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Josh McDaniels is ‘totally focused on this season’ despite NFL openings

12.31.12 at 12:21 pm ET
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Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels

FOXBORO — Despite his insistence last week that he is completely focused on the task at hand in New England, a flurry of NFL head coaching vacancies on Monday put Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels under the microscope again on Monday.

McDaniels name came up last week as a potential head coaching with the Browns, who fired Pat Shurmur on Monday.

“I’m thrilled to be back here and came back here for all the right reasons – to learn and to get better as a coach, to work in an organization that I really have a great deal of respect and appreciation for,” McDaniels said, referring to his return to the Patriots this season after a head coaching stint with the Broncos in 2009-10 and a coordinator’s job with the Rams in 2011.

In addition to the Browns, the Eagles fired Andy Reid, the Bills fired Chan Gailey, the Chiefs parted ways with Romeo Crennel and the Bears let go head coach Lovie Smith despite the Bears’ 10-6 record in 2012. Still, McDaniels said his focus is all on the Patriots. The Chargers were expected to fire Norv Turner while Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt‘s future is uncertain in Arizona.

“I’m happy here,” McDaniels added. “My family is happy here. We’re excited about what’s ahead of us here in the playoffs, and to talk about any other opportunities at this point is, to me, irrelevant, because I’m totally focused on this season and what this season holds. I couldn’t be more excited to be here and be a New England Patriot and try to do the best job that I can with the title I have right now.”

Bill Belichick was asked if he had thought about the possibility that McDaniels might be a head coaching candidate.

“Whatever the rules are are the rules and we of course abide by the NFL rules and policies on everything,” Belichick said. “That’s pretty clearly covered by the league. As far as any other situation, I really couldn’t comment on any other team or situation. I have no idea what somebody else is looking for or what their criteria are or what their situation is, for that matter, as an outsider. So I really have no idea who would do what somewhere else because I just don’t know enough about wherever else it is that we’d be talking about.

“As I said, I think Josh has done a great job this year along with the entire offensive staff and the other coaches involved: defense and special teams coaches. I think the coaching staff has done a solid job, but as it relates to him, he’s done a solid job. How that fits into some other situation, I have no idea.”

McDaniels said he has learned from his prior jobs, including his positions with the Patriots before leaving for Denver in 2009.

“I think that every opportunity that you have, and certainly [all] that I’ve gone through since I started a long time ago in 2001 here, has been a learning experience for me. There are certainly going to be mistakes along the way in every role that you hold and that you have and opportunity to work in. I think as long as you can go through that process and try to get better from each mistake that you make or from each positive result that you get, there’s always something to learn from those things and try to make you a better coach, a better leader, a better teacher, a better person, a better communicator, a better staff member.

Hopefully that’s what I’ve tried to do with all my experiences, including the ones that I’ve recently had that weren’t here in New England. I hope every day that I’m better than I was the day before and that every year I can say the same thing. So hopefully going forward in any role that I have, I want to be as good as I can be for that organization that I’m working for. And like I said, I couldn’t be more happy to be here in New England.

Here is the transcript of Monday’s conference call with McDaniels:

Q: A couple offensive linemen after the game seemed pleased with how they played, but wanted to see the game film before answering specifically. What did the game film show as far as how the offensive line played?

JM: We made a big point of emphasis this week of doing – any time you play a team for the second time, you have an opportunity to try to improve on some things that you saw in the first game. We just played Miami a month ago and we talked about being able to run the football a little bit more consistently, trying to protect the quarterback and clean the pocket out a little bit more than we had in the first game. And really made a strong point of emphasis on converting in our short-yardage and goal line situations as well and I really thought that the line did a nice job yesterday of establishing a physical presence on the line of scrimmage and really allowing us to run the football, throw it from the pocket, maintain our balance throughout the game and then really helped us convert in those two short-yardage opportunities that we had yesterday. And then scoring twice one the goal line running the football in is always a good sign. All in all, I think they played well as a group and as a unit and really helped us throughout the entire game in every aspect.

Q: Early in the game it seemed like you were going back and forth between personnel groups. Were those sort of different emphases when you had those two different groups in there or was it just mixing and matching like you guys always do?

JM: We got contributions, really, from all of our skill players yesterday and you’re right, we played all the tight ends in different ways and the backs we also rotated in there with all the different groups of tight ends as well. I know that [Stevan] Ridley, for example, was in there on the first scoring drive there that was only two plays, but Rob [Gronkowski] and Aaron [Hernandez] were on the field with Stevan. And then there were some times when Danny [Woodhead] was out there with [Daniel] Fells and Hooman [Michael Hoomanawanui], or one of them at least, in some of those three receiver sets. We just knew going into the game that we were going to go in there and try to utilize the strengths of the players that we had at the game and try to go ahead and get them all involved and doing some of the things that they can do well for us. I thought we had positive contributions from all of them. But there was no pre-set plan that these groups are together and those groups are together. We were just doing what we normally do and putting each guy in a position to hopefully be successful.

Q: In the 12 wins this year you guys have gone over 100 yards rushing and in the four losses you guys were under 100 rushing yards. Do you make anything of that statistic?

JM: I don’t really pay too much attention to the statistical part of it, because I think a lot of times there can be some chicken and egg there. If you’re winning and you play well early and you get ahead and you have success in one area of the game, then it usually allows you to maintain your balance. If you happen to fall behind or are struggling in one area of the game and have to move it a different way, whether that be run or pass – because there have been games where we haven’t really been as efficient in the passing game either and maybe had more success running the ball. Throughout the course of the season, I can remember one or two games that were that way too. I think our overall goal is to try to be productive and balanced at the same time with both the run and the passing game. Certainly we’re a better offense and a better team when we can do that.

Q: In his return last night, it seemed like Rob Gronkowski was favoring his arm quite a bit. Did you feel like it hampered him much and how do you think he did knocking some of the rust off?

JM: I think it was great to have him out there. Anybody coming off of an injury has to go through that process and get out there and play and go through it for the first time. I thought Rob did a good job of – we knew what his role in the game was going to be. It wasn’t going to be as extensive as maybe some other games. And so he did his job that we asked him to do and carried out his assignment and I thought that all in all it was a fairly productive day and also an opportunity for him to get out there and get his legs back and get into a game and hear the communication and the tempo and the pace and all the different things that happen when you haven’t played in over a month. Hopefully we’ll be able to build off that this week and next week and have him ready to get back into his role hopefully in the first playoff game.

Q: It seems like every play you guys call for Danny Woodhead ends up as a positive play. How vital is he to your offense and is he a guy that might be underappreciated outside of the building?

JM: Danny is as consistent of a worker as we have and he comes into the building every day and really does a great job of studying the opponent, studies his game plan and his role in it. He knows really more than his responsibility on every play, which is I think a valuable asset to have. He does a great job of carrying out his assignment. I think he’s a dependable player and I think that’s a great word to use. If you can use that word about any player, I think that’s a great thing for your team and certainly for our offense. Danny is unselfish. He goes in when he’s told to go in and does his job to the best of his ability every single play that he’s out there and usually the results are very positive for us. We certainly got contributions from him yesterday that helped us in the game and we’ll look forward to that going down the road here.

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