Patriots Rumors: Bill O’Brien ‘Probably’ Returning Next Season

A deal could be 'in the works' already

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Dec 27, 2022

All signs point to Bill O’Brien riding in to rescue the New England Patriots’ offense in 2023.

Days after NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported O’Brien was a “strong option” to return to New England as offensive coordinator next season, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran relayed, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, that an O’Brien reunion “probably” is happening — and might already be in the works.

Curran’s source also indicated head coach Bill Belichick “absolutely” would want O’Brien back on his staff. O’Brien previously worked for the Patriots from 2007-11, serving as the team’s quarterbacks coach and offensive play-caller for his final three seasons.

“Obviously the speculation continues to be that Bill O’Brien will be brought in,” Curran said Tuesday on WEEI. “Folks who are knowledgeable in this that I reached out to in the last couple of days who would have insight, I said, ‘Would Bill (Belichick) want Bill O’Brien?’ Because that question has really not been asked. There‚Äôs a perception that, ‘Hey, it’s a done deal. Of course Bill would want him back.’ But I asked, and the individual said, ‘Absolutely.’

“And they said, ‘I’m surprised if it’s not in the works or a done deal already.’ So, to me, all the conversations that we’ve had about Bill O’Brien in the media and in the fanbase, behind the scenes there’s an expectation from people who know more than us and know the relationships better that, yeah, that’s probably going to happen.”

O’Brien was viewed as an obvious potential successor to Josh McDaniels after the latter left the Patriots last offseason, but Belichick instead opted to replace McDaniels with a combination of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, neither of whom had called offensive plays or coached QBs in their respective careers.

That controversial experiment has flopped, with the Patriots’ offense regressing from a borderline top-10 unit under McDaniels in 2021 to one of the NFL’s worst this season. Second-year quarterback Mac Jones has not improved under Patricia and Judge’s direction, and the Patriots have been plagued by both mental errors and poor situational football, ranking 26th in third-down offense and 32nd in red-zone offense.

Bringing back O’Brien would fill that experience void, giving New England a proven voice to lead its offense and, ideally, restore the promise Jones showed during his impressive rookie season. Belichick then could reassign Patricia and Judge to other roles more in line with their areas of expertise.

O’Brien, a 53-year-old Andover, Mass. native, has spent the last two seasons as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, working under Belichick’s longtime friend, Nick Saban. Rapoport reported O’Brien made a two-year commitment to Saban when he arrived in Tuscaloosa, which could partially explain why he did not replace McDaniels last offseason.

The Patriots will close out the regular season with games against the Miami Dolphins (home) and Buffalo Bills (road). A loss to Miami this Sunday would eliminate them from playoff contention.

Thumbnail photo via Gary Cosby Jr./Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports Images
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones
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