McDaniels is back with more miles on him

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McDaniels is back with more miles on him

FOXBORO - Josh McDaniels just turned 36 and there's barely a wrinkle - or a hint of a whisker - on his boyish face.

During his three-year mission away from the Patriots, he got some miles put on him. Scrutinized, vilified and - was very briefly - glorified.

As head coach of the Broncos, he traded a surly quarterback (Jay Cutler) after a draft-time trade for Matt Cassel blew up in Denver's face. He silenced doubters by starting out 6-0 and gave them voice again by finishing the rest of that 2009 season 2-6. After a 3-9 start in 2010 he was given the gate.

He landed in St. Louis, offensive coordinator for a team that made the playoffs in 2010 with Sam Bradford under center as a rookie. The Rams went 2-14, were in offensive shambles and the coaching staff was fired.

Now McDaniels is back with the Patriots. While he'd be excused if he seemed a little world-weary, the tone he struck at rookie minicamp this week was of a guy happy to be back where things began.

Im older," McDaniels said when asked how he's changed. Then he added, "I think we all learn things about ourselves each year, and I thinkIve had some experiences that hopefully have taught me a lot of things aboutme as a person, and certainly as a coach, Ive learned a lot of things aboutdifferent ways to do things.

"Ive been around a lot of different people thathave different philosophies, and some I thought were really interesting, andsome I learned some of maybe what I dont want to do," he added. :I think you learn both ofthose things as you meet new people, and experience new things. Just try totake the best from all those experiences and apply them to what I do every dayand try to be a better coach.If you put all 32 NFL coaches in a room, you couldn't throw a balled-up pink slip and not hit a guy who's been fired as a head coach and gotten a second bite at the apple.
Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick spring to mind first as guys who've been canned then triumped. There's also Mike Shanahan and John Fox and a fleet of men - Norv Turner, Chan Gailey, Romeo Crennel, Jeff Fisher - who are on their second teams now.

The smart money is on McDaniels again emerging as a hot head coaching prospect. He said Friday that's way off his radar right now.

Asked why he'd come back to New England with nothing left to prove, McDaniels said, "I think its more about what I have to learn. I think this is a greatenvironment for a young coach to learn. As old as I might feel, Im stillreally young and have so much more to learn and understand. There is not abetter teacher than Coach Belichick and Mr. Kraft and the way we do thingshere, how we adapt each year, and I think that gives any coach young or old an opportunity to really grasp those things and really improve."

McDaniels actually has plenty to prove. He hasn't coached a winning offense since 2008 when Cassel carried the Patriots to 11-5. He needs to show he is still one of the most innovative minds in football but also do it with a different cast than the one he had in New England his first time.

Short-lived though it was, Brady-to-Moss was historically explosive for the Patriots in 2007 when McDaniels made his reputation. That link-up is obviously gone and new toys are in place including a revolutionary tight end duo, a slot receiver who's only gotten better and a different kind of outside threat in Brandon Lloyd. What will McDaniels conjure from this group?

The foundation of our system has really been the same, in terms of our termsand some of the things that we re-teach every year," McDaniels explained. "Really. I think itsimportant as coaches to go back to your foundation each spring and dontassume anything. Recall, certainly, with a lot of our players is something thatwe expect and that we want them to show us and demonstrate. But I thinksometimes as coaches, its really good for you to go back and get to the nutsand bolts of why it started where it did, and again, progress to wherever itneeds to go that year, for that team, to do the best it can.

"Each year, everyteam is different," he added. "This team, the players we have here, are different than anyplayers Ive had. Tight ends. Backs are younger. I think you just have to goback, re-teach your foundation, establish what you believe in and your coreeach year, and then build it from there and allow the personnel to kind ofdictate which direction you go.There must have been an avalanche of advice and counsel for McDaniels when he left the Patriots in early 2009. But none of that could necessarily prepare him for the realities of the job. Real-life experience - success, failure and controversy - they leave their marks even if the face doesn't show a crease.
McDaniels is back and - even though his stay as simply the offensive coordinator of the Patriots may not be a five-year ride - it's what he's locked in on now. Head coaching?
"That's really not something I'm worried about or concerned about," he concluded. "I'm really excited about the opportunity that I have here and looking forward, very much, to this spring and trying to do what we can this year to win."

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."