Josh McDaniels explains why he turned down the Colts, and it's still confusing

Josh McDaniels has finally explained why he turned down the Indianapolis Colts. And it’s still not very clear.

In an interview with Jim McBride of the Boston Globe, McDaniels made his first public comments since one of the weirdest change-of-heart decisions in NFL history. McDaniels agreed to take the Colts’ head-coaching job, the team announced it, and then hours later McDaniels changed his mind to stay with the New England Patriots as their offensive coordinator.

“I wasn’t 100 percent sure what the future was. I just hadn’t had any clarity on that,’’ McDaniels told the Globe, talking about his future with the Patriots. “So, where did I fit in? Were there any plans? I just didn’t have much clarity on what my role was here moving forward.’’

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McBride wrote McDaniels was “given no guarantees about future positions,” which is a clear reference to the Patriots’ succession plan once head coach Bill Belichick retires. If you believe that McDaniels was promised nothing in that regard (and it’s fine to be skeptical), then the rest is hard to decipher. 

McDaniels is one of the best offensive coordinators in football. He had just one year left on his contract, but it’s hard to believe he thought he wouldn’t be retained. Even if there was a remote possibility he would be let go, he would have had no trouble finding another job. So we’re left to believe that McDaniels took the Colts’ head-coaching job because he was worried about not having his contract renewed as Patriots’ offensive coordinator? Does that make any sense to anyone?

“Look, I’m privileged to have the opportunity to do that and when they kind of crystallized that — ‘Hey, here’s what we see going forward and here’s how we would like you to fit into it’ — it gave me a reason to stop and say, ‘All right, what’s the best decision for me?’” McDaniels told McBride. “And certainly it was difficult. But I made the decision on my own, nobody pushed me into it.’’

Again, if you believe that McDaniels wasn’t promised to be the Patriots’ next head coach, none of this really fits. He said he didn’t back out because his family wanted to stay in New England — he said he wouldn’t have interviewed with the Colts in the first place if that was true. He praised the Colts organization. Unless there’s some hidden nuance in his comments, once you remove the head-coach succession plan everyone has denied from the equation, McDaniels is saying he simply didn’t know if he was in the Patriots’ plans as their offensive coordinator and once he was assured he was, he decided to turn down the Colts. Huh.

“Again, it was never my intention to go into this and put anybody in an awkward position or do any harm to anybody or do anything to hurt anybody’s career,” McDaniels told the Globe. “That certainly wasn’t a part of my thought process. I just felt like, once I knew the whole picture and I had the opportunity to make a decision, it was tough but I feel like I made the right one.’’

McDaniels told McBride he “absolutely” wants to be a head coach again, but at this moment it’s hard to see him getting that opportunity outside of New England. Memories are short in the NFL — Doug Marrone once used a loophole in his contract to cash out on the Buffalo Bills, and he ended up with another head coaching job with Jacksonville a few years later — but it would be tough for a team to trust McDaniels through the interview process after this. Maybe that changes over time and everyone forgets what happened with the Colts, but McDaniels didn’t do himself any favors.

Of course, this whole situation makes sense if you believe McDaniels was promised to be New England’s next head coach. Every word McDaniels told the Globe would then suddenly make sense in regards to his decision. But everyone keeps saying nothing was promised, so apparently McDaniels just needed an assurance that he could remain New England’s offensive coordinator before spurning the Colts.

FILE – In this Jan. 21, 2018, file photo, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels watches from the sideline during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Foxborough, Mass. McDaniels has backed out of a deal to become the Indianapolis’ Colts new coach, a decision that shocked the franchise hours after it announced his hiring. The Colts confirmed McDaniels’ decision in a statement Tuesday night after reports emerged that the Patriots’ offensive coordinator had opted to stay in New England with coach Bill Belichick. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!