Bill O’Brien recruited Mike Gesicki to Penn State way back in 2013. But before the highly touted tight end played a game for the Nittany Lions, O’Brien left the program to become head coach of the Houston Texans.
Now, close to a decade later, the two finally are getting the chance to team up in New England.
A month after hiring O’Brien as their new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, the Patriots traded underperforming tight end Jonnu Smith and signed Gesicki in a move they hope will help reignite their passing game.
“I knew OB going all the way back to my high school days,” Gesicki said in an interview with Patriots team reporter Tamara Brown. “So it was funny after we agreed on everything and he called me. It’s 10 years later now, but it’s exciting to finally be able to play for him and already having those relationships formed, so I’m excited.”
Gesicki spent his first five NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins and established himself as a productive pass-catching threat, though one who offers little as a traditional in-line blocker. From 2019 through 2021, only Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews and George Kittle totaled more receiving yards among tight ends than Gesicki’s 2,053. Only those four and Zach Ertz had more catches than his 177.
But Gesicki was an awkward fit for Mike McDaniel’s new Dolphins offense last season, and his playing time and production both plummeted. He posted his lowest receiving output (32-362-5 in 17 games) since his rookie year and played just 45% of offensive snaps, down from 72% in 2021.
The Patriots are hoping Gesicki — whom head coach Bill Belichick has called “a big receiver” — can be a productive complement to tight end Hunter Henry and wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and Tyquan Thornton. O’Brien has proven he can operate successful two-tight end offenses, most notably doing so with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in 2011.
“I’m super fired up,” Gesicki told Brown. “It’s going to be a great opportunity, a fresh start and just something that I’m really looking forward to.”