It looked like we moved a step closer to the inevitable happening with the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator situation.
Bill O’Brien interviewed for New England’s vacant offensive coordinator role on Thursday morning, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Monday Morning Quarterback’s Albert Breer reported. Rapaport called O’Brien a “top candidate,” while Breer said he’s “the most obvious candidate for the job.”
O’Brien, who was an assistant coach on the Patriots from 2007-11 and was the offensive coordinator in his final season in New England, has been viewed as the favorite for the position even before the 2022 season ended. It was reported by NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran in December that O’Brien’s return to New England was “probably going to happen,” and he reported Monday that O’Brien is the “top target” for the role. An “influential voice” in the Patriots’ organization also wants O’Brien to be the team’s next offensive coordinator, NFL Network’s Mike Giardi reported last week.
With that in mind, it might not be much longer until O’Brien is named the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. New England could be done interviewing candidates for the role by Friday, Rapoport reported.
The Patriots have reportedly interviewed or requested to interview a handful of candidates since Wednesday. Patriots tight ends coach Nick Caley and Minnesota Vikings wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell have both interviewed already, while they’ve requested to interview University of Oregon assistant head coach/offensive line coach Adrian Klemm and Arizona Cardinals wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson.
None of Caley, McCardell, Klemm, or Jefferson have held an offensive coordinator position before.
O’Brien is currently Alabama’s offensive coordinator, but his contract is reportedly up at some point this offseason. He helped the Crimson Tide reach the National Championship Game in the 2021 season and helped them win the Sugar Bowl this past season.
O’Brien has had success in the NFL, too. In O’Brien’s lone season as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, New England was second in total offense and third in scoring.
From NFL Now: The #Patriots currently have three OC candidates. pic.twitter.com/FGJuWJZqUt
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 18, 2023
After spending a couple seasons at Penn State as the head coach of its football team, O’Brien found some success in the NFL again when he became the head coach of the Houston Texans in 2014. He led Houston to two AFC South titles in 2015 and 2016, with Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler being the Texans’ leading passer in each season, respectively.
The Texans’ offense improved in 2017 after they drafted Deshaun Watson in the first round, with O’Brien helping mold him into becoming a franchise quarterback.
If O’Brien is hired to be the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, he has his work cut out for him. The Patriots’ offense, along with Mac Jones, took a major step back in 2022. A year after ranking in the top 10 in many major offensive stats and metrics, the Patriots were in the bottom 10 of many of those same stats. They were 26th in total offense, 27th in third-down conversions and last in red zone efficiency.
Jones, who played like the best quarterback from the 2021 NFL Draft class in his rookie season, threw for 2,997 yards with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for an 84.8 passer rating in 2022.