New England Patriots

You might have thought that Josh McDaniels’ stunning decision to back out of the Colts head coaching job at the last minute would mean Bill Belichick is on the way out in New England. But ESPN’s Mike Reiss is looking at it the opposite way.

In a new column on Thursday, Reiss posits an “alternative theory” that McDaniels’ decision could actually extend Belichick’s remaining years as Patriots head coach rather than shorten it. And considering how tapped-in Reiss is to the highest levels of the organization, it could be more than just a theory.

The idea is that McDaniels staying with the Patriots makes the next calendar year much less of a challenge for Belichick. That’s especially true considering that Reiss previously reported that Belichick told McDaniels he would teach the offensive coordinator more about “the inner workings of the Patriots, including roster construction and salary-cap management.” It’s a little odd that none of that has already happened with one of his most loyal longtime assistants, but hey it’s going to happen now.

This essentially confirms that the Patriots know their most likely succession plan at head coach. McDaniels views the aforementioned inner-workings as “extremely valuable” and his closer work with Belichick would effectively make him the assistant head coach as long as both are in the fold. It will lighten Belichick’s workload, which looked massive with the turnover on the coaching staff and pressing needs to improve the roster. And it will help McDaniels immensely to prepare for his next gig, which is probably the next Patriots head coach.

Tom Brady talks with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels prior to the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Extending the Window

However, Belichick’s end appears to be pushed back. Rumors have swirled for some time that Belichick could walk away after the 2018 or 2019 season, but perhaps McDaniels’ decision has bought Belichick an extra year or two on top of that. Maybe Tom Brady really will play until he’s 45 years old, and Belichick would like to stay for at least three of these next five remaining years in the quarterback’s career.

The interesting part is that McDaniels doesn’t have written assurance that he will be the next Patriots head coach after Belichick. That tells you that neither side wanted it in writing. It’s pretty clear that McDaniels isn’t exactly the most decisive when it comes to his professional decisions and would like to keep his options open, especially since there are still plenty of former Patriots execs around the league who may still be interested in him down the road. And at the same time, the Krafts probably don’t want to handcuff themselves like that either. You never know where either party will be 3-5 years from now.

But in any event, McDaniels is in New England for the foreseeable future and it appears that Belichick will groom him to be his successor. That likely means that the Hoodie will stick around a little bit longer than you may think.

— By Matt Dolloff,

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at