago in the first round. It’s a safe assumption that McDaniels wouldn’t mind getting his creative hands on Tebow again. But the person in charge of all personnel moves in New England is Belichick, and everything must first go by his desk. Tebow doesn't pass the Belichick test.

Forget about hating Tebow. Belichick set the record straight there. But if Belichick truly likes Tebow, the Patriots' coach can prove it at any time by signing Tebow to a contract for next to nothing.
The St. Louis Rams' Danny Amendola, like Wes Welker of New England, is a cat-quick slot receiver from Texas Tech with experience in Josh McDaniels' offense.

Neither receiver has a contract for the 2013 season. Neither was named his team's franchise player. Both could become unrestricted free agents Monday.

McDaniels' presence in New England as the Patriots' offensive coordinator would seem to make Amendola a viable fallback option for the team if Welker were to leave in free agency. As Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com wrote Monday, there were increasingly reasons to think Welker and the Patriots would reach agreement before the signing period opens. But with ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting Wednesday that Welker planned to test the market, it's good to remember that there are no guarantees.

If Welker were to re-sign with the Patriots, where would Amendola fit beyond New England or St. Louis? Would any team value him more than the Rams would value him?

Those aren't easy questions to answer. Amendola, like Rams teammate and fellow free-agent candidate Brandon Gibson, was with Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles before coming to the Rams. Before that, Amendola was with Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, when Garrett was offensive coordinator.

Sometimes those past connections come into play when a player reaches free agency. Reid is the new head coach in Kansas City. Garrett fills the same role in Dallas. Reid's receivers coach, David Culley, is the same one he had in Philadelphia when Amendola was there in 2009.

But even if Amendola's ties to those teams' coaches were relevant, neither Kansas City nor Dallas appears to have a pressing need for a slot receiver. The Chiefs' Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki combined for 62 receptions from the slot last season, according to game charting from ESPN Stats & Information. The Cowboys' Miles Austin and Jason Witten combined for 83 slot receptions.

There could be other suitors, of course. There are other connections, too.

Amendola's offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, Marty Mornhinweg, has the same role with the New York Jets. One of his former offensive coordinators in St. Louis, Pat Shurmur, has the same job with the Eagles.

Again, though, does either team have a pressing need? Jeremy Kerley caught 43 passes for 612 yards from the slot for the Jets last season. Jason Avant had 50 catches for 609 yards from the slot for Philadelphia.

With Amendola coming off two injury-shortened seasons, the Rams should have a better shot at keeping him without overpaying, particularly if Welker re-signs. That would be good for St. Louis given the value Amendola has provided on third down in particular.

"He has great quickness in a short area and when you talk about a smaller guy, he has that great ability to create some separation," McDaniels said of Amendola in 2011, when he was the Rams' offensive coordinator. "You gotta be really tough, you gotta be able to create some separation quick because you don't have all day to run a 5-yard route sometimes. You gotta get open. He does that and he has great hands and he’s really tough. He is everything you want in that regard."

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