McDaniels' return would be coup

Remember when the Patriots traded for Deion Branch last season? They gave up a fourth-round draft choice to acquire him, a price that some around the NFL considered steep for a receiver who had struggled in Seattle, in part because of injuries.

But it was a case in which Branch's value to the Patriots was greater than other clubs because he had been part of the offensive system and could make an in-season transition to help the team move on from the October trade of Randy Moss.

It's turned out to be the right choice, and it's revisited here today because Josh McDaniels is the Patriots' coaching equivalent to Branch.

Mainly due to his acumen and background in the Patriots' system, and strong relationship with quarterback Tom Brady, McDaniels has what no other coach can offer at this time. He's exactly what the Patriots need as Bill O'Brien's replacement, and with the Rams showing a willingness to let him out of his contract, the time is now for the Patriots to move on it.

In past years when a coach has left the Patriots, there has been a significant adjustment period for the staff. Bill Belichick, for one, has altered his own responsibilities in areas he felt necessary to help offset the loss of established coaching talent.

In bringing McDaniels back as offensive coordinator, the position he held with the team when he departed following the 2008 season to take the Broncos' head coaching job, no such adjustments would be needed. McDaniels would also offer another veteran set of eyes in personnel evaluation and play a part in developing young quarterback Ryan Mallett, who could be a significant cog in the team's future, or potentially yield a reward in the form of a trade.

And then there's this thought, which is admittedly aggressive, but one I believe has some down-the-road merit: McDaniels could potentially be the successor to Belichick, whenever that time comes.

That's obviously far off in the distance, and not a major factor in any 2012 decision, but it's just one more reason why a McDaniels return would be viewed as a coup from this perspective.