Could a familiar face return to New England in 2023 to guide the offense in the right direction?
Sources say Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is a strong option to return to his former home and assume his old role as OC under Bill Belichick for next season. This would be a potential answer to an important question facing the Patriots in the future.
O’Brien has been the Crimson Tide’s OC for two seasons under Alabama head coach Nick Saban and will call plays against Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
The Patriots offense has been a source of frustration all season, with quarterback Mac Jones expressing exasperation on the field in high-profile moments and Belichick facing constant questions about the Patriots’ struggling offense. In one interview with WEEI on Dec. 5, Belichick said, “I think we need to do what we’re doing better. I don’t think at this point making a lot of dramatic changes … it’s too hard to do that.”
That shifts the focus to a likely change this offseason to augment and enhance the coaching done this season by current play-caller Matt Patricia, quarterbacks coach Joe Judge and others. O’Brien’s prowess and experience would no doubt help.
When O’Brien joined Saban’s staff at Alabama in 2021, he gave Saban a commitment to finish out his two-year contract. That time is coming up, and sources say there has been no extension and that a return to the NFL is a real thought for O’Brien.
The true impact of O’Brien is difficult to measure, considering Tom Brady was in his prime during most of O’Briens tenure and is obviously not in New England anymore. Regardless, the success they had together was noteworthy.
With O’Brien on the staff from 2007-2011, the Patriots led the league with 30.7 points per game and were second with 393.1 total yards per game. Since he left in 2011, the club is averaging three fewer points per game.
New England also led the league in scoring 30-plus points in 46 games from 2007-2011 (57.5%), and have only done that in 70 games since 2012 (40%).
Just based on the numbers, the difference is significant.
The Patriots aren’t out of the playoff race, and there is a chance at a postseason berth if they are able to string together some wins.
Jones was asked this week if it’s difficult to stay optimistic.
“I think it goes back to just trusting the process of everything and doing whatever you can do to become a great football player,” Jones said. “Eventually that will show up on film. So a lot of things as an offense, it’s 11 guys and you have to try to push everybody as a quarterback to do the right thing and make sure we’re all on the same page. We’ve done that at times. But just getting that consistency. Obviously with myself, too.”