Josh McDaniels '99 (left) & David Ziegler '00, '07G (right)
By: Luke Potosky '22, Senior Staff Writer, John Carroll University Sports Information Department
LAS VEGAS -- The alumni chapter of John Carroll University in the National Football League has spanned far and wide, dating as far back as the 1920s with Gene Stringer '25 and continuing with the NFL's winningest head coach, Don Shula '51. Even with such a long-standing and rich tradition, there are new chapters that are still to be written.
A new chapter began today in Las Vegas. Josh McDaniels '99 and David Ziegler '00, '07G have been hired as the new head coach and general manager of the Raiders. McDaniels and Ziegler become the only current NFL head coach-GM combo to be college teammates (and the only to have graduated from the same university for undergrad).
"I couldn't be happier for Josh and Dave," JCU Head Football Coach Rick Finotti said. "John Carroll Football teammates form a lifelong brotherhood on and off the field: Josh and Dave are evidence of that. They are true Men of Carroll who are great examples for our student-athletes at JCU. We'll be rooting for them in Vegas."
McDaniels' Journey to Raiders Head Coach
McDaniels has grown up around football his entire life. Raised in the birthplace of football – Canton, Ohio – McDaniels played quarterback in high school for Canton McKinley. The Bulldogs were coached by the legendary Thom McDaniels, Josh's father.
From there, Josh McDaniels was recruited to John Carroll University to play quarterback by current Case Western Reserve Head Coach, Greg Debeljak '88, 95G and the late Joe Perella '63. Debeljak saw McDaniels' potential as a coach many years ago.
"Most of the time, when kids look at the film, they look only at themselves," Debeljak said. "Josh saw the big picture more than anybody else we ever had. Anybody that was around him knew that he was going to be a great coach."
However, Josh's stint at quarterback would not last long, as he transitioned to wide receiver for Nick Caserio '98 to call the shots from under center. Caserio is now in his second season as the Houston Texans general manager.
In four years at JCU, McDaniels accumulated 41 receptions for 732 yards, good enough for nearly 18 yards per catch.
Upon graduation, McDaniels became a graduate assistant for the 1999 Michigan State Spartans, who were led by legendary college football coach Nick Saban.
After one season, McDaniels returned to Cleveland to work in sales, but another opportunity came knocking. One that would change the trajectory of his career.
In 2001, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick brought McDaniels on as a personnel assistant; essentially someone who would help break down film and create scouting reports. McDaniels transitioned to a defensive assistant for the next two seasons until 2004, when he switched sides of the ball and was elevated to quarterbacks coach.
Earning Super Bowl rings in three of his first four seasons, McDaniels was promoted to an even more prominent role by 2005: Offensive Coordinator.
At the spry age of 29, McDaniels was now the offensive coordinator of the defending Super Bowl Champions led by rising superstar Tom Brady. A major highlight of McDaniels' first stint with the Patriots was the 2007 season.
Despite falling short of 19-0 and the second undefeated season in NFL history (the first being the 1972 Miami Dolphins coached by Don Shula '51), the Patriots set NFL single-season records with 67 offensive touchdowns, 50 passing touchdowns by Brady, and 23 receiving touchdowns by Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss.
By 2009, McDaniels was hired by the Denver Broncos, becoming the second Man of Carroll to earn a head coaching gig after Shula.
His first season saw the Broncos begin 6-0 before finishing 8-8, just missing a playoff spot. However, after beginning 2010 with a 3-9 record, Denver moved on from McDaniels.
The 2011 season was a transition period, as McDaniels was hired by the rebuilding St. Louis Rams as their offensive coordinator.
After just one season with the Rams, he was re-hired by Belichick and the Patriots for his previous role with the team: offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. McDaniels retained this position from 2012 until 2021, winning three more Super Bowls in the process and many other memorable games along that stretch.
Earlier this season, Belichick, one of the NFL's most illustrious coaches, offered the ultimate praise for his longtime offensive play-caller:
"I think Josh does a great job really in every area," Belichick said. "I don't think he really has any weaknesses as a coach. He understands what every player on the field is doing on offense and defense. He has a great vision for how to utilize the skills of the players on his side of the ball, and he's an excellent play-caller.
"Josh is creative. He's a very forward thinker," Belichick continued. "He's got great poise during the game, never gets rattled and never loses track of the situation. I'd say I have tremendous confidence in all the things he does."
The Patriots' long-time leader also added an honorable comparison.
"This is kind of like [Nick] Saban when we were in Cleveland," he said. "Nick knew what every player on the field was doing. ... Josh knows what all 11 guys are doing on offense and he knows defensively how the guy is taught to play certain blocks or routes or reads and how to attack them.
"I've learned a lot from Josh. I really have. He really excels in every area. I don't think it's any one thing — play calling, fundamentals, strategy. It's really all of them."
Ziegler's Journey to Raiders GM
Dave Ziegler has a case to state as one of John Carroll's most impactful football players in the last 25 years. Born and raised around Cleveland sports, Ziegler went to Tallmadge High School, where he starred as a returner, cornerback and wide receiver.
Ziegler was recruited to JCU to be both a receiver and a returner, and his impact at both spots is still remembered to this day.
From 1996-99, Ziegler was a force to be reckoned with, especially in the return game. He finished his Blue & Gold career with 3,058 all-purpose yards, the sixth most in school history at the end of the 2000 season.
A three-time First Team All-OAC selection, he is still the school's all-time leader in career punt return yards (1,203), punt return touchdowns (3), yards per punt return (16.94), yards per kick return (34.35) and kick return touchdowns (4). Ziegler also finished with 62 catches, 679 receiving yards, and six touchdown catches in his career, as well.
After his time in University Heights, he took a more unique and diverse path to get to where he is today.
Wanting to stay around football, Ziegler began as an assistant coach at Kenston High School. He then returned to John Carroll to receive his Master's Degree in school counseling, while coaching wide receivers and special teams.
Ziegler moved onto Iona College in New York to coach the same positions for a short stint, then moved across the country to take a special teams coordinator and offensive assistant role at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Ziegler was plucked from the high school ranks straight into the NFL when McDaniels, his college teammate and friend, hired him into a scouting position with the Denver Broncos in 2009. Shortly after this hire, Ziegler was inducted into the JCU Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2010.
After spending three seasons in Denver evaluating numerous pro and college players and producing scouting reports for the coaching staffs, Ziegler was poached to New England in 2013, reuniting with college teammates McDaniels, Caserio, and Jerry Schuplinski '99, '01G.
Spending his first three seasons as an assistant director of pro scouting, Ziegler was promoted to director of pro personnel in 2016, a position he held for another four seasons.
From there, he was elevated to assistant director of player personnel in 2020 before becoming Director of Player Personnel this past season when Caserio took the Houston Texans' general manager position.
During an introductory press conference on January 31 at the Las Vegas Raiders headquarters, Ziegler stated, "The high standards and the commitment to serving others is something that I learned there [John Carroll University] and is something that I take with me every day when I come into work."
The Inherited Situation
Given how well McDaniels and Ziegler know each other, there is now a unique link between head coach and general manager that has rarely been seen before in the NFL. To add to that link, currently working for the Raiders as a Player Personnel Assistant is Ryan Gravel, a former coach on the John Carroll football staff.
Combining for nine Super Bowl rings, McDaniels and Ziegler will look to take what they have learned in their destinations together (John Carroll, Denver, and New England) and work towards building a contender in the AFC West.
However, competition will be quite fierce in their division with teams. Namely, the Los Angeles Chargers, who are led by General Manager Tom Telesco '95 and former JCU Defensive Coordinator and current Head Coach Brandon Staley.
With the Raiders coming off a playoff run this past season that included seven one-score victories, the tandem will work together to build off last season's momentum.
As two Men of Carroll, McDaniels and Ziegler have worked tirelessly to get to where they are today and are the epitome of John Carroll's strong work ethic and dynamic presence in the NFL, as indicated by Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations Dave Vitatoe '00.
"The alumni community celebrates the continued success of our Blue Streaks making an impact at the highest levels of the National Football League," Vitatoe said. "With regard to Dave and Josh, I could not be happier for the two of them. They were two of my favorite teammates at Carroll and have continued that level of teamwork with one another in their careers.
"This speaks to the special bonds that can form at a place like John Carroll, the leadership skills that develop through the experience on our campus, and the loyalty and respect our alumni have for one another. In many ways, their story is the John Carroll story, and we look forward to what this next chapter has in store for them, their families, and the Las Vegas Raiders."
Raiders owner Mark Davis concluded the January 31 press conference by saying, "I couldn't have found a better pair of people working together [from John Carroll University] than these two gentlemen."