Jan. 12--Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels have worked side-by-side in the Patriots offices, sidelines and the occasional Boylston Street duck boat parade. They have won Super Bowl rings and suffered Super Bowl and conference championship game losses.
They are the 2018 valedictorians of the Bill Belichick Finishing School and ready to go out on their own -- McDaniels tried it once nine years ago and had to return for more class work. They will attempt to wipe out the history of The Hoodie's assistants flopping once they escape the Evil Empire.
There's lots to like about each, but now it appears Patricia, the mad scientist defensive mastermind, has separated himself from McDaniels, the state-of-the-art offensive whiz kid constantly in Tom Brady's ear and occasionally his face, as the Giants' coaching search reaches the final stages.
"If they don't hire Matt Patricia, I'd be very surprised," a source told the Daily News on Thursday. "It fits the narrative."
Patricia has emerged as the Giants favorite with the desire to return to their championship DNA of impose-your-will tough guy football. New England's season is still going and potentially not ending until the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, so no formal offer can be made, but there are always back channels to deliver the word from the Giants once it is final.
"These guys are trying to build a team the way the Patriots have done it. Why not?" the NFL source said. "These are two extremely smart people with work ethics off the charts. Work is their joy. They don't stress over work. They are not going to say at 11 p.m. 'I got to get home.' They enjoy the challenge."
Why Patricia over McDaniels?
The final decision belongs to co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, but they did not hire Dave Gettleman as GM to force a coach on him. My sources believe that Patricia's philosophy is most closely aligned to what Gettleman articulated on Dec. 29 when he endorsed a smash-mouth approach to football with the emphasis on big guys. Gettleman also made a point of saying how defense wins championships.
One other point: Gettleman is a dominant presence. McDaniels ran the show when he was the head coach in Denver and may not be a good fit with a heavy-handed GM. As a first-time head coach, Patricia could be more receptive to Gettleman's guidance and control.
Here's why I think Patricia will be announced as the Giants new coach:
- His defensive schemes are game plan-centric as he adapts the personnel week-to-week. He is excellent at mid-game adjustments. Although New England gave up the fourth most yards this season, it gave up the fifth fewest points. Belichick has given him the autonomy to run that side of the ball.
"They know how to keep people out of the end zone and you can't underestimate that," said one source. "That was Bill Belichick's secret with the Giants and he's carried it his whole career. New England gave up the yardage, but it has one of the best scoring defenses. What's the name of the game? Outscore the other team. They are extremely versatile, everybody plays more than one position. They protect themselves from losing one player and now the season is over. That is huge. Their greatest resources are their defensive backs. When you condense the field, their strength becomes a tremendous strength. Their versatility is unmatched by any team in the league and it's not even close."
Even so, Alan Branch, at 6-6, 350, is their most important defensive player. He clogs the middle much like Vince Wilfork did for so many years. "He's bigger than a truck," the source said. "He stands right in the middle of the field. You are not going to run over him, so you have to run around him."
- There is concern around the NFL that McDaniels was so bad in his 28 games as the Broncos head coach in 2009-10 that he will not be better the second time around. He's 41 now and has grown up but when he was 33 the reviews were awful. The Broncos made a mistake by giving him too much power. He actually traded up into the first round to take Tim Tebow in 2010.
"McDaniels was a total disaster in Denver," another source said. "He was a micro-manager and didn't relate well to players. There are some who feel he learned from it. He tried to take too much of New England and Bill Belichick and none of it worked. When he traded up for Tebow, it was like, 'I can make a quarterback out of anybody.' That's the past. He seems to have done a very good job back in New England. He has Brady but he developed Jimmy Garoppolo."
- McDaniels got into a nasty screaming match with Brady in Buffalo in December after the best QB in NFL history misfired on a pass to receiver Brandin Cooks.
"He was wide open. We had him open," McDaniels snapped at Brady when he came to the sideline.
"I got it," Brady fired back.
Brady finished it off by screaming, "F--- you!"
Hey, Brady and McDaniels are like brothers, but it still made huge news. McDaniels has a feisty side to him dealing with the players.
Is that how the Giants would want him dealing with Odell Beckham, not only if he drops a pass, but if he acts like a knucklehead and costs the Giants 15 yards?
That might be just what they want after Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo gave OBJ a free pass for three years. But do the Giants want their head coach getting into it with his players during games? Bill Parcells did it occasionally with Phil Simms and that seems to have worked out well. But Simms was a tough guy. Beckham might not be able to handle tough love.
McDaniels is calm relaying the plays into Brady. Between series, he sits with him looking at video and pictures of the defense. The blowup with Brady was an aberration but also created a lasting image.
Patricia is not a hot head.
"Not at all," the source said.
He also looks under control on the sidelines even when his defense is giving up chunk plays. "Matt has a great personality," one source said. "I think he would be a very natural communicator with players. When you meet him, you like him."
I've been told they both command a room. I've also been told that Patricia is special addressing large groups.
- Mara and Tisch promoted McAdoo to replace Coughlin after the 2015 season because he had done good work for two years as the offensive coordinator. But it backfired. McAdoo could not handle the double jobs of running the entire team and running a productive offense. The Giants had trouble scoring 20 points his first year as head coach and the locker room imploded the second year.
Owners generally change things up from coach-to-coach when the most recent approach fails. Jim Fassel was a players' coach. Coughlin was a pain in the butt. McAdoo was an offensive coach. Patricia is a defensive coach. McAdoo tried to split his time between coaching the entire team and coaching the offense and gave up play-calling five games into his second season.
If the Giants were to hire McDaniels, it would be because they want him to fix the offense just as Sean McVay did as a 31-year-old rookie coach for the Rams this season. But the Giants would be risking not only McDaniels 2.0 from Denver but McAdoo 2.0.
For sure, in Patricia's interview, he told the Giants his realistic choices to run the offense. He should be able to attract quality coaches with the prospect of developing either Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen in addition to Davis Webb.
Patricia could manage the entire team -- Gettleman wants a CEO -- and give his input in the offensive and defensive meeting rooms. Belichick started his career coaching special teams and then defense and now is considered a terrific offensive coach, too.
"There are defensive coaches who have coached great quarterbacks. It's all over the place. It can be done," the source said. "Belichick is a great quarterback coach. He's the best quarterback coach in the NFL. He coaches offense because he coaches defense. He knows what he doesn't want to see. Matt Patricia would be the same."
It might be easier for McDaniels to build a defense than for Patricia to build an offense, but it's a close call. "Minor point," the source said.
- Is Patricia ready?
One source said when he's interviewed for jobs in the past, he was "very closed mouth. It was hard to get anything out of him about his staff or his schemes. He knew he had a good job and wasn't ready to leave. He didn't get past first base. I've heard Belichick has given his blessing to Patricia that the time is right for him to become a head coach and that's usually the time when his assistants leave."
Patricia has only worked for Belichick in the NFL. "That's all he knows," the source said. "How is he going to react? This guy is a very smart guy. He will learn as he goes."
- What about Patricia looking like his face needs to make contact with some shaving cream and a razor? Will the Grizzly Adams beard, turned around cap and pencil behind the ear play on Broadway?
"If they win, it will be the greatest look in history," my source said.
Patricia and McDaniels are the two best candidates. All signs point to Patricia being the Giants' guy.
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