Josh McDaniels made one of the most surprising moves of the offseason when he spurned the Indianapolis Colts, who he had previously agreed to coach, to remain with the New England Patriots. The Colts felt jilted, especially after announcing the hire before it was official. Now, the league may be taking steps to ensure that no team is ever put in a similar situation. Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reports that the league is considering a Josh McDaniels Rule to prevent that exact situation.
The rule would allow assistant coaches who are in the playoffs to sign contracts with new teams as head coaches before their original team’s season ends. This would force coaches like McDaniels to actually sign on rather than string new teams along for weeks. The verbal agreement system that is currently in place makes life extremely difficult for teams like the Colts if their preferred candidate backs out. By that point, almost every other team in football has filled out their coaching staff. The pool of candidates is extremely small, whereas a simple “no” earlier in the process would have allowed the Colts to pursue candidates who wound up in other jobs.
No other assistant coach in McDaniels’ position has ever left a team at the altar after reaching the Super Bowl, but he is not the first head coach to change his mind. In fact, McDaniels’ mentor made a very similar choice in 2000, when he was set to become the head coach of the New York Jets (or, as his napkin said, “HC of the NYJ”). He resigned after only a day, eventually landing with the Patriots instead and leading them on an 18-year run of excellence that has included five Super Bowl championships. McDaniels’ situation was different, but there is a bit of irony in the fact that he comes from Belichick’s coaching tree given his history.
Rich McKay, the Chairman of the NFL Competition Committee, supports the potential change, saying “Every year it’s become harder as the media pays more focus to those coaches and who may be going where,” McKay said. “For too many years we’ve tried to hold that line on you can’t sign a contract but you can have an understanding. We just felt like we need to get over that hurdle and say you can sign a contract. It doesn’t mean you can work, but you can sign the contract.”
There would seem to be no logical opposition to such a rule. No team wants to be put in the situation that the Colts just were, so the odds would suggest that a rule in this vein will come to pass in the near future.