FOXBORO, Massachusetts — Bill O’Brien will return to the New England Patriots after agreeing to a deal Tuesday to become their next offensive coordinator, sources tell ESPN reporter Adam Schefter and Chris Low.
O’Brien, 53, who spent the past two seasons as offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama, is now back where he began his NFL career in 2007 as an assistant coach.
In that first stint in New England, O’Brien quickly rose through the ranks on Bill Belichick’s staff to quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, spending three years (2009-11) in that role before leaving for the head coaching position with Penn State (2012-13) and Houston Texans (2014-20).
O’Brien, who was born in Massachusetts, will be charged with improving the Patriots’ offense, which is down significantly in most key areas in 2022, including:
Red Zone Efficiency: 11 (39 TDs in 63 flights) to 32 (19 TDs in 45 flights)
• Class III Proficiency: 10th (43.5%) to 27th (34.8%)
• First down: tied for ninth (362) to 28th (288)
• Sacks allowed: 8th (28 for 241 yards) to 19th (41 for 279 yards)
• Relegation points: 48 to 31
Belichick did not name an official offensive coordinator for the Patriots in 2022, relying on Matt Patricia as the primary caller despite Patricia’s mostly defensive background in his NFL career.
Belichick also oversaw the streamlining of the offense—changing the blocking terminology for the offensive linemen—as one of his goals was to produce more big plays on the outfield.
But the desired results did not bear fruit, which led to the Patriots, who were notoriously silent about their intentions, publicly announcing on January 12 that they would be interviewing an offensive coordinator.
In addition to O’Brien, the Patriots also spoke with current New England coach Nick Caley, Minnesota Vikings wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, assistant Arizona Cardinals coach Shawn Jefferson, and Oregon assistant coach/offensive line/running game coordinator Adrian Klim about the job.
Upon landing at Alabama, where he worked closely with quarterback Bryce Young, O’Brien also spent time with the current Patriots team. Mac Joneswho helped O’Brien learn the Tide offense in the months following Jones’ final season with Alabama.
With O’Brien back in the NFL, Saban will be looking for his sixth different offensive coordinator in the past eight seasons. The former five — Steve Sarkisian, Mike Loxley, Brian Dabol, Lane Kiffin and O’Brien — are now either NFL head coaches, offensive coordinators, or head coaches for the Power 5.
Saban is also looking for a defensive coordinator after Pete Goulding left the same position at Ole Miss earlier this month. The last time Saban brought in two new coordinators in the same year was after the Crimson Tide’s 2017 national championship season.