BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — There will be multiple pairs of big shoes to fill in New England next season.
Patriots offensive and defensive coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia are expected to depart for head coaching jobs, leaving both roles vacant heading into a Patriots offseason for the first time since 2010.
Linebackers coach Brian Flores is widely regarded as the heir to Patricia’s throne at defensive coordinator, while wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea has the best shot to replace McDaniels at offensive coordinator. Patricia likely is going to the Detroit Lions, while McDaniels is probably headed to the Indianapolis Colts, in case you were wondering.
O’Shea has been the Patriots’ wide receivers coach since arriving from the Minnesota Vikings in 2009, but he doesn’t lack experience with players at other positions on offense. A familiarity with offensive players at all positions would be helpful if he was promoted next season.
“All the coaches have the opportunity to work with the other players,” O’Shea said. “Obviously my job is to coach the receivers, and ultimately I’m judged off of how they perform, but it’s a team game. It’s a collaborative effort, so we’re never going to shy away from helping other positions.”
Rex Burkhead is one of those players who electively picks O’Shea’s brain because of how the running back is used in the offense. Burkhead splits out at receiver at times, and who’s better to ask about routes than O’Shea?
“He has such a great knowledge of the game, great coach,” Burkhead said. “And he’s so willing to help out. He has such a strong passion for the game, you can tell. And anytime I can pick his brain, I try to.”
Burkhead also appreciates watching O’Shea from afar as the coach heads the Patriots’ talented group of receivers.
“You see his players love playing for him,” Burkhead said. “You can really see that in the way they work and the way they carry themselves, go about their business. Just the energy he brings out of the group. It’s unreal. There’s a certain toughness there, a certain energy that I’m like, ‘OK, these guys are for real. They’re getting it going.’ They jell so well together. That’s credit to him.”
Burkhead isn’t the only Patriots player who gushes about O’Shea, who worked his way up from starting out as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston in 1996. He finished his tenure at Houston in 1999 as a tight ends coach, special teams coach and recruiting coordinator before becoming special teams coach and recruiting coordinator at Southern Mississippi from 2000 to 2002.
He first worked in the NFL as a volunteer assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2003, then moved from assistant special teams coach to offensive assistant and wide receivers coach with the Vikings before being hired by the Patriots.
“C-O. C-O,” wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. “You talk about a coach — he puts as much into it as the guys do. I have a ton of respect for Coach O’Shea. He coaches as well as — he’s a guy that comes to work and brings it every day.”
O’Shea, as expected, was mum when it came time to talk about the potential opportunity in front of him.
“Really our focus, we’re staying in the moment,” O’Shea said. “And my job this week is to prepare the receivers to the best I can for the game versus a real good team. That’s what we’re doing. I think all the coaches have really done a good job of having no distractions, avoiding all of the speculation and any of those things that are out there.”
O’Shea called plays on offense during Week 4 of the preseason this summer. That’s typically an indication a coach is a coordinator in waiting. Time will tell if he gets the job when McDaniels leaves, but his players sound like they would be thrilled.
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