What Patriots fans need to know about new OC Bill O'Brien


The news that football fans around New England were waiting for actually happened Tuesday.

Bill O'Brien will be the next offensive coordinator of the Patriots, as confirmed by our Phil Perry.

O'Brien is very familiar with the Patriots. He was on the offensive coaching staff from 2007 through 2011, moving up to offensive coordinator in his final season. His lengthy coaching career includes many stops in college, including two seasons as Penn State head coach. He also was the head coach of the Houston Texans for six-plus seasons. His most recent job was Alabama offensive coordinator over the last two seasons.

Patriots Talk: Devin McCourty goes deep on Patriots’ hire of Bill O’Brien | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

The addition of O'Brien is a welcomed one for a New England offense that struggled mightily under playcaller Matt Patricia and quarterbacks coach Joe Judge in 2022. Starting quarterback Mac Jones took a step back in his second season, and the offensive line struggled with pass protection and penalties. There are a lot of issues for O'Brien to clean up, but the fact that the Patriots now have a real OC is encouraging for the franchise.

What do Patriots fans need to know about the team's new OC?

Here's an overview of O'Brien's career to this point.

NFL experience

O'Brien got his pro start with the Patriots as an offensive assistant in 2007. He quickly rose up the ranks. O'Brien was the wide receivers coach in 2008, the quarterbacks coach in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and then added offensive coordinator to his title in 2011. 

In his lone season as OC, the Patriots ranked No. 2 in total yards per game (428), No. 2 in passing yards per game (317.8), and No. 3 in points scored per game (32.1). This offense was led, of course, by Tom Brady. The Patriots went to the Super Bowl that season but lost to the New York Giants.

His most memorable moment as Patriots offensive coordinator? A screaming match with Brady during a Week 14 win over the Washington Commanders.

After a two-year stint as Penn State head coach in 2012 and 2013, O'Brien came back to the pros for his first NFL head coaching job. He lasted six full seasons in Houston, plus the first four games of the 2020 campaign before being fired. His record as Texans head coach was 52-48 in the regular season and 2-4 in the playoffs. The Texans won four AFC South division titles but never advanced past the AFC Divisional Round of the postseason. 

Here's how his offenses performed in Houston. The numbers don't jump off the page, but when you consider important context like the starting quarterbacks, quality of the offensive line, etc., these stats aren't too bad at all.

College experience

O'Brien's coaching career started at Brown, where he coached tight ends in 1993 and inside linebackers in 1994. He moved to Georgia Tech in 1995. He was a graduate assistant from 1995 to 1997, and then running backs coach from 1998 to 2000 before moving up to offensive coordinator/QBs coach from 2001 through 2002.

O'Brien was Maryland's running backs coach in 2003 and 2004, and then joined the Terrapins' ACC rival, Duke, to be the Blue Devils' offensive coordinator/QBs coach in 2005 and 2006.

After several seasons in New England working for Bill Belichick, O'Brien left the Patriots in 2012 for his first head coaching opportunity at Penn State. He took over for Joe Paterno after the 2011 Jerry Sandusky scandal that rocked the Nittany Lions football program.

Penn State went 8-4 in O'Brien's first season, and then 7-5 in his second year. The program was not allowed to play in a bowl game during that time due to NCAA sanctions.

O'Brien left Penn State to become Texans head coach in 2014. After being fired by Houston in 2020, O'Brien returned to college in 2021 as the University of Alabama's offensive coordinator under head coach Nick Saban.

Alabama lost to SEC rival Georgia in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The Crimson Tide failed to reach the CFP in 2022, but they defeated Kansas State 45-20 in the Sugar Bowl. 

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy under O'Brien in 2021. Young is expected to be a top 10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft in April.

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