Matt Cassel explained why Josh McDaniels works well with young quarterbacks

Cassel played under McDaniels from 2005-08.

Josh McDaniels has worked with several young quarterbacks over his career. Mac Jones is the latest. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Arguably the most important factor in a young quarterback’s development is coaching.

If that’s the case, then Mac Jones might have ended up in as good of a spot as any. Obviously, the Patriots are manned by head coach Bill Belichick, who’s won more Super Bowls than any head coach in league history. But they also have offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who’s been touted by many in the NFL as one of the best offensive minds in the league over the last 15 years.

Former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel can attest to McDaniels’s strong coaching abilities. When Cassel was drafted by the Patriots in 2005, McDaniels began his first season as the Patriots offensive coordinator, adding that title to his quarterbacks coach title.

Cassel shared with ESPN’s Mike Reiss why McDaniels’s coaching was vital to his development.


“No. 1, he’s a great person and he relates well to players, but in terms of him as a coach, one of his biggest strengths is his ability to teach,” Cassel said. “There’s guys that can go through a play, but not really know how to detail it, teach it, and have you fully understand conceptually why you’re going a certain place with the ball. Or why you’re making this check.

“He tells you the expectation of the [quarterback] room. From there, every single day he has something new and creative to keep your mind going, to keep you learning. He challenges you. By doing that, you grow so much as a player.”

Cassel’s path to becoming an NFL starting quarterback was an unusual one. The seventh-round draft pick mostly played when games were decided in his first three seasons as he sat behind Tom Brady. That changed in 2008 though when Cassel was trusted into the Patriots’ starting quarterback spot when Brady went down with a torn ACL in Week 1.

However, Cassell didn’t look like a seventh-rounder with very little NFL experience when he played that season. He had 23 total touchdowns and 3,693 passing yards, leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record without Brady.


Cassell credited McDaniels for his growth while he was still a backup, sharing the two would practice certain situations during the offseason.

“My rookie year going into my second year, I spent a whole offseason with Josh,” Cassel said. “He would set up unique drills that are unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. He’d have me call out plays in a two-minute situation. We’d work down the field and he’d say, ‘We have a second-and-6, what do you like here?’ We’d work all the way down to the red zone and it was ‘What’s your top two red zone calls?’ … It makes you think about situational football, why you’re calling certain plays, what your go-to plays are, and it allows him to know what you like.”

In their first two preseason games, the Patriots have created situations for Jones by having him run a no-huddle offense at the start of the second half in each game.

Both no-huddle drives led to scores, with the Patriots kicking a field goal in Week 1’s spot against the Washington Football Team and scoring a touchdown in Week 2’s spot against the Eagles. Jones has completed 13 of 14 passes for 97 yards over those two drives.


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