NFL rumors: Bill O’Brien best choice for Patriots next offensive coordinator

Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

At this point, any experienced offensive coordinator would be an upgrade over New England Patriots offensive play-caller Matt Patricia.

According to reports, Alabama OC Bill O’Brien is considering returning to the NFL. O’Brien was part of the Patriots coaching staff from 2007-11. He worked his way up to quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.

O’Brien would be welcomed back by Patriots fans as the Patricia and Joe Judge experiment has been disastrous. Knowing Patricia’s offensive strategy for the Buffalo Bills was to hope their defense wouldn’t tackle well confirms Patricia is not qualified to be an offensive coordinator. Based on comments to the media, it seems Patricia has lost his players.

Bill O’Brien is the ideal choice for the next New England Patriots OC

O’Brien would be a significant upgrade over Patricia. But does O’Brien want to come back? It’s a very different team now from when O’Brien was here more than 10 years ago. Some reunions don’t always go well, as we’re seeing with Patricia and Judge.

O’Brien might be looking for a head coaching opportunity. While going from college to the pros is an upgrade, coming back as an offensive coordinator might not be what O’Brien is looking for. But if he’s patient, a second productive stint running the Patriots offense will lead to a head coach job. In fact, that dream job might come to him.

If fans had a say, O’Brien probably wouldn’t be the first choice to bring back. If Josh McDaniels becomes available, he likely would be the overwhelming favorite over O’Brien.

Recently McDaniels was given the dreaded vote of confidence by the Las Vegas Raiders. If he remains the Raiders coach after black Monday, he won’t be available in 2023. If the Raiders finish strong, a McDaniels return becomes even less likely.

If the New England Patriots are left with only O’Brien, they shouldn’t hesitate to bring him back. He worked his way up from offensive assistant to wide receivers to quarterbacks to offensive coordinator.

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Tom Brady was highly productive while O’Brien was Brady’s QB coach and offensive coordinator. In 2010 Brady was selected by the Associated Press the unanimous NFL MVP after passing for 3,900 yards and 36 touchdowns. The following year Brady passed for a then-career best 5,235 yards and 39 scores.

It wasn’t just Brady that flourished. The offense was prolific as well. New England led the NFL in scoring in 2010. In 2011 they were third in scoring and second overall in total yards.

More importantly, the New England Patriots thrived on third downs and in the red zone, two problem areas this season: second overall third down percentage and fourth overall red zone percentage in 2010; fifth overall third down percentage and second overall red zone percentage in 2011.

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For the last two years, O’Brien served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, and his success continued. The Crimson Tide were sixth nationally in points per game in 2021, fourth overall in 2022. QB Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2021 after passing for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns.

And O’Brien’s experience turning the Houston Texans into a playoff team and leading the franchise to the AFC Championship isn’t even detailed in this article.

Wide receivers, quarterbacks, offensive coordinator, head coaching experience. Can work with young and veteran passers. Prolific offenses. Award-winning quarterbacks. O’Brien’s resume checks a lot of boxes.

The only thing missing is a ring. That 3-0 advantage is McDaniels’ biggest edge over O’Brien.

O’Brien has come close, though. The Patriots came up short to the NY Giants in 2011, and Alabama lost the 2021 National Championship to Georgia.

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What McDaniels doesn’t have is O’Brien’s success as a head coach. Including this season with Las Vegas, McDaniels has a .390 winning percentage. O’Brien took over a rebuilding Texans team and in seven years finished with a .520 winning percentage. This is worth taking into consideration if Bill Belichick steps down within the next few years. If he wants to promote from within, O’Brien would be an easy choice.

Changes obviously must be made to the coaching staff next season. Patricia and Judge need to be reassigned. Belichick’s loyalty to his coaching tree resulted in two rotten offensive coaches this time around. To get the most out of Mac Jones, Belichick needs O’Brien’s experienced hand to ensure Jones isn’t spoiled as well.