When Josh McDaniels left New England for Las Vegas, nearly everyone penciled Bill O’Brien in as the next Patriots offensive coordinator.
Yet, as of Monday morning, O’Brien hadn’t reclaimed the position he held during the 2011 season. And the Patriots, despite baffling many around the NFL, are set to enter the 2022 season with Matt Patricia, Joe Judge and Nick Caley forming a collaborative approach to offensive coordinator.
So, what happened with O’Brien? Why was something that seemed inevitable ultimately not?
According to Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard, it all comes down to Bill Belichick’s relationship with Nick Saban, who a year ago hired O’Brien as Alabam’s offensive coordinator.
Check out this excerpt from Bedard’s column published Sunday:
Finally got to the bottom of the Bill O’Brien mystery, and why he’s not back here as offensive coordinator. A) O’Brien made a two-year commitment to Saban. B) Belichick just wasn’t going to put Saban, his good friend, in the position of giving his blessing on O’Brien leaving. Sure, you and I can say it shouldn’t be that hard to pick up the phone and say, “Hey Nick, you can just tell me no and I’ll go away … but do you think you could stand to lose Billy?” That seems reasonable and follows the old adage of it never hurts to ask … but Belichick knew that wouldn’t be fair to put Saban in that position, so he didn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. Now, don’t rule out O’Brien for next season if the Matt Patricia-Joe Judge plan does not work well.
The Patriots’ offensive coaching staff has been a subject of significant ridicule this offseason. Dan Orlovsky recently said it’s his biggest concern in the NFL ahead of this season.
Belichick’s plan might work out and the Patriots offense might be just fine. But if things go sideways, the door apparently still is open for O’Brien to return to New England next year.