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McDaniels snubs Colts
The New England Patriots continue to make news even in the wake of a crushing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was slated to fill the head coaching void in Indianapolis, has jilted the Colts and will remain in Foxboro. This has me wondering what McDaniels might have learned about the Colts during his diligence.

On the surface, apparently Bill Belichick “opened up his world” to McDaniels and made his mentorship an even more valuable reason for him to stay. It’s obvious that McDaniels is a great offensive coordinator, and most of his success has come with the help of Tom Brady. In his lone head coaching stint at the helm of the Denver Broncos, McDaniels went just 11-17 SU over two seasons in 2009 and 2010.

I’ve said for a long time that there’s a certain class of assistant coaches that are simply phenomenal at being coordinators and terrible at assuming the mantle of head coach. The cases of Doug Pederson, Sean McVay and Mike Zimmer are very rare in the NFL. It takes a certain type of personality to run an entire franchise, build rosters and manage all the egos that they have in their building. We have a long list of coaches who fall in to that category populated by guys like Wade Phillips, Ken Whisenhunt and Norv Turner.

It goes without saying that every coach grows up wanting to be a head coach, but the only way to find out if you have the goods is to actually put your feet to the fire. McDaniels did that in Denver and found out the hard way that it is no walk in the park. Others like Dirk Koetter, Joe Philbin and many others have also learned this lesson in career-threatening tenures.

McDaniels is probably more ready than his peers after serving under Belichick for quite some time, so the notion that there’s even more for him to learn after he’s spent 15 seasons with the Patriots is hard to swallow. However, maybe Bill Belichick watched “The Two Bills” on ESPN and realized that he’s not being a proper mentor. Belichick is at that age where you get a little nostalgic about your legacy, and perhaps he sees McDaniels as his protégé in a way he hasn’t over the last decade and a half.

The Patriots opened as Super Bowl LIII favorites with +500 odds compared to the defending champion Eagles at +800 in the NFL futures market. Way down on that list is the Indianapolis Colts at +5000. A lot of that is because the team was terrible enough to secure the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but there are also growing concerns about Andrew Luck.

Reading between the lines, it’s not silly to suggest that McDaniels got a bad feeling about going to coach in Indianapolis based on what he heard about Luck. Think about it – why would you leave the Patriots to go coach one of the worst teams in the NFL? The money and prestige are great, but McDaniels is just 41 years old. He still has another two decades of potential career left under his visor. There’s no particular incentive for him to go and bury himself under the weight of the Colts’ improbable chances of competing.

The WAR figure on Andrew Luck is obvious. He led the team to three straight seasons of 11-5 SU after being drafted first overall in 2012. That leveled off during injury riddled seasons in 2015 and 2016, and the team bottomed out without him in 2017 with a record of 4-12 SU. With him, they are a legitimate playoff contender. Without him, they don’t stand a chance. It’s a quarterback’s league. You know this.

The AFC South has also become a battlefield. The Jaguars just went to the AFC Championship. The Texans are going to be the most hyped team in the conference during this off-season. Even the Titans are starting to get greasy with their litany of young talent. Where are the Colts in all of this?

Suffice to say, that with Luck and McDaniels they could’ve made an impact. But without Luck, there’s zero point in McDaniels taking the risk. I suspect that he could tell by reading the room that Luck isn’t going to be available for the 2018 NFL season despite everything that the team and player have suggested. He hasn’t thrown a football in over a year. I mean, c’mon guys.

This is all speculation but it signifies a downtrodden time for the Indianapolis Colts. General Manger Chris Ballard said that the rivalry between the Colts-Patriots is “back on” after McDaniels tucking tail, but let’s be honest. You have to be competitive to have a rivalry with the Colts. It’s not a rivalry if one team sucks.

The offseason is always a time for over eager optimism, but there’s one team that just can’t have any until they know the health and fate of their franchise superstar. If I could bet on it, I would bet on Andrew Luck playing fewer than 10 games in 2018 and I believe that McDaniels wasn’t getting the reassurance he wanted about the quarterback’s health.

That, along with establishing an elevated mentorship with Belichick, are why he returned to New England. It’s great news for the Patriots, and it makes things even worse for the Indianapolis Colts. If they use a top-3 pick to draft one of the four quarterbacks worth reaching for this April, then you know something is seriously wrong with Luck.

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