When the New England Patriots lost Josh McDaniels to the Las Vegas Raiders head-coaching job, many expected Bill Belichick to turn to his former assistant Bill O’Brien to take his place.
After all, O’Brien is an expert on the offensive side of the ball and he spent five seasons on Belichick’s staff from 2007-2011.
However, the rumors of O’Brien’s return never became reality and the Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard believes he’s uncovered the reason we didn’t see the anticipated reunion.
The Real Reason Belichick Didn’t Bring O’Brien Back: Report
“Finally got to the bottom of the Bill O’Brien mystery, and why he’s not back here as offensive coordinator,” Bedard wrote. “A) O’Brien made a two-year commitment to Saban. B) Belichick just wasn’t going to put Saban, his good friend, in the position of giving his blessing on O’Brien leaving. Sure, you and I can say it shouldn’t be that hard to pick up the phone and say, “Hey Nick, you can just tell me no and I’ll go away … but do you think you could stand to lose Billy?” That seems reasonable and follows the old adage of it never hurts to ask … but Belichick knew that wouldn’t be fair to put Saban in that position, so he didn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. Now, don’t rule out O’Brien for next season if the Matt Patricia-Joe Judge plan does not work well.”
If this is correct, whoever takes over the responsibility as primary play-caller could be on a short leash for the 2022 season. Neither Patricia nor Judge have experience with this responsibility. It’s all a pretty big gamble considering the Patriots still have a young quarterback starting in Mac Jones.
O’Brien Has a Solid Coaching Resume
The Belichick coaching tree takes a lot of criticism–and rightfully so considering almost every branch has failed as a head coach. However, O’Brien is one exception as he has had a strong run as a head coach and coordinator after his time with the Patriots.
In 2021, O’Brien helped guide the Alabama Crimson Tide offense back to the National Championship where they were shut down by a stifling Georgia Bulldogs defense. With O’Brien guiding the offense, Alabama ranked sixth in the nation scoring 39.9 points per game.
Bama quarterback Bryce Young had a phenomenal season. He threw for 4,872 yards, 47 TDs and just 7 interceptions en route to the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore. Expectations will be very high again in 2022 as he tries to repeat the honor.
It appears, he’ll have O’Brien helping to shape his season again, but it seems possible both men could be making the jump to the NFL. If Bama has another strong season, O’Brien’s name will once again be a hot one for potential NFL jobs.
In fact, he might have an opportunity to leapfrog a coordinator spot for a chance to get back on the sidelines as a head coach. O’Brien was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2012-13 where he posted a 15-9 record, though the school was ineligible for the postseason because of sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
His winning ways with Penn State created an opportunity for him to become the head coach of the Houston Texans. O’Brien led the Texans to three straight winning seasons when he arrived in 2014. The Texans made the playoffs in four of the 6.5 seasons O’Brien was at the helm. He compiled a 52-48 record overall, but was fired as the head coach in 2020 after the team got off to an 0-4 start. O’Brien landed with Alabama the following season and isn’t likely headed elsewhere until 2023, at the earliest.
We’ll see if the Patriots still have an interest and if other NFL teams will want to hire O’Brien as a head coach.
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