The new Raiders’ administration undoubtedly has been influenced by Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
But first-year coach Josh McDaniels wants to make sure he is blazing his own trail in his second stint as an NFL head coach as opposed to following the blueprint of his former boss in New England.
“I’m not Bill (Belichick), and I can’t be, so I’m not going to try,” McDaniels said last week after a practice during organized team activities. “I just want to try to be myself and hopefully I can be a good leader for our team.”
Belichick and the Patriots have been the NFL’s most successful team in the past two decades, leading other franchises to hire coaches and front office personnel from the organization in an effort to replicate that formula.
It mostly hasn’t worked.
Seven former Belichick assistants in New England have been hired as NFL head coaches and combined to go 175-252-1. That includes the 11-17 record McDaniels posted in parts of two seasons with the Denver Broncos more than a decade ago.
“I didn’t know this awhile ago, but it’s hard for anybody to leave there and try to replicate everything that happens there,” said McDaniels, who spent 18 seasons on Belichick’s staff. “And it’s probably true across the board in all of sports, and I made the mistake of trying to do too much of that the first time. I think you’ve just got to be able to be yourself.”
After being fired by the Broncos in 2010, McDaniels returned to New England as offensive coordinator in 2012 and served in the role until January. He spurned advances from other teams looking for a head coach before taking the Raiders’ job in January.
He teamed with close friend Dave Ziegler, another Patriots executive who was hired as general manager. Both of their staffs are dotted with people who cut their teeth in New England.
But McDaniels wants to make clear they are running the Raiders, not a desert outpost of the Patriots.
“We have a good thing going in terms of the direction that we’ve started things in,” he said. “… We have a lot of great people, and so being able to just give them their responsibility, they know what their roles are and let them go do their jobs.”
McDaniels has been on the field with the full team for only a few days, but he’s pleased with what he has seen.
Everyone is getting on the same page with terminology and daily expectations, he said, which has been key in starting to build the foundation he wants.
Whether McDaniels can do that ultimately will be decided by wins and losses, but he feels more comfortable this time running the show.
“I’ve been looking forward to an opportunity like this for a number of years, and I’m so blessed to have the staff that we have,” he said. “They make my job easy.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I feel like it’s slowed down for me for sure. It doesn’t mean anything at this point. It doesn’t have any bearing on what’s going to happen down the road, but I definitely feel a different comfort level now in terms of understanding what my role is and how to do it better.”
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.