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Gaffney's State of the Patriots 2024 Part 2: Reshuffling the Offensive Coaching Deck

As of Thursday evening, the Patriots will officially have their fourth different offensive coordinator in as many years. Bill O'Brien's departure to Ohio State is official as of last night, and after he sat in on OC interviews last year with Bill Belichick, Jerod Mayo is going to get his pick of offensive showrunners, days after saying everything is under evaluation, coaching or otherwise.

But the key thing Mayo brought up during his Wednesday presser is that regardless of what side of the ball someone is coordinating or even position group, he wants to bring in "developers". My mind immediately goes to a guy like Dante Scarnechia when great developmental coaches get brought up, but that's a lofty expectation to put on anyone. However, simply having someone, maybe a few notches down, in your building that can bring everyone along, is gigantic. With that in mind, here are five guys who either fit that developer quota or would be big upgrades over what the Patriots have had over the last 5-6 years.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Caley (Los Angeles Rams Tight Ends Coach), Shawn Jefferson (Carolina Panthers Wide Receivers Coach), and Liam Coen (University of Kentucky Offensive Coordinator)

No. 5) Keenan McCardell (Minnesota Vikings Wide Receivers Coach)



- Has over a decade of experience as a WR coach in stints with the Commanders, Maryland Football, the Jaguars, and the Vikings. Worked directly with/helped develop receivers like Justin Jefferson, Stefon Diggs, Jordan Addison, D.J. Chark, and Santana Moss. Interviewed for the Patriots OC gig last year.

- He's only ever been a WR coach and has never been responsible for play-calling in his coaching career.

McCardell was on the shortlist of candidates to get the Patriots OC job a year ago, and I wouldn't be shocked if that's the case, once again. His aspirations to advance up the coaching ranks will likely mean leaving Minnesota however, with head coach Kevin O'Connell calling plays, and other assistants ahead of him in the pecking order. Leaving is the best option, with that in mind, for the one-time wideout

Outside of the fact he's recently been working in a McVay adjacent system, here's another note about McCardell. When the Vikings were cleaning house in early 2022, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson went to bat for their position coach, and he indeed stuck around. A good thing given K.J. Osborn's overall development, and Jordan Addision's spectacular rookie season in light of Jefferson missing a handful of games. Given that interview from a year ago, I imagine he'll be one of the first reported interviewees for Mayo and his new brain trust.

No. 4) Wes Welker (Miami Dolphins Wide Receivers Coach)



- Has spent the last seven years as either an offensive assistant or WR coach with the Texans, 49ers, and Dolphins. Has worked with/helped develop receivers like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill, and Kendrick Bourne. Has near-exclusive experience working in a Shannahan scheme.

- Just seven years as a coach, and to not much surprise, has only been a receivers coach save for some special teams duties and other work in Houston.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say Welker doesn't need much of an intro, although the fact he's been a well-regarded position coach over the last half-dozen years shouldn't come as a surprise. Much like McCardell, Welker's path to play calling in Miami is blocked by his superior, and his best opportunity would lie in a move elsewhere. I'd certainly also say that his multiple years working with either Kyle Shannahan or Mike McDaniel is a massive plus. Could think of worse directions to go in, in all honesty.

No. 3) Zac Robinson (Los Angeles Rams Pass Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach)



- A highly regarded assistant under Sean McVay, who has served the Rams as an assistant QB and WR coach, before getting promoted to outright QB coach and Pass Game Coordinator in 2023.

- Has only five years of coaching experience, all under Sean McVay.

Robinson is a popular man, even with his lack of coaching experience, getting interview requests from teams like the Saints and Bears in recent days, and I'd reckon the Patriots won't be too far behind for the one quarterback they drafted back in 2010. On top of being Matt Stafford's position coach these last three years, Robinson played a massive role in getting Baker Mayfield up to speed before he made an impromptu start against the Raiders on Thursday Night Football last year. Probably one of the crazier NFL subplots of the last decade. There's another McVay guy ahead of him on this list, but Robinson would be an unbelievably good pickup for the Patriots.

No. 2) Shane Waldron (Seattle Seahawks Offensive Coordinator)



- Has over 20 years of experience either coaching or working in Football circles, 12 of which come directly working under Bill Belichick, Sean McVay, and most recently Pete Carroll. Played a role in Geno Smith's breakout 2022 season and a Wildcard playoff birth for the Seahawks in a perceived tank year.

- In his second and third seasons as the OC for the Seahawks, their red zone offense ranked 28th and 25th. There's also no guarantee the Patriots get an interview in order.

I can't say I envisioned the rapidly developing situation happening in Seattle to...well, happen, but here we are. Waldron, a highly regarded, well-traveled third-year OC has received the Seahawks' blessing to take interviews elsewhere with the Bears and Saints just like his former staffmate Robinson.

The draw for bringing Waldron to New England would be that he's probably the best option among OC's to directly work with a quarterback. He only got one year with Russell Wilson in Seattle, but the bulk of the last two years with Geno Smith is hard to ignore. His career felt over once his stint with the Jets ended, and Waldron certainly played a role in his 2022 Pro Bowl campaign. He's never outright worked with a rookie quarterback, but his Seattle stint deserves a good heap of praise. Add that with the variety of QBs he's worked with (Jared Goff, Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, and Drew Lock, most notably), and Waldron would be a great pickup for the Patriots, it's just a matter of them getting beaten to the punch to make it happen.

No. 1) Brian Hartline (Ohio State Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach)



- Has served as the position coach for a laundry list of elite NFL wide receivers, including Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Terry McLaurin, and soon enough Marvin Harrison Jr. Additionally named offensive coordinator before the 2023 College Season after six prior seasons with Ohio State as the nations most prominent WR coach.

- Despite the offensive coordinator tag, he has never called plays as a coach and has zero years of NFL coaching experience, and just seven total in College, all at Ohio State.

If Mayo's goal is to get a true developer in the building, especially an expert at a position where the Patriots have lacked production for some time, Brian Hartline is the best option. Sooner or later, he'll make that big next step as a coach, either a college head coach at a smaller program, or go the Joe Brady route and go from a high-level college assistant to NFL coordinator. There's enough of a resume there for the Patriots to be interested. That, and with Bill O'Brien seemingly replacing him, seems like a tell that Hartline might be on the way out.

The fact that Ohio State has continued to set the standard as far as getting wideouts ready for the league is a complete credit to Hartline, who's been with the program in a coaching capacity since 2017. This would certainly be a gamble with the lack of play-calling experience, but again, if Mayo is dead serious about bringing developers onto his staff, Hartline is worth the shot, even if that leaves the Patriots in the market for a true quarterbacks coach.

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