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Jerry Sullivan: McDaniels move says Pats aren't quite done

No doubt, Josh McDaniels is getting crushed on social media right now, especially by spurned Indianapolis fans who assumed he was going to be introduced as the Colts' next head coach Wednesday afternoon.

The Indiana media can't be too thrilled with him, either. It's one thing for a center like Eric Wood to stiff the media with a 90-second non-retirement statement. Imagine gearing up for an NFL head coach hiring and having the guy bail out at the last minute, with his bags packed and everything.

McDaniels deserves some grief for leaving the Colts at the altar and remaining as the Pats' offensive coordinator and presumed successor to Bill Belichick. He comes off as wishy-washy and afraid to leave the soft embrace of New England, where your postman could look brilliant as OC for Tom Brady.

Even his agent, Bob LaMonte, reportedly told McDaniels he could be making the biggest mistake of his coaching career by backing out. Of course, keep in mind that LaMonte is out a nice chunk of commission because of his client's decision. On Wednesday, LaMonte wound up cutting ties with McDaniels.

But you have to give the guy credit for being honest with himself in the end, for admitting how good he has it in the Patriots family – not to mention his own family, which evidently had a great deal to do with his decision.

It's easy for Pats-haters to be cynical about the family thing. There's got to be something sinister behind everything they do, right? I believe the reports that McDaniels grew uncomfortable with the idea of uprooting his wife and four children from New England, where he has worked for 14 of the last 17 years.

Sure, he got a sweet new deal from owner Bob Kraft, and the likely assurance that he'll become the Pats' head coach when Belichick finally walks away. This wasn't about the money. McDaniels would have made a lot more as a head coach with the Colts than he will as a highly paid OC with the Patriots.

Four assistants who were hired with the understanding that McDaniels would take the Colts job can't be feeling very charitably toward him. Maybe this will convince the NFL to change its awkward policy that says coaches can't be hired while their current teams are still alive in the playoffs.

Brian Daboll must be relieved. Daboll worked with McDaniels for years in New England and was seen as the leading candidate to be his offensive coordinator in Indy. But Daboll took the Bills' job instead, supposedly for family reasons.

For Daboll, returning to Buffalo 'means everything'

Overall, this development is disappointing news for Bills fans. The Pats won't have to replace two of their top three assistants. It appears special teams coordinator Joe Judge, who was expected to follow McDaniels to Indy, also will be staying. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia left to be head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Belichick has lost assistants in the past without missing a beat. But there's something to be said for stability. Brady might yell at McDaniels now and then, but they have a strong working relationship. McDaniels has been Brady's OC and quarterbacks coach for some of his finest seasons (2006-08 and 2012 to the present).

Bringing on a new coach for Brady, who will be 41 next season, would be a difficult transition, even for the greatest quarterback of all time. Family concerns or not, I doubt McDaniels would be staying with the Pats if he didn't believe Brady, who was MVP at age 40, could play another two or three years at an elite level.

The Pats are still loaded on offense. Julian Edelman will be back. Brandin Cooks, a premier deep threat, is only 24. Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola aren't bad as your third and fourth receivers. Running backs James White and Dion Lewis are in their primes. If everyone stays healthy, it could be one of the best offenses ever.

Oh, that assumes Rob Gronkowski comes back healthy. The latest rumor is that Gronk, having taken such a physical beating over the years, might retire to pursue a career in acting. Sorry, I don't see him as another Jim Brown. Gronk talks about how much he loves football. He's not walking away at age 28.

Rob Gronkowski will consider retirement this offseason (video)

Bills fans loved seeing the Pats lose Sunday. They've waited two decades for signs of a dynasty in decline. Maybe the Pats' dynasty is in its final stages, but it's far from done. If anything, losing the Super Bowl could make them even more determined to get back – the way those Bills teams did back in the day.

The way I see it, all the Patriots will be eager to come back after losing the Super Bowl to the Eagles. From Brady on down, they're one of the most fiercely competitive teams ever to play the sport. That emanates from their head coach.

Belichick isn't going to coach forever. Late in the regular season, after reports of an internal rift over Brady's personal fitness guru, there was speculation that the marriage wouldn't last another year, and that Belichick would leave if the Patriots won a sixth Super Bowl.

The relationship might be strained, but Brady and Belichick aren't through yet. They're too competitive, too consumed with football and winning, to break apart now, not after making it to seven straight AFC championshp games and winning nine consecutive AFC East titles.

Belichick will be 66 in April. What's he going to do if he quits, garden? Go with Gronk into cinema? Maybe he'll move into upper management, but he's a coach at heart. His two sons are now working with him in New England. I can't see him stopping in the next couple of years.

Former Pats assistant Eric Mangini shot down any notion of a Belichick retirement Tuesday on "Undisputed." "No way, no how," he said. "It’s just not gonna happen.”

McDaniels must have some assurances that he'll eventually be the head man. But he's only 41, seven years younger than Belichick was when Robert Kraft hired him to be head coach in 2000. I doubt there's anything definitive on paper about the succession, a drop-dead date where McDaniels has to be the man.

The way I see it, McDaniels isn't staying simply to wait on Belichick's job. He's sticking around to win. It must be pretty intoxicating to win 12 games every year and average 30 points and be the favorite for the Super Bowl.

The Colts aren't exactly a plum job. They're in a serious rebuild and there are lingering questions about Andrew Luck's shoulder injury. Why would McDaniels go to Indy and lose when he can go back to the Bowl with New England? Evidently, money wasn't a sufficient incentive.

Rip away if you like. McDaniels dawdled, but he ultimately decided he had too good a thing going to move his family again. I think he's telling us that there's still some unfinished business in New England, still more big-time winning to be done.

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