FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill O’Brien will return to the New England Patriots after agreeing to a deal Tuesday to become their next offensive coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Low.
O’Brien, 53, who spent the past two seasons as an offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama, is now back where his NFL career began in 2007 as an assistant coach.
During that first stint in New England, O’Brien quickly rose through the ranks of Bill Belichick’s staff to become quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, spending three years (2009-11) in that role before leaving for positions as a head coach with Penn State (2012-13) and the Houston Texans (2014-20).
A native of Massachusetts, O’Brien will be tasked with improving a Patriots offense that notably slumped in most key areas in 2022, including:
• Efficiency of the red zone: 11th (39 TD in 63 triggers) to 32nd (19 TD in 45 triggers)
• Efficiency on the third attempt: 10th (43.5%) to 27th (34.8%)
• first downs: tied for ninth (362) to 28th (288)
• sacks allowed: from eighth (28 for 241 yards) to 19th (41 for 279 yards)
• touchdowns scored: 48 to 31
Belichick has not named an official offensive coordinator for the Patriots in 2022, relying on Matt Patricia as the primary playmaker despite Patricia’s primarily defensive background in her NFL career.
Belichick also oversaw a streamlining of offense — changing blocking terminology for offensive linemen — in which one of his goals was to produce more big plays on the field.
But the desired results never materialized, leading the Patriots, who are notoriously tight-lipped about their intentions, to publicly announce on Jan. 12 that they would be interviewing for an offensive coordinator.
In addition to O’Brien, the Patriots also spoke with current New England tight ends coach Nick Caley, Minnesota Vikings wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, assistant head coach of the Arizona Cardinals Shawn Jefferson and Oregon Associate Head Coach/Offensive Line/Run-Game Coordinator Adrian Klemm on the job.
Upon arriving in Alabama, where he worked closely with quarterback Bryce Young, O’Brien had also spent time with current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who helped O’Brien learn the game. Tide attack in the months following Jones’ final season with Alabama.
With O’Brien’s return to the NFL, Saban will be looking for his sixth different offensive coordinator in the past eight seasons. The previous five — Steve Sarkisian, Mike Locksley, Brian Daboll, Lane Kiffin and O’Brien — are all now either NFL head coaches, offensive coordinators, or Power 5 head coaches.
Saban is also looking for a defensive coordinator after Pete Golding left for the same role at Ole Miss earlier this month. The last time Saban brought in two new coordinators in the same year was after Crimson Tide’s 2017 National Championship season.