By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Dolphins pulled off a stunning win over the Patriots on Sunday, then made a surprising move on the coaching staff on Monday. They have fired their offensive coordinator, Chad O'Shea, after just one season. The former Patriots wide receivers coach put together an excellent gameplan on Sunday, but it wasn't enough to preserve his job after the Dolphins finished the regular season 25th in points per game (19.1).
Now that O'Shea is on the open market, the Patriots should absolutely consider bringing him back.
Not in the offseason. For the playoffs. Tonight, if possible.
Would O'Shea's return to the coaching staff completely transform the Patriots offense after what's been an unusually trying year for them? Not likely. But he couldn't possibly hurt the operation.
O'Shea would make for a particularly timely hire, because he would immediately contribute in two areas where the offense has the most room to improve: the execution of the receivers, and the red zone offense.
Bringing O'Shea back as a consultant or assistant would take a good amount off the plate of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who at times has taken responsibility for the Patriots' red zone struggles this season.
"I've got to do a better job at trying to find the right answers each week and put our guys in the right position and hope that we can go out there and execute well and get it in the end zone each time we're down there," McDaniels said in a conference call earlier this month.
O'Shea was the architect of the Patriots' red zone offense for much of his 10-year tenure on the Patriots' coaching staff. They especially flourished in the red area during Rob Gronkowski's career, but also found ways to score even with a diminished Gronk in 2018. They finished 12th last season in red zone touchdown percentage at 62.86 percent. This year? An even 50 percent, 26th in the league.
Bringing O'Shea back would also ease the workload of Joe Judge, who has served as both the wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator this season. Special teams assistant Cameron Achord has taken on a bigger role in his second year and has done an excellent job with the Patriots' elite ST units, while Judge spends more time with the receivers.
O'Shea could even help the defense. He just picked the Patriots' top-ranked D apart in engineering the Dolphins' improbable upset on Sunday, which culminated with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. You think inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and safeties coach Steve Belichick, both of whom have called plays for the defense at points this season, would like to know how O'Shea beat them consistently like few teams have?
I know, I know, it ultimately comes down to the players. But a relative lack of talent hasn't been the only issue for the Patriots offense. You can't pinpoint one particular area. Sometimes it's the offensive line. Sometimes Tom Brady has been off with his throws and decision-making. Sometimes the receivers and tight ends aren't catching the ball or getting open or running the right routes. The overall execution and coordination hasn't been there.
The short-term reasons are numerous, but there's a potential long-term benefit as well. McDaniels is once again drawing head coach interest around the league, and O'Shea's return would provide an insurance policy if they have an opening at offensive coordinator. Or even at receivers coach, if Judge slides into the OC role in 2020.
Re-signing O'Shea could at least give the Patriots offense a chance to look cleaner and more functional than it has for most of the 2019 season. There's pretty much zero chance that bringing him back would make the unit any worse. A potential gift has just fallen into the laps of the Patriots' coaching staff, and they could use all the help they can get with the most daunting playoff road of Bill Belichick's tenure in front of them.
They'd be wise to pounce. And not after the season, but now.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].