INDIANAPOLIS — Coming off a surprise season in which they improved by six wins and were one win away from an NFC West title, the Rams could have been devastated by the loss of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who left to become the head coach of the Browns.
Instead, they might have actually found an upgrade.
Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine Thursday, St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnuolo said it didn't take him long to figure out who he wanted to target as a replacement.
"When Pat left and we obviously were looking for an offensive coordinator, the first thing I did in the Rolodex in my head is try to think of the guys that were toughest to defend, guys I had gone against, and Josh (McDaniels) jumped right out there, and luckily for us he was available," said Spagnuolo.
While QB Sam Bradford excelled in Year One, having one of the best seasons ever for a rookie passer, the Rams still finished just 26th in both scoring and total offense. And with the season on the line, they looked inept in a must-win Week 17 contest at Seattle. Although McDaniels didn't work out as a head coach, getting the axe in Denver during the 2010 season, his track record as a coordinator speaks for itself.
During McDaniels' three seasons leading the offense in New England, the Patriots never finished outside the top eight in points scored and set myriad records during their undefeated 2007 regular season. McDaniels also did exceptional work with QBs Tom Brady and Matt Cassel with the Pats and Kyle Orton in Denver, something the Rams were very cognizant of when making the hire, as Bradford is the clearly the cornerstone of the franchise both now and in the future.
Even though the 33-year-old is known for his success developing QBs, that doesn't mean RB Steven Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the league's most productive backs, will be a forgotten man.
"Josh would probably say he doesn't like to be classified as a 'passing guy,' " said Spagnuolo. "But I do think that what Josh has done in his history is taken whatever weapons were presented to him and use them accordingly.
"I went back and looked at the years he's been an offensive coordinator, they've always rushed the ball pretty good. ... With a guy like Steven, he's certainly a guy we like to get the football to, so we'll find ways to get it to him and let our playmakers make plays."
The only concern Spagnuolo could have about his running back is his off-the-field activities. Known as a bit of a daredevil, Jackson swam with sharks last offseason and just this week missed being caught in a massive earthquake in New Zealand by two days.
But even that sits just fine with Spags.
"That's part of life," he said. "I kind of respect the fact that Steven likes to go out and enjoy and experience things. I think that's pretty cool. Just keep our fingers crossed he stays safe."