Untitled isn’t a mistake, it’s the unofficial name of this column and it’s only fitting as I write about what just shook up the NFL.
In case you hadn’t heard – and you’ve heard – Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator backed out of becoming the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts to keep the same job in New England.
Now before I get started, let me say this: A man choosing what’s best for his family, career and future at all costs is to be admired. Sometimes that happens in your second-thought. This is different.
After weeks of waiting to find the right guy with at least half a dozen candidates interviewed, Colts GM Chris Ballard had found his leader. *cue happy orchestral music from the 50’s*
It was going to be McDaniels and Ballard. The understanding and verbal agreement was made public by people like Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter. It was a “when” thing not an “if” thing. Then before the Super Bowl started, rumblings began. “This could be Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s last rodeo”, “Hearing McDaniels may stay after all”. The Super Bowl happens. The Patriots lose and nothing cognitively drastic moves.
The next day, McDaniels was announced as Indianapolis’ next head coach with a press conference scheduled for the following day.
The contract, printed. The pen, prepped. The website, updated. The social media accounts were glistening with photos of the guy and gifts were probably purchased for his four young children and wife. Reservations at some expensive steak house were probably already made for a celebration. A few hours later, something went wrong.
He’s not coming anymore.
*record scratches* Wait, what?
The same top insiders like Rapoport and Schefter were now tweeting that McDaniels reneged. Reports came out that pieces of his staff were already hired. Everything was plug and play.
Colts fans, media and everyone in between are now rightfully devastated and utterly perplexed.
That is what makes this different. McDaniels already came with skepticism surrounding his character due to his time in Denver and St. Louis. He simply hasn’t thrived apart from Belichick – which no one else really has in the NFL – and in the face of character concerns, he leads a team on for weeks and backs out the day of.
Think of the families that relocated to be apart of his staff; coaches who may have already purchased houses or condominiums. The same coaches who joined and signed a multi-year contract to be on staff because of McDaniels and now won’t even be coaching for him nor are they sure who they’ll be coaching for at all.
Think of Ballard, who let his true backup plans sign elsewhere because he waited on McDaniels. Ballard now has to find a new head coach within a week because you know, teams who didn’t make the playoffs are five weeks into the offseason already.
I’m hurt for these people. I’m hurt for the fans in Indy and make no mistake, in between those white lines on the field aren’t the only place that this beloved game is cut-throat. The Colts’ brass now has to try and treat its fan base like the parent of the girl who gets rejected by boys in high school – coaxing her ears with the “there’s someone out there for everyone” or the “he didn’t deserve you” speech.
The Bears interviewed McDaniels too, and according to some people with knowledge of the interview details, he hit it out of the park. McDaniels wanted the Chicago job. It fit his criteria of having a good general manager, quarterback and chance to win.
Plus, it’s Chicago.
Ryan Pace thought twice just like McDaniels did, but his thinking led to a late night dinner with Matt Nagy, essentially getting two, four-plus-hour interviews in one day. Pace closed the deal the following morning and made sure the ink was dry on a contract before scheduling a press conference.
Had Pace not stuck with the thing he follows closely, his conviction, the Bears could be in the same spot as the Colts are in now. We don’t need anything to make our franchise look like a joke. Ownership’s patience seems to be a little thinner when embarrassment is attached to a botched process.
Had Pace been in Ballard’s position right now, the media and fans would be ready to crucify him, call the McCaskey’s out for extending him and somehow it still would’ve been all Ted Phillips’ fault.
How does this really affect the Bears?
In a few ways, actually. If I were you, I’d keep an eye on this process. Should more information come out on Andrew Luck’s shoulder being worse than it seems, the Colts will for sure have to do their due diligence on quarterbacks.
Especially so, depending on how their next head coach feels about Jacoby Brissett. This is important because they have a higher draft pick than the Bears. So, if the Colts can’t land one in free agency, they may look to draft one. That makes top prospects like Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson and Tremaine Edmunds look more and more realistic and a possibility of trading back open.
It also should make Bears fans pat their backs and thank God for Pace’s over-extensive evaluation. Nagy and his staff (which is about 90 percent complete) has probably finished watching film from the Bears and are probably working on the playbook by now.
He’s added pieces like Brad Childress and Bill Shuey as cherry-on-top hires to make sure the team has his DNA and a plethora of quality hands on deck at every level (something he learned from Andy Reid). Pace grabbed a branch from the Reid coaching tree in Nagy, which boasts a whopping eight current NFL head coaches. I call that tree a “success”.
Pace could’ve tried the Belichick tree but with the way McDaniels just did the Colts, I’d call that tree “untitled”.
With the way some of the Colts’ media bashed the Bears for hiring Nagy so quickly and claimed the Colts were the most attractive job available and Nagy was not Ballard’s “guy.” Today feels bittersweet in a “man-that-sucks-for-those-involved-but-don’t-come-for-the-Bears-we-didn’t-send-for-you” kind of way.
Pace is a good general manager and he’s moving the organization in the right direction.
After today, I’m more sure of that now than ever. It could be worse is not the statement I’d use this time because finally, the signs of the times say the Bears are headed for better.