Five Patriots Candidates For Offensive Coordinator In 2023

The Patriots need a new voice leading their offense

by

January 11

What does Bill Belichick plan to do to fix the New England Patriots’ severely flawed offense in 2023? That remains to be seen.

The Patriots head coach’s end-of-season news conference Monday was light on specifics, with Belichick saying only that he’ll “evaluate everything we’ve done” after New England failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second time in three years.

It remains to be seen, then, whether Belichick will abandon his much-maligned offensive coaching experiment. With Matt Patricia calling plays and Joe Judge coaching quarterbacks — roles neither had held before in their careers — the Patriots regressed from a borderline top-10 offense under former coordinator Josh McDaniels in 2021 to one of the NFL’s worst this season.

The results speak for themselves. Though Belichick clearly respects Patricia and Judge and could keep them around in different positions next season, finding a legitimate offensive coordinator should be entry No. 1 on the Patriots’ offseason priority list. And if Belichick doesn’t make this change of his own volition, team owner Robert Kraft reportedly could demand he do so.

(UPDATE: In a statement Thursday night, the Patriots announced they will begin interviewing offensive coordinator candidates next week, confirming there will be a new voice leading that unit next season.)

Who would fill that spot? That’s unclear. But several potential candidates have emerged as the Patriots shift their focus toward the 2023 season.

Belichick traditionally has valued familiarity when choosing his high-level assistants — Greg Schiano is the only coordinator he’s ever hired who didn’t have prior Patriots experience, and he resigned before his first season — so we limited this list to New England alumni.

Bill O’Brien
2022 role: Alabama offensive coordinator
Patriots connection: five seasons as an assistant (2007-11), including two as QBs coach/offensive play-caller and one as OC

If the Patriots are looking for an experienced voice to lead their offense and reignite Mac Jones’ development, O’Brien is the most obvious choice. Why? Because he’s already filled both of those roles for New England and done so at a high level. In his three seasons as the Patriots’ coordinator or de facto coordinator, they finished sixth, first and third in scoring and first, first and third in DVOA. Granted, those teams also had Tom Brady, but O’Brien knows how to run a successful offense. He also stewarded Deshaun Watson’s development into one of the NFL’s best young QBs during his run as the Houston Texans’ head coach. A commitment to Nick Saban prevented O’Brien from replacing Josh McDaniels last offseason, but he now is available and should be the Patriots’ No. 1 target. They reportedly had yet to reach out as of Tuesday afternoon, however.

Chad O’Shea
2022 role: Cleveland Browns wide receivers coach/pass game coordinator
Patriots connection: 10 seasons as wide receivers coach (2009-18)

O’Shea spent a decade in New England before leaving to become Brian Flores’ first OC in Miami. While with the Patriots, he called offensive plays during select preseason games and was viewed as the most likely internal successor to McDaniels. He knows the Patriots’ system and how Belichick operates. O’Shea’s passing attacks in Cleveland have not been especially impressive, but they’ve ranked in the top 12 in DVOA in two of his three seasons despite instability at the quarterback position.

Kliff Kingsbury
2022 role: Arizona Cardinals head coach (fired)
Patriots connection: 2003 sixth-round draft pick, played one season in New England

Kingsbury’s connection to the Patriots is more tenuous than O’Brien’s or O’Shea’s, and bringing him aboard likely would require an overhaul in offensive philosophy, as his preferred scheme — the Air Raid — is radically different from anything New England has run under Belichick. But perhaps Belichick would welcome a fresh perspective. The Patriots reportedly “have done their research” on Kingsbury, but it’s unclear whether he’d be willing to immediately accept a coordinator job. With Arizona still owing him four years of guaranteed salary, the 43-year-old could take some time off before deciding on his next move.

Zac Robinson
2022 role: Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach/pass game coordinator
Patriots connection: 2010 seventh-round draft pick, cut before first season

The Rams reportedly have granted their assistants permission to seek jobs elsewhere while head coach Sean McVay mulls his future, and Robinson is an intriguing candidate for a larger role. The 36-year-old only has been coaching for four years — all under McVay in Los Angeles — and just completed his first season as a primary position coach. A slew of McVay lieutenants have gone on to land head-coaching gigs in recent years (Matt LaFleur, Zac Taylor, Brandon Staley, Kevin O’Connell), and while Robinson isn’t ready for that leap just yet, he’s a young up-and-comer.

Nick Caley
2022 role: Patriots tight ends coach
Patriots connection: assistant for last eight seasons, including six as tight ends coach

While the Patriots’ offensive staff has turned over in recent years, Caley has been the lone constant. He’s been with the team since 2015, making him New England’s longest-tenured offensive assistant. The Patriots reportedly blocked Caley from joining McDaniels in Las Vegas last year, and with his contract now up, it seems unlikely he’d return for 2023 without a promotion. Caley does not have play-calling experience, but he’s well-versed in the Patriots’ offense and would be the top internal candidate to replace Patricia if Belichick wants to keep things in-house. The 39-year-old also has a fan in Kraft, who reportedly “would like to keep (him) around.”

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Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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