The coach many fans wanted to lead the New England Patriots’ offense this season reportedly is mulling a return to the pros.
Bill O’Brien, who currently is the offensive coordinator at Alabama, is “considering NFL options,” The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz reported Sunday.
O’Brien was the Patriots’ OC in 2011 and their offensive play-caller in 2009 and 2010, and he was viewed as a natural candidate to replace Josh McDaniels when McDaniels left last offseason to take over the Las Vegas Raiders.
New England ultimately did not pursue O’Brien, reportedly due to a combination of loyalty to Alabama head coach Nick Saban and the fear that O’Brien could leave for a head-coaching job after one season. Instead, the Patriots tabbed Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to lead their offense along with head coach Belichick, with Patricia calling offensive plays for the first time in his career.
Schultz’s report does not indicate whether the Patriots are among the “NFL options” O’Brien is considering, but the Patricia experiment has not yielded positive results thus far. New England has regressed in nearly every offensive category this season — including plunges from sixth to 19th in points per game and 10th to 24th in expected points added per play — and quarterback Mac Jones has not taken the Year 2 leap many were anticipating.
If the Patriots’ offense, which did show improvement in Thursday’s 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, continues to sputter down the stretch, Belichick will need to consider a change in leadership this offseason. O’Brien remains an obvious potential option for that role.
Schultz also reported O’Brien was in “deep convos” for the Georgia Tech head-coaching job, “but those talks may have cooled.” The 53-year-old is in his second season as Alabama’s OC after spending the previous seven as head coach of the Houston Texans.
The Patriots are preparing to host the Buffalo Bills this Thursday night in an AFC East matchup with major playoff implications.