With one available head coaching job remaining, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has taken his name out of the running.
According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, McDaniels is "stepping back" in order to focus on New England's conference championship game and, potentially, Super Bowl run. This essentially means that either Seahawks assistant Tom Cable or Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be the next head coach of the 49ers barring any late changes or inclusions in the interview process. Rapoport noted that Shanahan and McDaniels were considered "co-favorites" heading into Monday.
"At this time, it's best for my family and myself to remain here," McDaniels later said on a conference call Monday.
McDaniels had shied away from head coaching interviews in recent years, preferring to focus on his duties alongside Bill Belichick in New England. That seemed to change in 2016 after McDaniels took interviews with the Rams, Jaguars and 49ers. Los Angeles ended up hiring 30-year-old Sean McVay, while the Jaguarsopted to stick with interim head coach Doug Marrone, while bringing in Tom Coughlin to control the 53-man roster.
The development certainly protects any destructive changes in New England during the most important time of their season. Both McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia were considered for head coach openings this winter.
While many will speculate whether this means McDaniels is hanging around New England to eventually take over, it seems like he's just being smart. Knowing that perhaps his second head coaching opportunity will be his last, one might assume McDaniels did not want to risk it on a franchise that has now fired two head coaches in two seasons. Owner Jed York's refocused priorities this offseason were aimed at creating a cohesive front office structure between a head coach and general manager.
McDaniels could also be removing his name as a formality, as candidates sometimes do when the team has decided to hire someone else.
Either way, he remains a key cog in a Patriots machine that is still built to win. With Tom Brady professing his desire to play for much longer and Belichick showing no signs of slowing down, New England offensive coordinator remains one of the best jobs in sports. Better, even, than some head coaching gigs.