New EnglandPatriots

Perry: McCardell checks several boxes for Patriots as an OC candidate


Bill Belichick, we know, likes operating in the land of the familiar.

For years, coaches were promoted to openings on his staff from within. Coaches brought in from the outside, generally speaking, had some kind of connection to Belichick or one of his existing assistants. Coaches have left and come back on a number of occasions.

Keeping it in the family. Prioritizing trust. This is how things have very frequently been done in Foxboro under Belichick.

Though we're in a new world in some respects this offseason, with the Patriots searching for an offensive coordinator and announcing it to the world, familiarity will once again play a role.

OC tracker: Updated list of Patriots candidates and interviewees

Seems that way, at least. NFL Media reported on Wednesday that the Patriots have requested to interview Keenan McCardell, wide receivers coach for the Vikings, for their open offensive coordinator position. He'd be an outside hire. But he has plenty of experience working with Belichick.

McCardell began his playing career with the Browns in the 1990s under Belichick as his head coach. Years later, as a player for the Chargers, McCardell received some lofty praise from his former coach -- words that might be viewed as insight into how Belichick views McCardell's character.

"I have so much respect for Keenan and I'm really proud to have coached him," Belichick in 2005, per ''I'm not saying that I developed his career or anything, I don't mean it that way, but I mean just what he brought as a player, his work ethic, his attitude . . . He's really a special guy."

Belichick added that McCardell "really understands route techniques and has a very good understanding of the passing game." But it was the underdog nature of McCardell's story that Belichick harped on.

''I think that has to be really one of the great stories in the NFL," Belichick said. ''To come from where he came from, 10,000 yards in his career, and within a year, he'll probably be in the top 15 all time? I don't know, whatever it was, a 12th-round draft choice? Are you kidding me?

''But it wasn't like he did it all in '92 or '93 or like this was some big diamond in the rough. It took McCardell a long time, kind of like (how) it took Troy Brown a while to get to that level and get that kind of recognition."

As a coach, McCardell helped Santana Moss to a 1,000-yard season in Washington as the receivers coach there. In 2011, former Patriots wideout Jabar Gaffney nearly put up similar numbers (947 yards on 68 catches) under McCardell. He spent both of those seasons with head coach Mike Shanahan, who just so happens to be A) incredibly well-respected by Belichick and B) the original architect of the scheme the Patriots tried to implement last offseason that heavily emphasizes zone runs.

McCardell made a brief stop in the college ranks and coached Stefon Diggs at Maryland. Then he ended up coaching under another Belichick pal, Doug Marrone, in Jacksonville. As was the case in Washington, McCardell found himself in another West Coast system with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett (2017-2018), who was followed by West Coast-minded John DeFelippo (2019), who was followed by West Coast-minded Jay Gruden (2020).

Over the last two seasons in Minnesota, McCardell has become even more embedded in the West Coast world. In 2021, it was Klint Kubiak (son of Gary Kubiak, who was Shanahan's right-hand man for years) who was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings. This year, McCardell remained under new head coach Kevin O'Connell, who came from -- you guessed it! -- a West Coast system in Los Angeles run by Sean McVay. 

McCardell appears to check a number of boxes for Belichick: The two have a relationship -- McCardell is an expert in the type of offense Belichick has shown an affinity for recently -- and he's helped develop young receivers like Diggs and Minnesota's Justin Jefferson.

If McCardell earned the job, it'd be interesting to know how the Patriots would fill in around him in a couple of different areas. 

Would they be able to hire McCardell's old boss, Marrone, to run the offensive line and the running game? 

And would they hire a separate quarterbacks coach since McCardell hasn't coached that position to this point in his career? Or would they give McCardell the quarterbacks coach title, in the same way Josh McDaniels used to hold both? Would the Patriots ever keep Joe Judge in that role?

There would certainly remain some questions about McCardell's fit, if he were offered the job. But there's no denying he also fits a number of the qualifications that would make him an attractive candidate to his old head coach.

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