Bill O’Brien returns to New England Patriots as OC

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill O’Brien is returning to the Patriots after agreeing to a deal Tuesday to become New England’s next offensive coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Low.

O’Brien, 53, who spent the last two seasons as offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama, is now back where his NFL career began in 2007 as an assistant coach.

In that first stint in New England, O’Brien quickly rose through the ranks on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff to quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, spending three years (2009-11) in that role before leaving for head coaching positions at Penn State (2012- 13) and with the Houston Texans (2014-20).

O’Brien, a Massachusetts native, will be charged with improving a Patriots offense that notably declined in most key areas in 2022, including:

• Red zone efficiency: 11th (39 TDs in 63 drives) to 32nd (19 TDs in 45 drives)

• Third down: 10th (43.5%) to 27th (34.8%)

• First down: Even 9th (362) to 28th (288)

• Sacks: 8th (28 for 241 yards) to 19th (41 for 279 yards)

• Touchdowns scored: 48 to 31

Belichick did not name an official offensive coordinator for the Patriots in 2022, leaning on Matt Patricia as the primary playcaller despite Patricia’s primary background in the NFL being on the defensive end.

Belichick also oversaw a streamlining of the offense — changing the blocking terminology for offensive linemen — with one of his goals being to produce more big plays down the field.

But the desired results never materialized, leading the Patriots, notoriously tight-lipped about their intentions, to publicly announce on Jan. 12 that they would be interviewing for an offensive coordinator.

The Patriots spoke with O’Brien, current New England tight ends coach Nick Caley, Minnesota Vikings wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach Shawn Jefferson and Oregon associate head coach/offensive line/run-game coordinator Adrian Klemm.

When he landed at Alabama, where he worked closely with quarterback Bryce Young, O’Brien had spent time with current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones — a Crimson Tide alum — going over the team’s offense.

With O’Brien heading back 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 now all either NFL head coaches/offensive coordinators or Power 5 head coaches.

Saban is also looking for a defensive coordinator after Pete Golding 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.

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