Patriots Bring Back Bill O'Brien as OC

Patriots OC Bill O'Brien
Patriots OC Bill O'Brien
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Conference Championship - In a move that pretty much everybody expected, the Patriots will bring back former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien to fill that role once more. O'Brien was offensive coordinator in New England from 2009-2011 although he didn't officially have the title until 2011. Then he left for head coaching jobs with Penn State and then the Houston Texans before spending the last couple seasons as offensive coordinator for Alabama.

As you might imagine, O'Brien's past results differ based on whether he had Tom Brady as his quarterback or not. The Patriots ranked in the top three for offensive DVOA in each year from 2009 through 2011. O'Brien's Houston teams ranked anywhere from 30th (2016) to 13th (2020) in offensive DVOA, but he didn't exactly have the best quarterbacks except during the period where he had Deshaun Watson healthy.

No matter what, this has to be seen as a positive for the Patriots to have an actual offensive coordinator instead of a defensive coach moonlighting. One assumes Matt Patricia will be reassigned elsewhere in the organization.

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36 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2023, 3:04pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 24, 2023 - 11:23am

Just keep him away from GM duties.

Points: 7

#2 by KnotMe // Jan 24, 2023 - 11:46am

Matt Patricia is probably the rare person to have failed as DC, HC AND OC. 

Points: 12

#3 by Mike B. In Va // Jan 24, 2023 - 11:48am

Clearly he'll be the ST coach next year, to go for the Quadfecta.

Points: 3

#4 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jan 24, 2023 - 12:32pm

Dude must be an interview rockstar or be fantastic at office politics or something. 

His time as DC was a low period for the defense - which got significantly better right after he left. He was the linebackers coach during the Adalius Thomas/locker room revolt shit - and during the bend-don't-break years, where the bending was largely about the linebackers not being able to cover anyone until the field got compressed near the endzone. The year he was their safeties coach was a mess (to be fair, partially a talent issue - although some of the guys who he couldn't get to play well hung around the nfl a long time). 

 Like, he's bad at everything.

Points: 7

#10 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 24, 2023 - 2:02pm

It would be hilarious had the Pats ran with no OC.

I don't mean no one with the title, like this year. I mean no one. We can put a fake mustache on a balloon and have him drift along the sidelines if you want. But each group trains itself. The QB calls a play in the huddle, etc.

I'm curious whether or not it would be better than Matt Patricia in the same role.

Points: 0

#5 by Cythammer // Jan 24, 2023 - 12:32pm

The Patriots had a bad defense that last season Patricia was DC. But he was there for six seasons. Not going to back and check their DVOA for every year, but I'm pretty sure they were a good defense some of those years.

Points: 1

#7 by KnotMe // Jan 24, 2023 - 1:22pm

Hard to tell. They were never good and generally fluctuated between eh, and baaad, more toward the bad.  They wern't good before or after he left. Pretty sure those teams were more talented than the scrubs they were running out this year so

Year, Rankings

2018: 19

2017: 31

2016: 16

2015: 11

2014: 12

2013: 20

2012: 17

2011: 30


Points: 1

#9 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jan 24, 2023 - 1:52pm

"they wern't good before or after he left."

Their DVOA improved by more than 10% 2017->2018. They were closer to top 5 in 2018 than they were to their previous year's DVOA. Then they were #1 the next year. Tie for last, to 1st in 2 years. 2020 was a mess, but their entire defense basically opted out. 


2018 : 19

2019: 1

2020: 26

2021: 4

2022: 3

The "Before" is really back in the 2000-2005 or so period - the major decline in the defense coincided with Patricia getting promoted? from an offensive line assistant to Linebackers coach, and the Patriots suddenly being absolutely terrible between the 20s. 

Points: 1

#11 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 24, 2023 - 2:04pm

They went 11-16-31 before he left, then (31)-19-1 after he left.

And I can represent he brought that 31st-ranked performance to Detroit.

Before: 26-12
During: 23-21-27
After: 29-9

Part of the 29 was pretty much every veteran who wasn't an anchor had left the team during one of his three years.

Points: 0

#6 by dryheat // Jan 24, 2023 - 1:14pm

But he got off the team plane wearing the Goodell Bozo the Clown shirt, so I like him.

Points: 1

#12 by theslothook // Jan 24, 2023 - 2:07pm

I'm not convinced Bill O'Brien is a great offense of coordinator. However, he doesn't have to be anything above ambulatory human to be above Patricia

Points: 2

#13 by KnotMe // Jan 24, 2023 - 2:35pm

He was actually OC for only 1 year. (2011 with NE).  Offensive DVOA was third, they went to the SB and lost to the Giants again. That was one of the "We have actual weapons years(Gronk, Aaron Hernandez, Welker and Edelman)" so hard to say. He got houston up to 13th in 2020,  the only good year of Deshaun Watsons career. But yes, he can't be worse than Matt Patricia. 

I do think BoB was a decent head coach.  But Matt Patricia level in the front office. 

Points: 0

#15 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jan 24, 2023 - 4:08pm

Right - BOB can be a bottom 5 OC - and he's still a major improvement. I think a lot of people don't realize how thoroughly dysfunctional the Patriots were on the offensive side of the ball. 

Points: 4

#20 by BigRichie // Jan 24, 2023 - 5:51pm

I don't see how anyone who saw them play offensive could miss the dysfunctionality. The ugliest offense I've ever seen.

Points: 1

#14 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 24, 2023 - 3:16pm

Love someone like the league loves retreads.

Points: 1

#16 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Jan 24, 2023 - 4:17pm

Belichick really has reached that stage in his career where he can only hire guys he already knows, hasn't he?

Honestly, if I was Kraft and Belichick brought this to me as his OC hire, I think I'd fire him.  This seems symptomatic of a man who's now in the "I confirm my priors, I don't challenge them" stage of his life.  Belichick might still be an above-average coach, but this is the move of someone who's trending downwards and will become less-and-less effective as the competition continues to evolve.

Of course, if NE keeps their current D together for another year and somehow lands Lamar Jackson in return for Mac Jones and a bunch of draft picks, Belichick might still have one last hurrah left in him before he goes.

Points: -3

#17 by dryheat // Jan 24, 2023 - 4:45pm

I'm not sure why you'd fire Belichick.  He's had demonstrable success with O'Brien.  O'Brien has had success everywhere he's gone, including Tuscaloosa.  And Mac Jones respects him...which may not have been the case last season.

I think this is a solid hire, if not an inspiring one.  All things being equal, I'd hire the candidate who I've worked with and had success with over the one who's an unknown.

Points: 2

#18 by KnotMe // Jan 24, 2023 - 5:19pm

I agree that an external candidate would have been more interesting. The Patriots offence has a very low talent level so honestly, it's probably not that appealing a job. You get Mac Jones(meh), bunch of nobody WR, and maybe an OK O-line at least.  It's not the worst setup in the league probably below average and maybe in the bottom 5. So a guy like BoB who is familiar(and can use it as springboard back to a HC postion) is probably the best your gonna do. 

Points: -2

#25 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jan 25, 2023 - 9:14am

"The Patriots offence has a very low talent level "

They were a top 10 offense in 2021, with a just-outside-the-top-10 rookie QB,  and the turnover was basically swapping Shaq Mason for Cole Strange and gaining Devante Parker . It's really hard to overestimate how bad their culture and coaching were this year. 

They literally had guys from 3 different position groupings tweeting about how bad the coaching was, and how little instruction and help they were getting during the season. 

Mac Jones may not be the guy - but it's almost impossible to get any useful information out of this year because everyone was so bad. This is a team that went almost 10 games without throwing a pass from under center, or running from shotgun. You can't even start to evaluate receivers when nobody is covering them because the defense knows you're running.

Points: 5

#19 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 24, 2023 - 5:22pm

And that line of thinking is what keeps the good ol boys club going. And how the packers rehired Philbin which has led to... nothing. 

Points: -1

#27 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jan 25, 2023 - 9:27am

"I'm not sure why you'd fire Belichick"

I think the argument here is that he's still a good coach - but he's past the point where he should be making organizational decisions - and you may not be able to keep Belichick the coach without Belichick the GM. The guy is 70 - which is right around the time that cognitive decline starts to accelerate in most people - and is an age where very few people are trying new things. 

His hiring of Patricia to run the offence and his refusal to fix the problem when it was clear before training camp was done that it was going really poorly points to an inability either in evaluation of personnel - or a refusal to admit mistakes. They just lit a top 5 defensive season on fire because he hired a bunch of his buddies to do something they'd never done before, and refused to replace them when it was immediately clear they couldn't do the job. 

Points: 6

#29 by ChrisS // Jan 25, 2023 - 11:12am

'cognitive decline starts to accelerate in most people' . NFL head coaches are the opposite of most people, most people that age spend most of their time watching TV with maybe an occasional round of golf, so not mentally engaged and challenged by a demanding career.

Points: 2

#30 by KnotMe // Jan 25, 2023 - 11:31am

I do wonder how possible it was to change during the year once they figured out Patricia was the opposite of the answer.  Even if it became clear pretty quickly, I'm not sure how possible it was to fix as you can't really hire an assistant from another team DURING THE SEASON to be your OC. I think teams can block the interviews while they are playing also and it probably violates some unwritten rule at the very least.  Similarly, I'm not sure how possible it was to change even if someone was available, as it's not clear trying to instill a new offence mid season would be better than hoping it improves. 

Basically, I'm not sure how realistic it was to move on from Patricia during the season, esp with the team (technically) in contention for a playoff spot till the last game. 

Points: 3

#36 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jan 26, 2023 - 3:04pm

"I do wonder how possible it was to change during the year once they figured out Patricia was the opposite of the answer.  "

Of course it was possible. Just fire the guy. Just get him out of the building. Promote Caley, or Judge, or whoever. 

Here's the thing - Patricia wasn't just a bad OC - he was a completely non-functional OC - and he was actively causing problems with player personnel. This wasn't a situation where they needed to find a good OC - this was a situation where anyone who wasn't actively starting fights in the locker room would have been a major improvement. 

Read some of the comments from Detroit players after he got fired there - and then compare them to the stuff from Mac Jones, Trent Brown, Kendrick Bourne, etc were saying about him. Patricia may be a smart guy - but he's clearly not someone fit for a leadership position or for teaching others.  

Points: 1

#32 by RickD // Jan 25, 2023 - 9:03pm

Honestly, if I was Kraft and Belichick brought this to me as his OC hire, I think I'd fire him.


I'm picturing this conversation:

Belichick: I want to bring back Bill O'Brien, who was our OC back in 2011, when we went to the Super Bowl.

Kraft: you're fired! 


Points: 4

#21 by dank067 // Jan 24, 2023 - 8:48pm

It's funny that O'Brien has ended up returning to the league as an OC after CAA (his agency) was apparently trying very, very hard to get him a major college head coaching job the last couple of off-seasons. And after his run in Houston, I don't think NFL teams value his executive credentials any more than the big time programs do. That all said, I can see him helping the NE O bounce back in the short term here.

Points: 1

#22 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Jan 24, 2023 - 9:10pm

"That all said, I can see him helping the NE O bounce back in the short term here."

My golden retriever, barking out plays at random, would likely help the NE O revert to the mean.

Points: 5

#23 by LionInAZ // Jan 24, 2023 - 11:44pm

The Patriots recycling their old assistants (including failed ones) repeatedly signals a serious deficiency of original thinking. 

Points: 2

#24 by Scott P. // Jan 25, 2023 - 1:23am

I mean, the Chiefs coordinators are a guy who played for Andy Reid 23 years ago and a guy who coached for Reid 23 years ago.

Points: 2

#26 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 25, 2023 - 9:23am

Neither Bienemy nor Spags failed out of Philly/KC.

It's not quite like Belichick using his coordinators as yo-yos.

Points: -1

#31 by Swjeppe // Jan 25, 2023 - 3:04pm

Well Spags went 10-38 as the head coach of the Rams, so I don’t know your definition of failure?

Points: 4

#33 by RickD // Jan 25, 2023 - 9:05pm

Bill O'Brien isn't a failure, except as a GM.  He won four division titles in Houston.  

He was a terrible GM, but nobody is making him the GM.

Points: 7

#28 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 25, 2023 - 9:56am

This does suggest LA is keeping McDaniels.

Points: 0

#34 by RickD // Jan 25, 2023 - 9:07pm

The (LV) Raiders don't have the money to fire him.  They're still paying Gruden.  

Mark Davis has a bad habit of signing his coaches to enormous contracts with huge buyout clauses.

Points: 1

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