View Photo Gallery: Josh McDaniels returns to the New England Patriots with institutional knowledge of Tim Tebow and Tom Brady — as well as five other playoff teams. (Dilip Vishwanat | Getty Images)

The New England Patriots made a swift, smart move by hiring Josh McDaniels as an offensive assistant, but are they too smart for their own good?

The Patriots wasted no time bringing McDaniels, out of a job when the St. Louis Rams dumped their coaching staff, back to New England. McDaniels will report to work immediately and will, presumably, be named offensive coordinator when Bill O’Brien departs to become the head coach at Penn State when the Pats’ postseason run ends.

Make room for McDaniels: Bill Belichick, Bill O’Brien (center) and Tom Brady (only his magnificent mane is visible). (Elise Amendola / AP)

It may seem suspicious, given Spygate and all, but there’s no rulebook end-around here. Besides, the Broncos aren’t in much of a position to complain. They did the same thing when Dan Reeves added Mike Shanahan to their staff in 1989, after he was fired in Oakland. That worked out pretty well.

Brady was not coy about what McDaniels brings back to the Patriots after two years as Broncos’ coach (2009-10) and a season as the Rams’ offensive coordinator. Brady could use a little boost; he has lost three straight playoff games, including two at home to second-year quarterbacks (which Tebow happens to be).

“He obviously has some inside information on that team and those players because he coached them,” Brady said during his weekly interview on WEEI. “I haven’t seen Josh yet, so I really don’t know. I think Coach [Bill] Belichick has a pretty good idea of what he’s going to want Josh to do.

“I talked to Josh briefly, but I really haven’t had a chance to sit down with him. He’s a great coach and we’re lucky to have him. I’m excited to get back to work with him. How that plays into this week, we’ll see. We’ll try to figure that out in the next five or six days.”

Broncos Coach John Fox didn’t see the hiring of McDaniels as an unusual or unfair edge, not after the 41-23 thumping the Patriots put on the Broncos a month ago. “When you do this for a living, you have a pretty good idea of most of the players,” he said. “You [studied] them in college or coached them before and guys just move cities, that’s kind of what this league is.

“I mean we’re going to go play Carolina [where he was head coach from 2002-10] next year. I don’t think that’s going to be a huge advantage for me. Plus, their team has changed and so has ours. I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Whether it passes the sniff test or not, it does show that the Patriots are thinking this weekend, to next season and to what may lie in between. The Rams were not a very good team, but they played five teams — the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens — that are still alive in the playoffs.

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