Patriots hire former OC Bill O’Brien to get offense back on track


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Bill O’Brien is rejoining the New England Patriots as offensive coordinator, per a team source. O’Brien previously held that role with the Patriots from 2009 to 2011.

New England surely hopes O’Brien will bring a blend of competence and creativity to an offense that finished 17th in the NFL in points per game and had the seventh-fewest yards per game. (The defense boosted the points-scored total with an NFL-high seven touchdowns.) And perhaps those measurements fail to represent New England’s off-year on offense.

Most notably, second-year quarterback Mac Jones regressed. He saw his stats decline in just about every category: completion percentage, yards per attempt, passing yards and touchdown totals. Jones’ regression led to a downturn for some of his favorite weapons, including tight end Hunter Henry and receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor — all of whom were hefty free-agent signings from the team’s big-spending 2022 offseason. 

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Though the team did not name an offensive coordinator in 2022, Matt Patricia called plays for the unit and was widely considered the team’s leader on offense. It’s unclear what his role will be with the team in 2023 — his official title last season was senior football advisor and offensive line coach.

“I want to be coached harder,” Jones said back in early December.

O’Brien’s task will be to get Jones’ development back on track. In 2021, Jones was in the mix to win Offensive Rookie of the Year after a regular season in which he led New England to the playoffs and a 10-7 record.

O’Brien spent the past two years as Alabama‘s offensive coordinator. He helped the Crimson Tide win a national championship in 2021 and also spent time with Jones, an Alabama alum, reviewing the team’s offense. 

Ever since longtime Patriots OC Josh McDaniels left to become head coach of the Raiders last year, New England seemed likely to make a run for O’Brien. But perhaps out of respect to Nick Saban, a close friend of Bill Belichick’s, the Patriots didn’t pursue O’Brien until this offseason, when he was free to explore NFL options after completing his second year in the role.

If O’Brien was jumping to the NFL, if felt like he might reunite with one of two GOATs: Belichick or Tom Brady. Brady is a pending free agent and will take his time deciding on an NFL option, if he even decides to play another season. 

Meanwhile, Belichick clearly made O’Brien a priority despite interviewing a deep pool of OC candidates that included Vikings WRs coach Keenan McCardell, Patriots TEs coach Nick Caley, Oregon assistant head coach and run-game coordinator Adrian Klemm, and Cardinals assistant head coach and WRs coach Shawn Jefferson.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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