New England Patriots

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 10: Alabama Crimson Tide Offensive Coordinator Bill O'Brien looks on prior to a game against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Even before Josh McDaniels was officially hired as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Bill O’Brien was already being floated as a logical successor as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. After all, O’Brien already has experience working in New England – he stepped into the job the first time McDaniels left to be the head coach of the Denver Broncos back in 2009. However, there’s one key fact stopping O’Brien from boarding a place to Boston as soon as McDaniels’ hire was announced.

He already has a job.

After getting fired as the head coach of the Houston Texans during the 2020 season, O’Brien took a job working for Nick Saban as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. In his first year in Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s averaged 40 points per game and first-year starting quarterback Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy.

Now, O’Brien’s experience at Alabama is actually part of what makes him an attractive candidate for the Patriots. He already has a working relationship with quarterback Mac Jones. Although their time together was brief and O’Brien never officially coached jones, Jones reporteldy helped teach O’Brien the Alabama playbook after he took the job in the spring of 2021. O’Brien would also be able to add more modern college concepts to the Patriots offense.

However, for all of that to happen, O’Brien has to want to leave Alabama. Speaking to the media on National Signing Day on Wednesday, Saban was asked if he believes O’Brien will take that jump.

A look at the Patriots' options to potentially replace Josh McDaniels

  • ATLANTA, GEORGIA – NOVEMBER 18: Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots stands on the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    McDaniels has been the Patriots’ offensive coordinator for the last 10 and 14 of the last 17 seasons. Replacing him will be no small task. Who might the Patriots look to to lead the rebuilt offense and rookie quarterback Mac Jones into its second season if McDaniels is no longer in the building?

    The Patriots tend to favor not just in-house candidates, but those in some way connected to the organization. Of the eight candidates laid out here, seven have direct ties to the Patriots, and the eighth a common indirect link.

    Let’s get started with the in-house candidates…

    Nick Caley

    Excluding McDaniels and running backs coach Ivan Fears who has hinted at retirement, Caley is the longest tenured offensive assistant currently on the Patriots’ coaching staff. He joined the team as a general offensive assistant in 2015, then was promoted to his current role two years later.

  • Mick Lombardi

    Lombardi was a scouting assistant for the Patriots in 2011 and 2012, then moved on to coach elsewhere before returning as the assistant quarterbacks coach in 2019. He was promoted to wide receivers coach before the 2020 season. Both Caley and Lombardi were floated as potential McDaniels replacements by NFL Network’s Mike Giardi.

  • Troy Brown

    If the Patriots want to go with a former player, Brown would be the most logical choice. He played for the team from 1997-2007, and ranks third in franchise history in receptions and fifth in receiving yards. He got involved with the team unofficially in 2019, then was named running backs and kick returners coach in 2020. Brown was then moved to coaching his former position in 2021.

  • Bill O’Brien

    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – JANUARY 10: Alabama Crimson Tide Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien looks on prior to a game against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    On to the external options. A number of people including ESPN’s Adam Schefter named O’Brien as a possible replacement for McDaniels shortly after the news of the Raiders requesting the interview with McDaniels. O’Brien was with the Patriots from 2007-2011, serving as the offensive coordinator the final year. He also has a prior relationship with Mac Jones – when O’Brien got to Alabama following the 2020 season, Jones taught him the Crimson Tide’s offense before leaving for the Patriots.

  • Chad O’Shea

    CLEVELAND, OHIO – OCTOBER 31: Cleveland Browns wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea smiles during warmups before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

    O’Shea spent a decade with the Patriots as the team’s wide receivers coach, from 2009-2018. He left after the 2018 season, after being hired by Brian Flores as the offensive coordinator in Miami. He lasted just one year in that role, and has spent the last two seasons in his current role in Cleveland.

  • Joe Judge

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – JANUARY 09: Head Coach Joe Judge of the New York Giants leaves the field after being defeated by the Washington Football Team 22-7 at MetLife Stadium on January 09, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Joe Judge was most recently the head coach of the New York Giants, until getting let go last week. Before his time in New York, he was with the Patriots from 2012-2019 first as an assistant special teams coach, then special teams coordinator beginning in 2015.

    Given Judge’s special teams background, there was some speculation he could return to New England in that capacity. But, could an OC job be on the table as well. In his final year with the team, he doubled as both the STC and wide receivers coach. Is that exposure to the offensive side of the ball, plus two years as a head coach, enough to make him a viable candidate?

  • Zac Robinson

    Aug 18, 2021; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams assistant quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson looks on during a joint practice against the Las Vegas Raiders. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Closing this list with two longshot candidates, beginning with Robinson. Although he never coached for the Patriots, he was drafted by the team in the seventh round in 2010 and spent a summer in Foxborough before being released at the end of training camp. He never appeared in a regular season game in his four year NFL career. Robinson got into coaching in 2019 as an assistant QB coach for the Rams, switching to wide receivers in 2020 before moving back to the quarterback room in 2021.

    Robinson is one of many former Patriots backup quarterbacks finding success in coaching (Kliff Kingsbury, Kevin O’Connell) and has been viewed as an under-the-radar candidate for an OC job around the league. Would he be a fit in New England? His offensive philosophy is a sizable departure from the Patriots’ current system, but if they’re looking to add modern concepts to the offense, that could be viewed as a positive.

  • Holmon Wiggins

    Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receivers coach Holmon Wiggins against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Let’s say the Patriots want to go to the Alabama pipeline, but for some reason Bill O’Brien doesn’t work out. In that case, Holmon Wiggins could be a name to know. He’s been working for Nick Saban for three years as the wide receivers coach, and had ‘Assistant Head Coach of the Offense’ added to his title in 2021. In New England, he’d be familiar with Mac Jones and could help develop whatever receivers the Patriots bring in.

    Realistically, Wiggins may be a year or two away from offensive coordinator contention. However, if the Patriots were to promote Lombardi or Brown, or if Bill O’Brien does come from Alabama, he’d be an intriguing candidate to join the staff in a positional coaching role.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at

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