The last day of 2012 is also the last day on the job for many NFL head coaches and executives. What is annually referred to ominously as "Black Monday" because of all the firings following the last regular season game is living up to its reputation.
With vacancies popping up across the league, a name that many are tossing around as a candidate for any number of them is Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Today, he did his best to downplay any interest in such a move back to the head coaching ranks.
"Here's what I'll say about that," McDaniels told reporters via conference call this morning, one day after New England secured the 2-seed in the AFC Playoffs. "I'm thrilled to be back here and came back here for all the right reasons – to learn and to get better as a coach, to work in an organization that I really have a great deal of respect and appreciation for. I'm happy here. My family is happy here. We're excited about what's ahead of us here in the playoffs, and to talk about any other opportunities at this point is, to me, irrelevant, because I'm totally focused on this season and what this season holds. I couldn't be more excited to be here and be a New England Patriot and try to do the best job that I can with the title I have right now."
This, of course, isn't the first time McDaniels has been rumored to be coveted by other teams while the Patriots make a run for the Super Bowl. You'll recall that he was courted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, but decided to stay with New England before accepting the Denver Broncos head coaching position a year later. His stint there lasted barely a season and a half.
Despite being abruptly let go by Denver, McDaniels soon found work again as offensive coordinator in St. Louis for a year, at the end of which he re-joined the Patriots during last year's playoffs and Super Bowl.
"There are certainly going to be mistakes along the way in every role that you hold and that you have an opportunity to work in," he continued. "I think as long as you can go through that process and try to get better from each mistake that you make or from each positive result that you get, there's always something to learn from those things and try to make you a better coach, a better leader, a better teacher, a better person, a better communicator, a better staff member. Hopefully that's what I've tried to do with all my experiences, including the ones that I've recently had that weren't here in New England."
With the team's success on offense again this season, it's no surprise McDaniels is being talked about by many as a soon-to-be-head-coach again.
"Josh, he does a good job in all areas: player evaluation, scheme, technique, play calling, getting everything coordinated," head coach Bill Belichick remarked this morning. "How that fits into some other situation, I have no idea."
Belichick was asked if there were any contractual issues that would prevent another club from seeking permission to speak with McDaniels about a head coaching job.
"Whatever the rules are, are the rules, and we of course abide by the NFL rules and policies on everything," he replied, without really answering the question.
For now, McDaniels, Belichick, and the rest of the Patriots have to concentrate on what's certain to come in the immediate future. Knowing they have next weekend off and not another game until Sunday, January 13, the team is treating this bye week like it would a regular season bye: by taking stock of themselves and trying to get a jump on the three opponents they could host that day – Houston, Baltimore, and Indianapolis.
Players are at Gillette Stadium today, but will have New Year's Day off, then return for work on Wednesday, although the full week's schedule has yet to be finalized.