Who Could the Patriots Turn To as Offensive Coordinator for Next Season?
This isn’t saying anything new, but the Patriots' offense is rough. So rough that the advanced metrics, specifically DVOA, have it on pace to be at its worst dating back to 1995, Drew Bledsoe’s third year in the league. It is also starting to become crystal clear that Bill Belichick’s failure of an experiment of Matt Patricia running this offense along with Joe Judge has been a catastrophe. I can’t see a dramatic change at this point in the season, thoughts that have been echoed by Belichick. While I do agree with the sentiment, the coaching hierarchy on offense cannot be structured as is going into 2023. Even if that means the Kraft family has to get involved with team decisions then so be it.
With that out of the way, the Patriots have some options, both in and out of the building to go with. Belichick has never gone with an out-of-building option for a coordinator job before, but there are several former Patriots coaches out there, including former offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Not to mention several potentially available names on Josh McDaniels’ staff in Las Vegas as well. But the goal is the same regardless of who gets the nod; hire someone who can get the best out of Mac Jones and everyone else on the Patriots' offense in all facets.
Nick Caley – Tight End Coach
Of the coaches in question on the Patriots' offensive staff, Nick Caley has easily been here the longest. After spending nearly, a decade in the college ranks, including years at Auburn, Arkansas, and Iowa State in assistant roles, although his connection to Belichick is via Brett Belemia by way of longtime Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. Since 2015, Caley has been in Foxborough spending two years as an assistant before officially being named tight ends coach in 2017.
It’s also worth noting that Josh McDaniels attempted to poach Caley last year on the way out with a formal interview, after bringing multiple other Patriots assistants over at that point. The Patriots unsurprisingly blocked the Raiders from ever interviewing him, which gives credence to the idea that he is in the running for the Patriots' OC job. Although that does present the question of why wasn’t Caley given that role this year. Don’t think they’ll be able to hide Caley this year should another team call, so if Belichick feels he can run his offense, next year would be the time to pull the trigger.
Troy Brown – Wide Receiver Coach/Kick Returns Coach
Hard to imagine a more popular move than to make the physical embodiment of the Patriot Way the new showrunner on offense. Troy Brown has only been on New England’s coaching staff for just under three years but played for seven years for the Patriots with Belichick as head coach, and of course for a few years with his mentor Bill Parcels in the early mid-90s as well. The point is, if the Patriots want to fully recommit to what they’ve done before this year (Erdhardt-Perkins), Brown knows that offense inside and out more than just about anyone.
Ross Douglas – Wide Receiver Coach/NFL Fellowship Program
Ross Douglas, for my money, is the most interesting option of any coach listed here, but also the least likely. Normally, the youngest full-time position coach in the NFL (27), wouldn’t be fast-tracked into a play-calling role. Douglas’ rise to get to this point hasn’t been ordinary either by any stretch. After going undrafted in 2018 with stints with Michigan and Rutgers. Later that year, Belichick's confidant Greg Schiano brought him onto Rutgers coaching staff in a grad assistant role for a few years.
Later in 2021, Douglass joined Richmond University’s D2 program as a cornerbacks coach after crushing his interview. Not even a half year later, Bill Belichick brought him into the fold in Foxborough via the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, in a quality control role on defense. With some holes on offense entering this year, Belichick officially made him the youngest position coach in football, pairing him up with Troy Brown as a receivers coach. Andrew Callahan from the Boston Herald did a good dive into his journey to Foxborough earlier this year that is worth checking out, as well.
Hard to remember the last young Patriots coach to get this much exposure. Josh McDaniels jumps out but that was nearly 20 years ago when became the quarterbacks' coach in year four, and de facto OC a year later. Like McDaniels as well, Douglas also started as a defensive coach. Belichick giving Douglas the reigns of the offense would be a bold move given his age and tenure, but you could argue the Patriots need exactly that. He’s a relatively new, young face who likely has a different take on what this offense could look like. I don’t think he gets the nod, but Douglas has made a massive impression everywhere he’s been so far in his coaching career. I would keep an eye on him just in case.
Bill O’Brien – University of Alabama Offensive Coordinator
Without question, B.O’B is the most speculated name to take over the Patriots' offense. This isn’t without merit either, with his ties to the Patriots being obvious, as well as O’Brien’s departure from Alabama reportedly being considered. Ironically enough, that would be to the delight of most Crimson Tide fans, via the noted haven for rational sports discussion of SECRant message boards, among other places.
Yes, Alabama’s offense this year hasn’t been anywhere close to the last three years, but there was a ton of roster turnover on that side of the ball, which didn’t help. As it relates to the Patriots, rumor and innuendo suggested that B.O’B was targeted last offseason for the Patriots' OC job, but he opted to stay with Nick Saban and Bryce Young. If O’Brien is still Belichick's top choice, odds are this is his job if he wants it.
Mick Lombardi – Las Vegas Raiders Offensive Coordinator
Another coach potentially considered for the offensive coordinator job with McDaniels’ departure last offseason was Lombardi. Well…that was until he was brought along to Vegas for the offensive coordinator job for the Raiders. Mick, whose father is Belichick confidant Mike Lombardi, has been in the coaching sphere since 2009, serving nearly exclusively in the NFL save for two years at Fordham. There was also a two-year stint, in 2011 and 2012, where he served as a scouting assistant with the Patriots.
Ultimately, Lombardi clearly work from 2019-2021 as an assistant quarterback coach and wide receivers coach after that got him into McDaniels' trust tree He wouldn’t have been one of three Patriots’ coaches to move out west otherwise. The issue he has currently is despite being the offensive coordinator, Lombardi does not call plays for the Raiders. Would he be willing to come back to Foxborough only a year after leaving to get that opportunity, or would he rather stick it out with McDaniels?
Bo Hardegree – Las Vegas Raiders Quarterback Coach
Hardegree only spent a year in Foxborough, but McDaniels felt good enough to bring him to the Raiders to help work with Derek Carr. Outside of 2021, he has no other ties to the Patriots. Hardegree, by all accounts, is an Adam Gase guy and has been dating back to 2014. From his final year with the Denver Broncos, he followed Gase to the Chicago Bears, then Miami Dolphins (QB Coach), and New York Jets afterward in assistant roles. Seeing as he worked with Jones directly in ’21 as a quarterbacks/quality control coach, that makes him a prime candidate to jump ship again with the promise of a promotion and play-calling duties.
Adam Gase – Former New York Jets Head Coach
Not that I would necessarily want to go down this road, but Belichick is an adamant supporter of Gase. So much so that there was some smoke that he would serve as a quarterbacks coach in 2020. His body of work as a head coach certainly speaks for itself, and not in a good way, but he was once considered one of if not the best offensive coordinators in football. Granted, most of that stems from the fact that he had Peyton Manning in Denver, but he also helped Jay Cutler have his best season in passer rating during his lone season in Chicago. Gase probably sits dead last among the options here that I’d want. In comparison to what the Patriots have now though, Gase might as well be Bill Walsh.
Chad O’Shea – Cleveland Browns Wide Receivers Coach/Passing Game Coordinator
O’Shea spent a decade as the Patriots' wide receivers coach (2009-2018) before he left for the Miami Dolphins with Brian Flores. In a shocking move at the time, he was let go at the tail end of the 2019 season, Bert Breer reported around that time, that it came down to Flores wanting to not be a Patriots clone on offense. The Dolphins' offense that year was middle of the road overall but averaged nearly 30 points per game down the home stretch. Since being let go, O’Shea has found a home with the Cleveland Browns working with the wideouts on Kevin Stefanski’s staff.
Joe Brady – Buffalo Bills Quarterback Coach
The lone true outsider listed here is also the coach I wanted to see the Patriots go after last year the most. Joe Brady, for those not into the College Football scene, was the brains behind the 2019 National Championship-winning passing offense for LSU. As the passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach, he worked with an all-star pass offense of Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall, Clyde Edwards Helaire, and Thaddeus Moss (Randy Moss’ son). Without going into too much detail, it was as good as it sounds.
His work at LSU, and previously with the New Orleans Saints, earned him a spot-on Matt Rhule’s Panthers staff in 2020 but was unceremoniously let go not even two full seasons in. In a fantastic move for the Buffalo Bills, they brought him on board as the quarterbacks' coach with Ken Dorsey filling in the vacuum left by Brian Daboll’s departure as OC. That, however, creates two potential issues should the Patriots be interested. Firstly, would the Bills even allow the Patriots a chance to interview him? Secondly, would Brady want to leave an admittedly good situation, even without a chance to call plays there for the foreseeable future?
The upside that Brady brings to the table would ultimately be worth bringing him on board. Not a major shock, but he’s a big fan of RPOs given his college background, and the Patriots have called a good deal of them this year. The Marcus Jones touchdown against the Bills is a recent example. More than that, Brady would simply be a fresh, new, outside voice, which the Patriots need.
Who I Think the Patriots Will Be in on: Nick Caley, Bill O’Brien, Mick Lombardi
Who I Would Hire or Promote if I Were the Patriots (In Order): Joe Brady, Troy Brown, Chad O'Shea