REGGIE HAYES: Can Indianapolis Colts fans stomach rooting for Josh McDaniels in Super Bowl LII?

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels watches from the sideline during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels watches from the sideline during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Most Indianapolis Colts fans have surely come to grips with the not-so-breaking news New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will be the next Colts coach. The question is how those same Colts fans approach watching Super Bowl LII this Sunday.

Do they want to see McDaniels call the most inventive game of his career, giving them a preview of what might be to come?

If he does, that likely means Tom Brady and the Patriots will thrive and win their sixth championship. Last I looked, most Colts fans were disinclined to wish any goodwill toward Brady and Co.

This is a real dilemma, but rooting against McDaniels and the Patriots on Sunday could make for an even lousier Monday.

Nothing would dampen the mood of the Colts leadership change more than McDaniels arriving for an introductory news conference coming off a disastrous offensive performance in the Super Bowl. He’d be down. His reputation would be dinged, at least a bit. The celebration, considering the news is far out of the bag, would be muted at best.

And, yet, a great game from McDaniels likely means a Patriots win.

Here’s the deal Colts fans: You have to suck it up and hope McDaniels shines.

That’s the only way next week feels great, feels like a step forward and feels like a true break from the mediocrity of the last three seasons.

Once McDaniels is in the Colts fold, you want him to bring supreme confidence. You want him to enter the complex with the extra skip in his step that comes from a recent triumph. You want him feeling like a winner entering the building, and by association, the Colts feeling like they’ve hired a winner.

It’ll be fascinating to see how McDaniels sells himself to the Colts fans during his introductory news conference, when that arrives a day or two after the Super Bowl.

McDaniels will most certainly tout his excitement over an opportunity to prove he’s matured and gained insight into how to succeed as a head coach since his abbreviated, unsuccessful Denver tenure. He’ll probably express how he’s thrilled to guide Andrew Luck’s return to action, providing Luck ever throws a football again in live competition. (McDaniels won’t actually voice that latter sentiment, but doesn’t he have to be thinking that?) He’ll likely talk about reigniting the Colts’ winning culture while being careful not to sound too much like Bill Belichick.

None of this will resonate fully if McDaniels and the Patriots have a poor offensive game in the Super Bowl.

Colts fans need to see McDaniels utilize Brady’s quick release, something Luck could incorporate to reduce the hits he takes. They need to see a mix of formations, some calculated risks, some smart clock management. In other words, they need to see the Patriots do what the Patriots do.

Should Colts fans worry about McDaniels’ failing with the Colts if the Patriots have a lousy game or if McDaniels makes a game-changing mistake in play calling? No. It’s a track record of success, not one game, which has led McDaniels to a second head coaching opportunity and apparently gives Colts general manager Chris Ballard confidence he’s the right man for the job.

But, it would be much easier for Colts fans to rationalize hiring a Patriots’ coordinator if he’s coming off a fresh example of success.

There might be one compromise Colts fans could embrace: The Patriots lose a 38-35 game to the Philadelphia Eagles that can be pinned on the Patriots’ defensive coordinator. After all, that would be the Detroit Lions’ problem to spin.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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