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Following in the footsteps of his still-boss Bill Belichick, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels changed his mind about becoming Colts head coach, pulling out of the job after the Colts had announced it and scheduled an introductory press conference for Wednesday. It’s a delicious story, but still a confusing one. Let’s try to parse out what we know.

From the Colts’ statement, mercifully released after a ludicrous, painful hour in which everyone was reporting McDaniels had backed out but while Colts.com’s top story was still the hire of McDaniels:

After agreeing to contract terms to become the Indianapolis Colts’ new head coach, New England Patriots assistant coach Josh McDaniels this evening informed us that he would not be joining our team. Although we are surprised and disappointed, we will resume our head coaching search immediately and find the right fit to lead our team and organization on and off the field.

Agreeing to contract terms, you’ll notice, is not the same thing as signing a contract. It’s also not a “hire” in any legal sense. McDaniels did nothing here that he wasn’t within his rights to do. (Let’s take a moment to note that the biggest concrete fuck-up here is by the Colts, who announced and promoted a hire before he was hired. There was absolutely nothing to gain by not waiting for pen to be put to paper before announcing this. Unless—and this is pure speculation—they were aware of his uncertainty and hoped to pressure him into signing by going public. In which case, it backfired amazingly.)

But this still a shitty move by McDaniels, especially to those assistants who signed their contracts with the Colts expecting to work under him. Those coaches are expected to remain with Indianapolis—the reporting so far has been unclear on whether that is their choice, or whether the Colts are going to enforce their contracts against their will. And it’s a mess for the next head coach, who may have to work with a staff he didn’t assemble.

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What a guy!

McDaniels was reportedly still building his staff in the hours before withdrawing from the job:

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That’s cruelly funny, but it’s also really good evidence that McDaniels was deeply conflicted. (There had been stray reports about his second thoughts over the previous week, but nothing that indicated this was a possibility.) And anyone’s who’s ever struggled with making a major professional decision can probably empathize here. Aside from leaving an already pretty great job situation, taking the Colts job would have meant moving his family a third of the way across the country. I know it’s tough to think of coaches as human sometimes—and not without good reason—but we’ve all been there where you’re just not sure what you should do.

It was, it seems, Robert Kraft who made McDaniels’s potential regrets from leaving New England too much to ignore. From Adam Schefter’s report:

In the past 48 hours, Patriots owner Robert Kraft began talking with McDaniels and ultimately wound up sweetening his contract[.]

[...]

The Krafts also stepped in this week to make McDaniels feel even more wanted, and the two sides were able to come to an agreement Tuesday night[.]

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Definite translation: they gave McDaniels a ton of money. Additional probable translation: they assured McDaniels that he’ll take over as head coach whenever Bill Belichick decides to leave. Which, if the dramas still stewing from this season and this Super Bowl are an indication, is no longer something for the distant future. (Though Schefter’s report is unambiguous is saying Belichick will coach the Patriots in 2018.)

Of course for Kraft there’s more than just pure business here. The Patriots owner may not have been so resolute to re-woo McDaniels had he been leaving for any other team:

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Fantastic. I love this. Let me resent McDaniels and laugh at the Colts’s ineptitude and roll my eyes at but quietly identify with the Patriots’ pettiness. This is all I want from an offseason.