Josh McDaniels does not march to the beat of anyone’s drum, even his own. In 2007, his offense leaned heavily on a tall passing target who had “off the field personality”. The Patriots tolerated Randy Moss and his propensity for the crazy because of his ability to connect with the great Tom Brady. Moss was widely regarded as washed up when he arrived to New England, a reclamation project. He caught 23 touchdowns that season and the Brady to Moss connection single-handedly drove the Patriots straight to the Super Bowl. The Patriots had the most prolific scoring offense in NFL History. It was almost perfect.
McDaniels Does it His Way in Denver
That success was got McDaniels the new head coach of the Denver Broncos during the 2009-10 season. The Broncos wanted him to replicate that success with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, the team’s star offensive players. Instead, his first big move was to jettison the team’s Pro Bowl quarterback, Jay Cutler for draft picks. The next season, it’s Pro Bowl 6’4 receiver, Brandon Marshall, was moved. In two short seasons he dismantled that combination and instead his offensive system produced two players who went on to become solid fantasy football players, Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd. McDaniels only won 40% of the games while leading the Broncos, but he proved two things: 1) He can make statistical stars out of ordinary talents 2) HE wants to be known as the person who extracted stardom out of ordinary talents.
McDaniels Prefers Edelman and Hernandez over Gronkowski and Welker
Fast forward to present day. McDaniels has returned as offensive coordinator for the Patriots, taking over for Bill O’Brien. The offense has evolved from his 2007 schematic, but with one thing still remains intact, a tall, passing target with — “off the field personality”. Rob Gronkowski has scored a total of 27 touchdowns in his first two seasons in the league. But that was Bill O’Brien’s guy. In an odd way, so was Wes Welker, who saw his best years with Bill O’Brien running the show.
Oddly, the Patriots with all their weapons now, look a bit sluggish on offense. They look labored and at times uncharacteristically inefficient. It also looks like a battle of old and new infused Patriots offensively philosophy. You wonder if McDaniels is once again trying to push aside proven commodities like Gronkowski and Welker in favor of trying to make Julian Edelman and Aaron Hernandez the new stars of the offense. When Edelman was seeing a lot of playing time and targets at the beginning over Wes Welker, McDaniels said it was because he could provide more explosive plays. That turned out to be hogwash. Prior to his hand injury, the brittle Edelman didn’t do much with the increased playing time. Now, with Edelman out, Welker has gone over 100 yards in 4 straight games, flashing that brilliance seen sans Randy Moss.
The same is happening at the tight end position. Gronkowski has 29 grabs compared to Hernandez’s 12, but only leads in touchdown receptions 3 to 2. Keep in mind Hernandez was out for several games due to an ankle injury. Here is what I think. Rob Gronkowski will get 1,000 yards receiving. He should also get around 6-8 touchdowns. That’s a very good season for a tight end. However, not a very good season for a guy picked in the 2nd or 3rd round of many fantasy drafts. Yes, the Patriots are running more in the red zone and Stevan Ridley is making Josh McDaniels look smart by resurrecting a single back ground attack. Gronkowski is also battling a painful hip and the sting of offseason ankle surgery. But he is also battling Josh McDaniels propensity to coach up other guys and try like heck to make them stars under his watch. them stars. Of course that is what the ‘Little Kings’ do. Fantasy football players now have two coaches in New England they can curse at.