The Patriots and Bill O’Brien have agreed to terms making him their next offensive coordinator, a source confirmed to the Herald.
O’Brien’s hire follows a brief coaching search the team announced two weeks ago with an unprecedented statement saying it would hire an offensive coordinator. O’Brien beat out Patriots tight ends coach Nick Caley and three outside assistants who once played on Bill Belichick-coached teams. O’Brien, 53, was long considered the favorite in New England, where he coached from 2007-2011 and was the team’s last offensive coordinator before Josh McDaniels.
According to a league source, there was strong internal belief last week O’Brien would be hired soon. He reportedly interviewed via video conference on Thursday, and the Patriots finished their search Friday.
O’Brien arrives after spending two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Under Belichick confidant Nick Saban, he coached quarterback Bryce Young to a Heisman Trophy and helped the Crimson Tide to the national championship game in Jan. 2022. Last season, Alabama’s offense averaged 41.4 points per game, the fourth-most in major college football.
O’Brien’s return should restore a sense of normalcy to the offensive side of the ball. Offensive assistants Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, whose coaching backgrounds are primarily on defense and special teams, respectively, led the Patriots to 18.1 offensive points per game last season. The Pats finished with their worst offense since 1995 by Football Outsiders’ opponent-and-situation-adjusted metric, DVOA.
Belichick’s search appears to confirm reports that O’Brien was the primary target from the start. No other candidate — Caley, Vikings wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, Cardinals associate head coach/wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and University of Oregon associate head coach Adrian Klemm — has experienced as an offensive coordinator and head coach. Before his hire at Alabama, O’Brien won four division titles in seven years as the Texans’ head coach and coached at Penn State from 2012-13.
O’Brien briefly overlapped with Patriots quarterback Mac Jones at Alabama in spring 2021. As Jones prepared for the NFL Draft, he helped educate O’Brien on Alabama’s offense. It’s expected O’Brien will put his own spin on the system the Patriots ran last year, a blend of McDaniels’ offense and a pared-down Shanahan-style scheme.
O’Brien may also coach the team’s quarterbacks, something he did over this last three seasons in New England.