The New England Patriots have yet to appoint a replacement for longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who took the Raiders’ head coaching job and continues to poach key personnel from Bill Belichick.
With no direct replacement available, Belichick has hinted that he’ll preside over offensive play-calling duties in 2022 while inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and outside LBs coach Steve Belichick call the shots on defense.
It’s an unprecedented strategy for Belichick, who normally has the organization buttoned up and running like a well-oiled machine.
Is the six-time Super Bowl champ ready to run the offense? Is that his actual plan? What role will Joe Judge and Matt Patricia have? Nobody knows and the latest development at offseason workouts will only fuel more speculation.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, former Pats offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien attended at least one of the team’s workouts last week.
What was Bill O’Brien doing at Patriots offseason workouts?
Here’s what Reiss said about O’Brien’s surprise visit to OTAs:
"“Bill Belichick previously said the Patriots’ coaching staff was likely complete, but that doesn’t mean visitors won’t be welcomed at various times — and Belichick’s network is deep. Along those lines, players took note of current Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien on the field at Gillette Stadium last week at the voluntary offseason program. O’Brien, of course, has deep roots in New England as a former Belichick assistant.”"
The Patriots are no strangers to hosting coaches from the college and professional ranks during the pre-training camp portion of the offseason. Was O’Brien there merely as a spectator or active participant running drills? Reiss didn’t specify, but his appearance is significant given his ties to the franchise.
O’Brien’s NFL coaching career began with the Pats in 2007, when he served as an offensive assistant before coaching the wide receivers and quarterbacks in the ensuing two seasons and landing the OC gig in 2011.
After a two-year run at Penn State and seven-year stint with the Texans, O’Brien joined Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama as the offensive coordinator, where he briefly overlapped with current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.
The 52-year-old is still a part of Saban’s staff, but he was widely viewed as McDaniels’ ideal replacement earlier in the offseason.
In many ways, O’Brien is still New England’s best bet given how pivotal Jones’ second year will be. The team can’t afford him taking a step back after he exceeded expectations as a rookie in addition to Belichick’s offensive staff, as presently constructed, doesn’t include anyone who’s coached QBs or called plays in the NFL.
Again, O’Brien’s appearance may mean nothing, but we wouldn’t put it past Belichick to be scheming a reunion behind the scenes.