Josh McDaniels has been one of the few members of the New England Patriots' coaching staff that has been there for all five of their Super Bowl wins. He was with the Patriots from 2001–2008, serving in multiple capacities. In 2009, McDaniels was hired as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. At the time of his hiring, 33-year-old McDaniels was the youngest head coach in the NFL, although less than a week later the Tampa Bay Buccaneers named Raheem Morris, who is five months younger, as their head coach. McDaniels was fired by Denver after a 3–9 start in 2010. He spent the 2011 season as offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, but he was released by the Rams for the 2011–12 NFL playoffs to serve as an offensive assistant for the Patriots in their run to Super Bowl XLVI.
McDaniels is the son of Thom McDaniels (the 1997 USA Today High School Coach of the Year and often described as a "legend" of Ohio high school football). Attending his father's practices during his youth has been credited with inspiring McDaniels to enter coaching.
Recruited out of Canton McKinley High School by Greg Debeljak, McDaniels attended John Carroll University, where he played football, primarily as a wide receiver, from 1995 to 1998. Though a quarterback in high school, he was beaten at that position at John Carroll by Nick Caserio, who joined the Patriots staff in 2001 (the same year as McDaniels). His other teammates included London Fletcher, formerly a linebacker with the St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, and Washington Redskins, as well as Brian Polian, the former head coach at the University of Nevada-Reno, and Tom Telesco, general manager of the Los Angeles Chargers.
McDaniels began his coaching career as a senior graduate assistant at Michigan State University in 1999 under Nick Saban, parlaying his dad's friendship with Saban. After assisting Michigan State, McDaniels moved to Cleveland and worked as a plastics sales representative.
McDaniels joined the Patriots in 2001 as a personnel assistant. From 2002 to 2003, he served as a defensive coaching assistant for the team, working with the defensive backs in 2003. In 2004, he became the team's quarterbacks coach. McDaniels was with the New England Patriots for all five of their Super Bowl championships, Super Bowl XXXVI, Super Bowl XXXVIII, Super Bowl XXXIX, Super Bowl XLIX, and Super Bowl LI. After offensive coordinator Charlie Weis left the team following the 2004 season, the Patriots did not name an offensive coordinator for the 2005 season. According to The New York Times, in 2008, it was McDaniels who called the offensive plays for the 2005 season, although suggestions to that effect were made in 2005. After the season, McDaniels was officially promoted to offensive coordinator, while retaining his responsibilities coaching the team's quarterbacks.
In the 2007 season, with McDaniels at the helm of the offense, the Patriots set NFL records, scoring 75 touchdowns (67 on offense, 50 passing and 17 rushing) and 589 points, leading to rumors that McDaniels might leave the Patriots for a head coaching job. McDaniels withdrew his name from consideration, however, during the Patriots' January 2008 playoff run. Shortly after the Patriots' loss in Super Bowl XLII, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave McDaniels a five-page typed report on what it takes to be an effective head coach and run a winning organization, which McDaniels termed "his bible." Throughout the 2008 season, the two would meet to discuss the report and allow McDaniels to ask non-coaching questions that he brought to later head coaching interviews.
Starting quarterback Tom Brady suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 of the 2008 season. McDaniels directed the Matt Cassel-led Patriots' offense as the team finished the season with an 11-5 record.
On January 11, 2009, the Denver Broncos named McDaniels their head coach, replacing Mike Shanahan. The Broncos introduced McDaniels, who agreed to sign a four-year, $8 million contract, as their head coach in a press conference the next day.
McDaniels's tenure with the Broncos was marred early on by a controversy involving an alleged trade offer from the Patriots involving the team's quarterback, Jay Cutler, which would have sent Matt Cassel to Denver. On March 9, 2009, according to ESPN, a conference call involving McDaniels, team owner Pat Bowlen and Cutler failed to resolve the issues. Cutler said he did not trust McDaniels and the organization following the trade controversy. On April 2, 2009, the Broncos traded Cutler and a 2009 fifth-round draft pick to the Chicago Bears for quarterback Kyle Orton, first- and third-round picks in 2009 and a first-round pick in 2010.
The Broncos started their first season under McDaniels with six straight wins, including an overtime win over the Patriots in Week 5, before suffering four straight losses. In the last game of the season, McDaniels and the Broncos still had a potential playoff berth on the line, but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 44–24, Denver's third straight home loss to a division opponent. That left the Broncos with an 8–8 season record. Controversy surrounded McDaniels for his benching of Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall for the game due to disciplinary reasons; Marshall would be traded to the Miami Dolphins after the season.
McDaniels' second season in Denver ended with a 3–9 record. The Broncos lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on December 5, and on the next day, McDaniels was fired by the Broncos.
On November 27, The Denver Post reported the Broncos were under investigation from the NFL, after it was reported that Steve Scarnecchia, the team's director of video operations hired by McDaniels in 2009, videotaped a San Francisco 49ers' walkthrough practice, during the teams' Week 8 game at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
The same day, the NFL fined the Broncos and McDaniels $50,000 each, and Scarnecchia was fired as a result of the incident. Scarnecchia told NFL investigators he acted alone and "knew it was wrong" to tape the walkthrough practice, after the rest of the Broncos' staff had left the stadium. Scarnecchia later presented McDaniels with the six-minute video, but McDaniels declined to view it, and it was not shown to any other Broncos staff member, and therefore the NFL determined the Broncos had not gained a competitive advantage from it. An anonymous source alerted the Broncos on November 8, who conducted an internal investigation before alerting the NFL. NFL Security then began its investigation, which included a forensic analysis of the computer from which the recording was later deleted by Scarnecchia. Both the NFL and the Broncos determined that McDaniels knew nothing about the incident.
However, the NFL fined McDaniels due to the fact that he did not immediately report the incident to the league office, as required by policy. The NFL also fined the Broncos, as "clubs are ultimately accountable for the conduct of their employees."
McDaniels later issued the following statement:
"I apologize for not promptly reporting the improper conduct of our video director before our game against the 49ers in London. The actions of this individual are in no way representative of the values and integrity held by myself, our players and coaches, and the entire Denver Broncos organization. I understand the punishment from the National Football League and support its commitment to the integrity of the game. We have addressed the situation internally to assure that nothing like this happens again."
According to The Denver Post, the videotaping incident was a major factor in McDaniels' firing a week later; while the Broncos did not deem it something that merited being fired for cause, they considered his failure to report the incident "unforgivable."
On January 18, 2011, McDaniels agreed to become the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams under head coach Steve Spagnuolo. In Super Bowl XLII, Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, while McDaniels was the offensive coordinator of the Patriots. Spagnuolo stated, "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." Also, during the same news conference, it was announced McDaniels would have no hand in any personnel decisions.
Following the 2011 season, the Rams fired Spagnuolo as head coach. While McDaniels was under contract for the 2012 season, the Rams informed him that they would not hold him to his contract, and would allow him to leave. The Patriots then hired McDaniels to act as an offensive assistant coach during their 2011–12 playoff run, and to replace Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the 2012 season. O'Brien left the Patriots after the 2011 season concluded to become head coach at Penn State, but maintained playcalling duties through Super Bowl XLVI.
During the 2014 season, McDaniels was a part of another championship for the Patriots, winning Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks. During the 2016 season, McDaniels coached the offense in another Patriots championship season, this time winning Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons. In the game, the Patriots defeated the Falcons by a score of 34–28 in overtime.
NFL head coaches under whom Josh McDaniels has served:Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams (2011)
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (2001–2008; 2012–present)
Nick Saban, Michigan State (1999–2000)
Assistant coaches under Josh McDaniels who became NFL head coaches:Eric Studesville (interim), Denver Broncos (2010)
Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers (2013–2016)