Some NFL coaches are good coordinators but lousy head coaches.
There's nothing wrong with it. Clearly not everyone can be a successful head coach, otherwise we wouldn't see as much turnover as we do from year to year. It's just the way it is.
Norv Turner was quite good as a coordinator, not good as a head coach. Wade Phillips, same thing.
It feels fair to say Josh McDaniels falls into that category, though as I write this I can even pick at my own argument, since for the bulk of McDaniels' career as an offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, he had (checks notes) the greatest quarterback of all time running the show.
After another truly embarrassing loss this past Sunday — in Chicago to a Bears team that was starting an undrafted, former Division II rookie quarterback getting his first NFL snaps as a starter — McDaniels didn't offer much in the way of answers, though standout defensive end Maxx Crosby summed it up well.
"It was just s*** football," he said. "We didn't play good enough in any phase."
Just seven games into his second season as Las Vegas Raiders head coach, McDaniels hasn't made the Raiders better.
They've gotten worse.
Perhaps more damningly, he's seemingly making the same mistakes he once professed to have learned from during his short, failed stint as Broncos head coach in 2009-10. McDaniels has alienated and/or traded top players, including jettisoning beloved QB Derek Carr for perpetually injured Jimmy Garoppolo; he's making conservative decisions like starting 38-year-old journeyman Brian Hoyer over rookie Aidan O'Connell against Chicago; and the Raiders' offense is, well, almost offensive in its ineffectiveness.
(To his credit, a league source says McDaniels' people skills, a big criticism from his Denver days, have improved.)
Las Vegas hasn't scored 20 points in eight of its last 10 games dating back to last season and is correspondingly 3-7 over that span.
This season, the Raiders are bottom-five in the NFL in points (112 total, or just 16.0 per game), turnovers (15 already), and rushing (480 total yards and only 3.0 yards per carry), and they're near the bottom of the pack in third-down conversions (35 percent).
And it's not for lack of talent: Running back Josh Jacobs and receiver Davante Adams were both All-Pros last year, and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow was once a Pro Bowler — at least he was the season before McDaniels arrived. Almost inexplicably, Renfrow has just eight catches in seven games this year.
Under McDaniels, the Raiders have gone 9-15, and as a head coach McDaniels is now 20-32. The loss to the Bears follows last year's humiliating losses to the Colts just days after embarrassingly inexperienced Jeff Saturday was lured away from the ESPN set to be interim head coach, and to the Rams just days after Baker Mayfield joined the team and hardly knew the playbook.
At this point the only opponent he knows how to beat is his former boss, Bill Belichick: After Vegas' Week 6 win over the Patriots, McDaniels is 3-0 in games against Belichick's Patriots.
It wasn't long ago that McDaniels was the annual hot head coaching candidate, his disaster in Denver considered an anomaly after his reputation-redeeming return to New England. He flirted with Cleveland more than once, shockingly and selfishly left the Colts at the altar, and interviewed with the Panthers and Giants and Eagles, among others. The Patriots were paying him extremely well to be their coordinator and he got Pro Bowl-level play out of Mac Jones in Jones' rookie season.
But when longtime New England personnel exec Dave Ziegler was hired as Las Vegas general manager, McDaniels finally left the Patriots' nest to work with him.
With fans understandably frustrated and the heat already coming from media, team owner Mark Davis is reportedly trying to be patient with Ziegler and McDaniels, even as he's been front row for the phenomenal success of the other team he owns, the Las Vegas Aces, who just won a second consecutive WNBA championship. Finances may be in play too, since Davis could still be paying Jon Gruden's contract, so theoretically paying two men hefty salaries to not work for him while adding a third in the next head coach's salary is likely an unappealing proposition.
Garoppolo has a chance to return for the Raiders' Monday night game against the resurgent Lions, and maybe that helps. Maybe McDaniels will benefit from Davis' patience, figure some things out and right the ship.
Or maybe he should have stayed in New England, enjoying life as a good coordinator who just isn't meant to be a head coach.