Two former Patriots wouldn’t be surprised if Josh McDaniels returns to New England


“I feel like Billy O’Brien may be out of there after this year.”

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick shaking hands with Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels after the Raiders defeated the Patriots 21-17 during NFL action at Allegiant Stadium.
Josh McDaniels has found plenty of success with Bill Belichick in New England. Matthew J Lee / The Boston Globe

Josh McDaniels is officially a free agent.

The longtime Patriots offensive coordinator was fired from his most recent post as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders early Wednesday morning — ending an unceremonious run that didn’t even last two seasons.

After two disastrous stints as a head coach in both Denver (2009-10) and now Las Vegas, McDaniels’ job prospects will likely center around the offensive side of the ball — be it in a staff role or as a coordinator.

Given McDaniels’ familiarity with Bill Belichick and the Patriots, could he make yet another return to Foxborough in the months ahead?

Even though McDaniels’ latest reunion as New England’s primary offensive maestro is seemingly blocked by the presence of current OC Bill O’Brien, former Patriots star Rob Gronkowski could see a scenario playing out where O’Brien is coaching elsewhere in 2024 — paving the way for McDaniels’ return.

“I feel like Billy O’Brien may be out of there after this year,” Gronkowski said during his latest appearance on the “Up & Adams” show on YouTube. “So if that’s the case, I think Josh McDaniels comes back as offensive coordinator in New England, that’s for sure.” 

“He’s kind of a head-coach guy,” Gronkowski added when asked of O’Brien’s job prospects. I feel like he’s going to take an opportunity somewhere else. I have zero sources, this is just me coming up with it. Because I was still very surprised that he went to New England. So I could see him doing a one or two-year deal and then being right out of there and McDaniels coming in once again.”

McDaniels’ struggles as a head coach have been well-documented, with the Broncos and Raiders posting a combined record of 20-33 with him at the helm.

Given the level of success that McDaniels achieved in New England with both Brady and later Mac Jones (who earned a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie in 2021), Gronkowski believed that the burden of being a head coach sapped away some of McDaniels’ greatest strengths on the sideline.

“When he was the offensive coordinator, you could tell he came back and ready to go always fired up, always happy, always ready to go,” Gronkowski said. “And just looking at his face now and seeing him as a head coach, he seems very stressed since he’s been to the Raiders.”

Gronkowski is not the only former Patriot who believes that New England might want to kick the tires on a reunion with McDaniels.

During his weekly appearance on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show”, three-time Super Bowl champion Devin McCourty noted that New England will inevitably give McDaniels a call once the former coach starts testing the waters for more job opportunities. 

“I would not be surprised if Josh was back on staff,” McCourty said. “But also, if I’m Josh, like, ‘Hey, man, [you’ve] still got four and a half years [on his Raiders contract] fully guaranteed. Like for this year, let’s take a little mental break for the rest of the season. See what you can do, go around to other teams, focus on becoming a better coach.’

“I would operate more along those lines. But I think for New England, like Josh had so much success over there. I would be shocked if they don’t at least call him and say ‘Hey, do you want to come back and lend a helping hand of some sort.’”