For the sake of discussion, let’s say the New York Giants have a plan. Let’s say that New York has determined it must completely overhaul its football operation from the front office to the head coach to the quarterback, and that Eli Manning is merely the first to topple in what will be a seismic shakeup.
And let’s say that the Giants have their eye on someone like, say, Josh McDaniels.
And so did the Giants do Eli dirty? Hell yes. But if McDaniels is their ultimate target – along with, say, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio – then they may have their reasons.
Let’s back up here for a second. Nine years ago, after McDaniels helped Bill Belichick guide the Patriots to an 11-5 record with Matt Cassel at quarterback in the aftermath of a Week 1 injury to starter Tom Brady, the Denver Broncos hired McDaniels to be their head coach. Amid rumors that McDaniels was not thrilled at the prospect of inheriting Jay Cutler as his quarterback – who would be? – news leaked that McDaniels and Belichick were discussing a trade that would have sent Cassel to Denver with the new coach.
Before McDaniels even really had begun, he had a controversy. He and Cutler had a meeting that, by all accounts, went poorly. Cutler asked for a trade. McDaniels ended up with Kyle Orton and, eventually, Tim Tebow. And so began McDaniels’ rocky existence in Denver, during which he went 11-17, failed to last a second season and further tainted the Broncos with a scandal centered on Denver’s videotaping tactics. (Hmm, where did he learn that?)
Simply put, McDaniels’ stint with the Broncos was a disaster from the very start, when he helped trigger a quarterback controversy that no team ever wants.
So here’s the question: has McDaniels since learned his lessons? Since the Denver debacle, he has seemingly waited for the right opportunity with the right team. Now, there could soon be an opening with the Giants – one of the plum jobs in the NFL – and McDaniels will be among the most obvious candidates if and when the Giants fire the overmatched boob that is Ben McAdoo, not to mention general manager Jerry Reese.
So how does all this relate to what is going with Giants now in the aftermath of the Eli Manning benching? Think about it. If the Giants have decided that they need to move on from Manning – and that is ultimately what they’re saying here, well beyond the 2017 season – then they would be wise to keep McDaniels as far away from it as possible. (If you believe that tampering goes on, maybe McDaniels insisted on it.) The Giants may not make a formal decision on Manning until March, the official beginning of the 2018 NFL league year, when he is due a roster bonus. They almost certainly will have hired a new coach by then, which could put someone like McDaniels, especially, in a horrible position.
Again, think about it. Let’s say McDaniels gets hired. Given his history, the first major move he’d be connected to would be the removal of Manning, a two-time Super Bowl winner who has a long history in New York. Such a connection would damage McDaniels from the start – Denver all over again in some ways – and immediately put him in the public and media crosshairs.
In so many ways, particularly amid a rebuild in a league where quarterback play is paramount, he’d be running uphill from the start.
Of course, whether McDaniels is the Giants’ ultimate target or not is at least partly irrelevant. The McDaniels experience in Denver is what is instructive. Denver wanted and needed to make a quarterback change. McDaniels certainly wanted one. In retrospect, the Broncos should have cut bait with Cutler before McDaniels ever entered the picture, removing him from a story that was bound to get messy. (There were reports that Cutler wanted out even before McDaniels was hired.) Instead, McDaniels walked into the proverbial bleepstorm, leading many to question his capability before he even began.
In recent years, McDaniels has been linked to numerous job openings and has either turned them down or removed himself from consideration. According to some, McDaniels was ready to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers if he could bring Caserio with him, but the Niners wanted current GM John Lynch and a division of power. So McDaniels is back in Foxboro, perhaps (or not) as the successor to Bill Belichick, which may or may not be a desirable position.
Now the Giants are on the landscape again, as they were when Tom Coughlin was ousted. New York has already cut ties with Eli Manning. And whoever the next coach of the Giants is – assuming there is one – he will almost certainly get what McDaniels did not nine years ago in Denver.
A truly clean slate.