Patriots’ Top Offensive Coordinator Candidates If Josh McDaniels Leaves

The Patriots don't have an obvious succession plan at offensive coordinator


Jan 16, 2021

Did you really believe New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wasn’t going to hop aboard the head coaching carousel this offseason?

McDaniels reportedly will meet with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday to interview for their head coaching vacancy. McDaniels’ top competition for the job reportedly includes Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. The Eagles also interviewed Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo for the gig. The Eagles fired their head coach, Doug Pederson, just three years after he beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

But if McDaniels leaves this offseason, which now seems possible, the Patriots will need a new offensive play-caller. The top candidate, 2020 quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, already took a new job as the University of Arizona’s head coach.

The Patriots’ remaining offensive assistants are running backs coach Ivan Fears, running backs/kick returners coach Troy Brown, wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi, tight ends coach Nick Caley, offensive line coach Cole Popovich, offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo and coaching assistant Tyler Hughes.

Out of those assistants, Fears has the most experience but has never been an offensive coordinator in 44 years of coaching. Caley, hired in 2015, and Popovich, hired in 2016, have the next-most experience on the Patriots’ staff. Popovich has worked with running backs and offensive linemen and was a co-offensive coordinator at Minot State in 2014 and 2015.

Outside of the Patriots’ current staff, one potential candidate, Bill O’Brien, already joined the University of Alabama’s staff as offensive coordinator. It’s possible, but probably unlikely, that he would step away from that position to join the Patriots.

Another outside candidate is Cleveland Browns wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Chad O’Shea, who was New England’s wide receivers coach from 2009 to 2018 and the Miami Dolphins’ offensive coordinator in 2019.

This name might scare some Patriots fans, but former Dolphins and New York Jets head coach Adam Gase could be another potential hire whether or not McDaniels leaves. Gase worked under McDaniels with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010 and uses the same offensive “language” as the Patriots with Erhardt-Perkins system terminology. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has effusively praised Gase in the past and checked on his future plans two offseasons ago which makes you say, “hmm.”

Two other coaches around the NFL with connections to the Patriots are New York Giants quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski and Los Angeles Rams pass game coordinator Shane Waldron.

Schuplinski was an assistant with the Patriots from 2013 to 2018, working as an offensive assistant and assistant quarterbacks coach. Waldron worked with the Patriots for two years as an offensive quality control coach in 2008 and tight ends coach in 2009.

Belichick might need to take on a bigger role on offense, regardless, if McDaniels leaves. That would mean inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick taking on bigger leadership roles on defense.

Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images
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