Indianapolis — The Indianapolis Colts waited 22 days to make Josh McDaniels their coach. On Tuesday, they got it done.
The team announced the hiring of New England’s longtime offensive coordinator on its Twitter account. Word leaked last month that the sides were close to a deal.
“We are excited to welcome Josh McDaniels, who has agreed to terms as our new head coach!” the post read. “Press conference scheduled for Wednesday.”
He succeeds Chuck Pagano, who was fired Dec. 31, and inherits a team that finished 4-12 in a season without injured quarterback Andrew Luck. Contract terms were not immediately available.
In McDaniels, the Colts get a five-time Super Bowl champ who has been considered one of the best young offensive minds in football and a top-tier head coaching candidate the past several years. He had been a head coach in Denver.
The hiring comes a day after the Detroit Lions landed Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as their coach, meaning the AFC champions must find two new coordinators.
Until the Patriots’ season ended, with Sunday’s Super Bowl loss, NFL rules prohibited Indy from saying or doing anything with McDaniels.
But within days of Pagano’s ouster, general manager Chris Ballard interviewed McDaniels during the Patriots’ postseason bye week. Two weeks later, reports indicated the deal was all but finished and potential suitors, like the New York Giants, started hiring other coaches.
A few hours after the initial reports about McDaniels, other leaks revealed Dallas Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus was set to become McDaniels’ new defensive coordinator – a decision Eberflus’ wife apparently confirmed by updating her Facebook profile with an Indianapolis Colts logo.
McDaniels is also expected to pluck at least one other coach off New England’s staff.
Ballard and team owner Jim Irsay met again with McDaniels the week before the Super Bowl and NFL.com reported Sunday that former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell might take the same job in Indy.
Bevell worked with Brett Favre for six seasons in Green Bay and two more in Minnesota. He also spent six seasons with Russell Wilson in Seattle.
McDaniels, the son of a Hall of Fame high school coach in football rich Ohio, spent 14 of the past 17 seasons working with Bill Belichick in New England. He worked his way up from personnel assistant to defensive assistant before being promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2004.
From 2006-08, he served as offensive coordinator, calling plays during New England’s perfect regular season in 2007. He returned as offensive coordinator in 2012 and stayed for five seasons as he debated which job to take.
McDaniels’ first coaching job, in 1999, was as a graduate assistant on Nick Saban’s staff at Michigan State.
The one glaring flaw: an 11-17 record in his only other head coaching job, which ended before he could complete his second full season in Denver. He was hired by the St. Louis Rams as offensive coordinator after the firing and stayed one year before returning to New England.
Ballard and Irsay are betting that McDaniels learned from his mistakes with the Broncos. This time could be different for another reason, too.
McDaniels never had a franchise quarterback in Denver. Now he has Luck, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012; a backup quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, who he worked with for almost 18 months in New England; four-time Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle, who recently returned from his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Plus, the Colts’ revamped defense improved throughout the season.
And Indy heads into the offseason with roughly $80 million to spend in free agency and the No. 3 pick in April’s draft, giving the Colts a chance to add either an offensive or defensive playmaker or trade the pick to a quarterback-needy team.
Still, questions remain.
The Colts anticipated Luck returning last season after having offseason surgery for a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Instead, Luck missed all 16 games and moved his rehab to Europe after going on injured reserve because of lingering soreness.
Luck is expected to start throwing again soon, if he hasn’t already, but his future will be shrouded in uncertainty until he actually returns to the field and proves he can return to his Pro Bowl form.
McDaniels also must win over a fan base hostile to New England, years after the league moved beyond the Deflategate and Spygate scandals, both of which occurred while McDaniels was an assistant.
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