– After intense negotiations that featured a rollercoaster ride of will he or won’t he all day Tuesday, the Rams and Josh McDaniels finally committed to each other just before 5:30 Tuesday evening.
– As the Rams named McDaniels their new offensive coordinator, they sent a statement to the rest of the league that they are going to do everything possible to make this offense one of the league’s most explosive.
– In McDaniels, the Rams snared one of the league’s brightest young offensive minds. When he was offensive coordinator in New England, McDaniels helped Tom Brady and that offense reach heights never before seen in the NFL.
– Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said his respect for McDaniels made the young coordinator a natural fit.
““We are happy to announce that Josh will be a part of our staff,” Spagnuolo said. “I’ve always recognized that he is one of the top offensive minds in the NFL. We think he is a great addition to our organization.”
– Spagnuolo and McDaniels have had a number of battles through the years, none more so than the one that concluded the 2007 season in Super Bowl XVII when McDaniels had led the most prolific offense in league history to an undefeated season against Spagnuolo’s dominant Giants defense. In that memorable contest, it was Spagnuolo that came out on top but there’s no doubt that the mutual respect the pair walked away with for each other was abundant.
– Even this season, Spagnuolo and McDaniels squared off again when McDaniels was head coach of the Broncos in a Rams’ victory in Denver.
– Going back before those jobs, Spagnuolo and McDaniels had emerged as two of the hottest coaching names on the market following the 2008 season. The Rams had Spagnuolo and McDaniels high on their list much as the Broncos had McDaniels and Spagnuolo high on their list. Ultimately, Denver opted for McDaniels and the Rams selected Spagnuolo. Now, the pair will get their first chance to work with each other on the same side.
– McDaniels brings with him plenty of youthful energy but his arrival also will symbolize a shift in offensive philosophy. Since taking over as head coach, Spagnuolo’s teams have run the West Coast Offense favored by former coordinator Pat Shurmur. That offense focuses on the running game and short, quick passes designed to allow receivers the opportunity to make yards after the catch.
– McDaniels’ system is quite the departure from that scheme. While McDaniels also keeps balance in the offense, he prefers to stretch the field vertically and allow for big plays down the field.
– Here’s a small sample of some of the Patriots’ accomplishments under McDaniels…
– 2007 NFL MVP Tom Brady broke the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season (50) and led the league in passing yards (4,806) and passer rating (117.2). Brady also set franchise marks in nearly every major passing category, while WR Wes Welker set the franchise record for receptions in a season (112) and WR Randy Moss broke the NFL record for touchdown receptions with 23. The Patriots offense also posted the franchise’s highest average yards per rush in 22 seasons with 4.1 yards per carry and the team’s 17 rushing touchdowns were the second highest total in the previous 20 years.
Brady went to three Pro Bowls during his six seasons with McDaniels serving as his position coach.
– And if you’re skeptical about McDaniels has accomplished without the use of Hall of Fame players such as Brady and Moss, you need not look very far.
– In the 2008 regular season opener, Brady was lost to a season ending knee injury. The Patriots plugged in Matt Cassel, at the time a seventh-round draft pick out of USC, who was never even the Trojans’ starter in his time in Los Angeles.
– Cassel went on to lead the club to a 10-5 record as a starter. In his first season as an NFL starter, Cassel posted the third-best completion percentage in Patriots history (63.4) while passing for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
– That performance eventually landed Cassel the starting job in Kansas City and a mega-million dollar contract. He led the Chiefs to a playoff appearance in just his third season as a starter and second year with the Chiefs.
– Even in Denver the past couple of seasons, McDaniels has done more with less. The previously pedestrian Kyle Orton posted career numbers in McDaniels’ system.
– During McDaniels’ first season in Denver, QB Kyle Orton set career highs for pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and passer rating while tying his career low for interceptions. Orton’s 3,802 yards were the sixth highest for a season in Broncos history.
– In 2010, the Broncos ranked seventh in the NFL in passing yards per game and finished 13th in total yards per game.
– So, what does all of that mean for the Rams?
– Clearly, in choosing to come to St. Louis, McDaniels had a very good idea of what was already in place. Few coordinators get a chance to step into a job where a franchise quarterback is already in place. In Sam Bradford, that’s precisely what McDaniels has in St. Louis.
– Now, Bradford had one of the most productive seasons by a rookie signal caller in league history. It took some time for him to get adjusted to Shurmur’s system but once he got the handle on it, he performed well. Now, Bradford will be asked to start over again which one can argue will slow his progress. While there’s certainly truth in that it will take Bradford time to learn a new system and, especially, new verbiage, it’s not like he was in the WCO for 10 years. It’s only one year of work in the other system so unlearning it wouldn’t be as tough as it would had he been doing it for a decade.
– Bradford has all the tools to succeed in McDaniels’ system and there’s little doubt that he will once he gets his mind around all the concepts. Keep in mind, Bradford is one of the hardest working guys on the team. He loves the details and the film work that goes into his job. He’ll work extremely hard to get the hang of it.
– All of that said, there’s one reasonable concern for Bradford and the rest of the offense in learning a new system. The impending possibility of a lockout could severely limit the amount of time Bradford gets to work with McDaniels and his teammates this offseason. That doesn’t mean he can’t take the playbook home and get cracking on it right away but it does mean he wouldn’t have much guidance in it while the lockout is going on.
– As for the running game, the Rams struggled to find consistency last year but McDaniels has proved in the past that he can rev the running game up. For starter Steven Jackson, it could mean less carries but more touches. McDaniels likes to use his backs in the passing game and Jackson has been an adept receiver out of the backfield. There’s little doubt that will continue.
– In a more big picture sense, the addition of McDaniels could also signal an emphasis on adding weapons and playmakers to the offense to fully maximize his abilities. There was a time when the Rams hired a big name offensive mind in Mike Martz as offensive coordinator. That same year, they went out and traded for Marshall Faulk, drafted Torry Holt and signed Trent Green and Adam Timmerman.
– It remains to be seen if the Rams would go on a similar offensive spree – especially considering the looming CBA issues – but don’t be surprised if, with McDaniels, Jackson and Bradford in place as well as two talented young tackles, the Rams go out and look to add more toys to the offense.
– That’s all for now. Back with more this afternoon. Spagnuolo is scheduled to discuss McDaniels at noon and McDaniels will participate in a conference call at 4.
Posted in From the Sidelines | 3 Comments »