Now they have another important position on the staff to fill.
Bill O'Brien is headed to Ohio State to be the Buckeyes' new offensive coordinator, ESPN's Pete Thamel reported Thursday night. O'Brien already has some experience in the Big Ten conference. He was Penn State's head coach in 2012 and 2013 before taking the Houston Texans job in 2014.
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O'Brien returned to the Patriots in 2023 and was expected to help revive an offense that struggled mightily in 2022 under the coaching of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the offense's issues worsened. New England was the lowest-scoring team in the league at 13.9 points per game, and the quarterback play of Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe was terrible for most of the season.
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So, who made the decision here? Was it O'Brien who wanted to leave for a different opportunity? Did the Patriots decide to go in a different direction after just one year?
Our Patriots insider Tom E. Curran provided some insight on this topic Thursday during NBC Sports Boston's Boston Sports Tonight.
"I would imagine it was probably more Bill O'Brien's decision than the Patriots'," Curran said, before adding, "If Bill O'Brien wanted to come back, I'm sure that they would have entertained a long conversation about doing so.
"The initial indications I got a month or two ago was, the plan would be Mayo and O'Brien coming back. And then in the last week or so, it was more, 'We'll see what happens with Bill (Belichick).'"
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It'll be interesting to see which type of candidate the Patriots pursue in their search for a new offensive coordinator.
Will they value familiarity and bring back someone who has experience in Foxboro, such as Josh McDaniels or Nick Caley, or will they look outside the organization for a fresh face who can bring a more modern approach to the offense?
It goes without saying that this hire is a massively important one, especially if the Patriots plan on taking a quarterback with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.