Patriots hire Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien to run offense

O'Brien previously coached with Patriots from 2007-2011

Former Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien is returning to the NFL.

The Alabama offensive coordinator will take the same job with the New England Patriots, the team officially announced Thursday. O’Brien has been the Crimson Tide’s play-caller for the past two seasons after he was fired from the Texans in October of 2020.

This will be O’Brien’s second stint with the Patriots. He worked as an assistant with the team from 2007-11 and worked his way up from offensive analyst to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2011 before he went to be the head coach at Penn State.

New England was in need of an offensive coordinator after its post-Josh McDaniels experiment wasn’t fruitful this past season. After the longtime OC left New England to become the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn’t directly replace McDaniels. Former New York Giants head coach Joe Judge was the team’s quarterbacks coach while former Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia was the team’s offensive line coach. Judge previously served as a special teams coach in his assistant coaching tenure while Patricia had been a defensive coach for over a decade.

Patricia ended up as the team’s play-caller for the 2022 season as New England went 8-9 and missed the playoffs. Second-year QB Mac Jones visibly showed his frustration at times with the offense and took a step back from his first season with McDaniels. Jones had a lower completion percentage, averaged 0.5 yards fewer per throw and threw fewer TDs in 2022 than he did as a rookie in 2021.

Overall, the Patriots' offense averaged 5.3 yards per play in 2022 after averaging 5.7 yards a play in 2021. After a season-ending loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots issued a statement saying the franchise would search for a new offensive coordinator.

Before joining Alabama, O’Brien coached the Texans for over six seasons. Houston won the AFC South in four of O’Brien’s six full seasons with the team and finished with at least nine wins in five seasons.

TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA - OCTOBER 08:  Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien converses with Bryce Young #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during pregame warmups prior to facing the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 08, 2022 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Bill O'Brien was Alabama's offensive coordinator for two seasons. He's now reportedly taking the same position with the Patriots. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) (Kevin C. Cox via Getty Images)

Where does Alabama turn?

O’Brien’s departure from Alabama means head coach Nick Saban will have a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator in 2023. Defensive coordinator Pete Golding left to take the same position at Ole Miss.

Saban has shown over the past decade that he has no issue with staff turnover. O’Brien was the team’s fifth offensive coordinator since Lane Kiffin left the school in 2016 and he succeeded Steve Sarkisian after Sarkisian became the head coach at Texas following the 2020 season.

Alabama QB Bryce Young won the Heisman in 2021 in his first season as the team’s starter as the transition from Sarkisian to O’Brien was relatively seamless. The Tide averaged nearly 40 points per game and won the SEC title before losing to Georgia in the national title game after injuries to its top two receivers.

With Jameson Williams and John Metchie III off to the NFL, Alabama scored more points per game in 2022 but the absence of a top-tier receiver was obvious. Young often found himself carrying the offense on his shoulders and the team’s top playmaker and pass-catcher was running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

Young will be a top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, so whoever takes over Alabama’s offense will be working with a new starting quarterback.