Evolve and Adapt: The drive that led Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler from New England to the Las Vegas Raiders

Raiders Owner Mark Davis had more than 20 years of coaching experience and six Super Bowl titles to consider when deciding to select Josh McDaniels as his next head coach.

"The success of the Patriots and watching them over the years, I've seen them do it with Tom Brady, of course, the greatest of all time, but I also saw the development of Tom Brady, the greatest of all time," Davis said in a press conference introducing the head coach Monday. "Then I saw it with Matt Cassel. I saw him be able to win with him and make Matt Cassel the hottest free agent commodity on the market. Then I saw him do it this year with a rookie quarterback.

"I've just always seen the Patriots as a team that not only adapts from week to week or half to half, but maybe even series to series. I just believe in Josh's ability to assess a situation and make the changes in real time, and that's always been something that's impressed me."

That ability to adapt is quite possibly the most exciting attribute McDaniels brings to Las Vegas. The former Patriots offensive coordinator has had an extensive amount of time coaching under some of the most successful coaches in football history.

He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Nick Saban at Michigan State. After a 10-2 record and a Citrus Bowl victory, he moved on to the NFL as personnel assistant under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots. In McDaniels' first season with the Patriots franchise, they defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Along the way, he helped the team to five more Super Bowls over two stints in New England as he made the upward progression from assistant to offensive coordinator – working hand and hand with the NFL's career passing yards and touchdowns leader Tom Brady. McDaniels, 45, has awaited an opportunity to once again be a NFL head coach since his 2010 stint with the Denver Broncos, and he believes this is the perfect opportunity to again fulfill that role.

"I've been patient," McDaniels said. "I've been selective, maybe to a fault sometimes. People wanted me to do things a little earlier than maybe I did them, but it was going to take a special place for me to really leave where I was, and I found that here in Las Vegas."

After his first half of Super Bowl victories in New England, he left to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos – an opponent McDaniels will face twice every season now with the Raiders. His two seasons spent in Denver resulted in an essential part of his evolution – not just as a coach, but as a person.

"When I went to Denver, I knew a little bit of football," McDaniels said. "I didn't really know people and how important that aspect of this process and maintaining the culture and building the team was. ... Looking at that experience has been one of the best things in my life in terms of my overall growth as a person, as a coach."

"What do I need to do different, how do I need to handle my role, if I have another opportunity, and do better at it — I feel like that's really an area that I've tried to grow in with our staff in New England. Our offensive staff, working together, collaborating, supporting one another, impacting them, serving them, helping them grow as coaches, as players with our guys that we're coaching, I would say that's the biggest area for me, and I know how important it is as a head coach to be able to do that."

Alongside McDaniels, he'll be working with a general manager he knows extremely well. Dave Ziegler follows McDaniels from the Patriots, where he was previously their director of player personnel. Ziegler has known McDaniels for nearly 30 years, dating back to playing together at John Carroll University – a Division III football program in University Heights, Ohio.

Ziegler was a guidance counselor and football coach at a Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, before McDaniels brought him onto his staff with the Denver Broncos as a scout, and the two continued to work with each other in New England, winning three Super Bowls together in their nine seasons together there.

"I know Josh and I's relationship goes back a long time," said Ziegler. "And our relationship has always been built on honesty and respect, and the ability to be each other's biggest teammate and the ability to be each other's critic too. To always come back to a place of respect and always come back to a place where we're on the same page. I think that's been the real beauty of our relationship as we've developed and as we've kind of advanced in our respective positions in the league."

Both McDaniels and Ziegler noted that the choice to join the Silver and Black was an easy one based on the history of the organization and aligned values between themselves and the Raiders.

"To me, walking through this building and having a sense of the history and tradition of this organization and how much that impacts the day to day here, it really hit me," McDaniels said. "This is one of those iconic places. It's a historic organization that has unbelievable history and tradition. It's in every hallway."

"The stadium, the facilities, the weight room, the training room, the locker room, I could go on and on," Ziegler added. "It harkens back to a phrase made famous by the late Al Davis, there really is a commitment to excellence when you walk into this building and when you walk into the stadium."

Bringing in a head coach/general manager duo that was familiar with each other was a bonus for Davis when deciding who would lead the Raiders next regime.

"I felt in this time, we were going to do it a little bit differently and try to find a teammate," Davis said regarding his hiring decision. "Therefore in every interview that we did with a head coach, we asked [the candidate] who he would think of as a general manager or general managers, and on the other side of the coin we asked that to every general manager [candidate], as well, who would you think of as a head coach. It was such an expanding, learning process hearing about all those things, but we felt that it was really important for them to have synergy.

"I couldn't have found a better pair of people working together from John Carroll University than these two gentlemen."

View photos of General Manager Dave Ziegler and Head Coach Josh McDaniels' first day on the job as members of the Silver and Black.

Advertising