This Familiar Coach Could Be Patriots’ Josh McDaniels Replacement

Could Bill O'Brien return to Foxboro?

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If Josh McDaniels leaves for Las Vegas, the New England Patriots could tab a familiar face to replace him.

With the Raiders requesting Thursday to interview McDaniels for their head-coaching vacancy, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien could be the team’s “potential OC replacement” if McDaniels lands the Vegas job.

It’s unclear whether the Patriots have had discussions with O’Brien, who recently completed his first season as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, but the 52-year-old would be a logical McDaniels successor. Though he never directly coached current New England quarterback Mac Jones, the two have a prior relationship, as Jones helped O’Brien learn the Crimson Tide offense after the latter arrived in Tuscaloosa last January.

Finding a coordinator who can foster Jones’ development and maximize his talents will be of paramount importance for the Patriots if they lose McDaniels, who’s held his current position since 2012. Implementing aspects of Alabama’s passing game also could help Jones make strides in Year 2.

This would be O’Brien’s second stint with the Patriots, with the first stretching from 2007 through 2011. The Andover, Mass., native spent one season as New England’s official OC and two more as its offensive play-caller before leaving for head-coaching jobs at Penn State and, later, with the Houston Texans.

In those three O’Brien-led seasons, the Patriots’ offense — which at the time featured Tom Brady and a bevy of offensive weapons — ranked sixth, first and third in scoring and first, first and third in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA.

The Patriots do not have any obvious internal replacements for McDaniels, as none of their other offensive assistants have play-calling experience. That group features running backs coaches Ivan Fears and Vinnie Sunseri, wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi, receivers/kick returners coach Troy Brown, tight ends/fullbacks coach Nick Caley, offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, assistant O-line coach Billy Yates and quality control/assistant QBs coach Bo Hardegree.

Of those position coaches, Lombardi and Caley would be the most likely coordinator candidates.

McDaniels and Dave Ziegler are viewed as a package deal for the Raiders’ head coach and general manager openings, so losing the former likely would mean losing the latter, as well. Ziegler, whose connection to McDaniels dates back to their time as teammates at John Carroll University, impressed in his first season as Patriots director of player personnel, helping pull off last year’s free agent spending bonanza and playing a key role in a retooled draft preparation process that yielded the franchise’s best rookie class in years.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported McDaniels is “considered a top candidate.”

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