On the surface, the hiring of Alabama offensive coordinator and former NFL head coach Bill O'Brien as the new offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots is a good thing. It reunites the Dorchester, Massachusetts, native with the franchise where he worked — in different capacities on the offensive side of the ball — from 2007-2011. And it puts an experienced mind with a real title in charge of the offense under third-year quarterback Mac Jones.
It should give some amount of calm to fans across New England that the team is turning over a new leaf and trying things a different way.
But at the same time, it raises the ire of those who had to watch a wasted year of Jones, Jakobi Meyers and Rhamondre Stevenson as the Patriots' offense took a nosedive in 2022. Because it's a blatant admission of guilt by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots franchise.
Everyone in the World Knew O'Brien was Coming Back
The announcement on Jan. 24 of O'Brien's hiring was a formality at the end of a long road of reporting, expectation and waiting around.
As far back as the middle of last season, as the Patriots' offense floundered, O'Brien's name was being thrown around as a potential savior. At the time, O'Brien was the offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide, who were floundering. Yes, an 11-2 season, No. 5 national ranking and non-CFP Sugar Bowl victory is floundering for Alabama.
O'Brien's tenure with Alabama looked to be on its last legs. There were reports of a fractured relationship with head coach Nick Saban and quarterback Bryce Young. And fans were calling out O'Brien as the scapegoat for the Tide missing the College Football Playoffs for just the second time in nine years. (It was a ludicrous claim, as Bama's two losses came with them scoring 31 and 49 points.)
It was time for a change for O'Brien and, obviously, time for a change for the Patriots.
Just days after the season ended with a loss to the Buffalo Bills, New England announced it was going to reorganize its coaching staff and begin a search for an offensive coordinator. Everyone assumed it would eventually be O'Brien to come out of that search, and it was.
It All Seemed Too Obvious to Anyone with Two Eyes
The Patriots were right to hire O'Brien and were right to give him the title of offensive coordinator. I have no problem with the hire. I do have a problem with the fact that the hire was necessary — that after just one year since Josh McDaniels left to coach the Las Vegas Raiders, New England already had to wipe the slate clean by bringing back an old familiar face to replace some other old familiar faces who were obviously put far out of their lanes.
There's something to be said when every fan, player, talk show host and national pundit can see the simple truth in an organizational failure. When New England announced that Matt Patricia and Joe Judge would be in charge of the offense — albeit without actual titles — everyone knew it wouldn't work, and we knew the reason why. The Patriots should have known as well.
Of Course, This Terrible Idea Didn't Work
Under the Patricia regime, the New England Patriots' offense got worse in nearly every statistical category. They scored 17 fewer offensive touchdowns (31 compared to 48 in 2021), and sank from basically a top 10 team to among the worst in the league in red zone efficiency (42% from 62%), third-down efficiency (35% from 44%), total first downs (288 from 362) and sacks allowed (362 from 288).
More than what the stats actually told us was what our eyes told us: The Patriots were a poorly coordinated team. They made stupid mistakes, took undisciplined penalties and found new ways to lose games, such as the debacle in Las Vegas. There was clearly dissension in the ranks, with Jones demonstratively upstaging his coaches and veteran players dropping not-so-subtle barbs to the media.
It all went down in the way everyone expected. And the more we watched the train wreck, the more annoyed we got that Belichick could have thought it was going to work out any other way.
There was no discussion or evaluation done on how or why this coaching staff had worked or not worked. There was no time allowed for Belichick to plead his case to the Krafts or for the Krafts to attempt to placate the fans. They immediately announced that everything they had built over the last year would go under the wrecking ball.
If Belichick really thought that Patricia and Judge could crack it as offensive coaches, would he really have rolled over so easily to bringing back O'Brien? Likely, his hand was forced by Robert Kraft, who should have stepped in before the season started when this cockamamie idea was first floated.
Instead, Kraft allowed Belichick an opportunity — albeit a well-deserved one — to call his own shot. In perhaps his worst mistake ever as a head coach, Belichick installed a system that everyone knew was doomed for failure.
The most damning evidence came with the hiring of O'Brien, shining a spotlight on how quickly and unabashedly the Patriots needed to ask for a do-over.
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