Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels met with the Las Vegas media on Wednesday as he and his team prepare to face the Patriots, a team McDaniels spent over 20 years with, spanning two separate tenures with three-year hiatus in between.
Coming off a record-breaking 2007 season as offensive coordinator for the Patriots, then showing what he was capable of when Tom Brady was lost for the 2008 season and Matt Cassel spent the year at quarterback, McDaniels got his first head coach opportunity with the Broncos. He won his first six games in Denver, including an overtime victory over the Patriots, but then lost 17 of his next 22 games and was fired before the end of 2010.
After a year in St. Louis as the Rams offensive coordinator, McDaniels made his way back to New England, initially serving as a consultant for the 2011 playoff run to the Super Bowl then taking back over as the team's offensive coordinator as Bill O'Brien departed for the college ranks.
McDaniels opened up when asked about what he learned in that second 10-year stint that eventually led to him getting a second opportunity as a head coach.
"After I had my experience with Denver I think that was really an important period of time for me because I knew what I had done and what I had experienced and I got to kind of take some time and really try to soak it all in," said McDaniels. "I know I didn't do very well now I'm watching [Bill Belichick] the second time around and maybe the first time I didn't even know what to look for. Now I'm looking for different things... how he handles adversity, what he's doing here in the off-season, how he's handling the bye week, what he's doing an April, May, June, etc. that existed before I left. It gave me a good opportunity to look at it through a different lens and really try to take some time to process those things while I was watching somebody that's obviously the best that's ever done it and do it again.
"It's obvious I wouldn't be here or even in the National Football League if it wasn't for Bill, Robert [Kraft], Jonathan [Kraft], who gave me a great opportunity a long time ago. [Bill]'s been invaluable to me in a lot of ways. Hard to measure all of them. Obviously, football background, understanding how this league works. I got to see firsthand how to try to do it the right way. His philosophy on everything... off-season, training camp and season, postseason, evaluations, draft, free agency. He gave a lot of his time to me. I was able to hopefully pick up as much as I could. I still got a lot to learn. He was a great mentor for me not only in football but also in terms of when I got there I was 23, 24 years old. Basically grew up there. Indebted to them forever for that."
With one previous victory over Belichick and the Patriots under his belt, McDaniels will now try to repeat his success as his Raiders offense appears to be getting healthy just as their season's fate is likely already determined. Still, McDaniels is looking to lay a foundation for the future and knocking off a Patriots team that is trying to hold their current playoff spot would be an impressive feather in his cap, even if Las Vegas doesn't punch their ticket to the postseason this year.
"Obviously [the Patriots] played well Monday night, they're playing well," assessed McDaniels of his former team. "It's a team that you're going to have to do a good job in all three phases. They play really good complementary football. Nobody scores more off turnovers than they do. They force a lot of takeaways. They play really stingy defense. They don't really give up a lot of big plays. It's hard to drive the ball and make you covert three or four third downs on the drive, which is always challenging. They always have something new for you that you're going to have to adjust to."