New England Patriots

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Is Bill O’Brien enough?

Obviously not, because the New England Patriots may also need a quarterbacks coach and offensive line coach, on top of bringing back O’Brien as offensive coordinator. And because they have plenty of big personnel decisions to make at some of the most important positions.

But keeping it to the coaches, O’Brien is certainly a necessary first step to resurrecting the Patriots offense, but not enough to transform the group overnight. There’s work to be done.

  • HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 04: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans looks on against the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 04, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    HOUSTON, TEXAS – JANUARY 04: Head coach Bill O’Brien of the Houston Texans looks on against the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 04, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • You may know that already, but what’s important is whether the Patriots know, and what they’re thinking. Clearly, Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick agreed that it was best for the organization to bring O’Brien aboard as OC and rekindle his partnership with quarterback Mac Jones, which began at Alabama. While they never played a game together, O’Brien said in 2021 that Jones helped him learn the ‘Bama offense before the QB left for the NFL Draft.

    O’Brien has also held the title of quarterbacks coach jointly with OC at his last two non-head coach jobs. That would be Alabama and the Patriots, back in 2011. So it wouldn’t be surprising if he grabbed both titles in his second stint in New England. It makes sense, considering O’Brien’s No. 1 job will be to restore Jones to his 2021 level and ideally soar beyond it, after the quarterback regressed badly under the fool’s errand of Belichick assigning Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to run the offense.

    But do Kraft and/or Belichick believe that O’Brien is a one-man revivalist? Or is this just the beginning of a uniquely aggressive off-season, particularly on the coaching staff? There are a few other key areas to address.

  • Offensive Line

    Sep 10, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien before the game against the Texas Longhorns during the first half at at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 10, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien before the game against the Texas Longhorns during the first half at at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

    Indications are that the Patriots are not done adding to the offensive coaching staff, and that ownership is willing to open the wallets to do it.

    Mike Giardi of the NFL Network reported Tuesday that the Pats have “zeroed in” on former player and coach Adrian Klemm to “join the staff.” Despite the lack of specifics, Klemm would likely coach the offensive line, considering his background. Klemm not only played five seasons in the NFL, four of which were with the Patriots, but coached the Steelers’ O-line from 2019-21. Klemm’s departure from Pittsburgh didn’t feel like a great professional situation, so the Patriots could represent a second chance for him.

    Personnel-wise, the Pats may have to find two starting tackles. One could easily come in the draft, particularly at the 14th overall pick, while the 2022 free-agent class is also strong at the position.

  • Wide Receivers

    Jul 28, 2021; Foxborough, MA, United States; New England Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) catches a pass during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 28, 2021; Foxborough, MA, United States; New England Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) catches a pass during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Could the Patriots stand to add a passing game coordinator to the staff? One of the more specific problems facing the 2022 offense was poor spacing between the pass-catchers and inconsistent timing between them and the quarterback. That certainly speaks to a lack of coordination, but it may be a bit much to expect O’Brien to clean that all up by himself.

    The Patriots already have Troy Brown and Ross Douglas coaching the wide receivers, so maybe a promotion could be in order for one of them. But either way, perhaps O’Brien could use another assistant with experience syncing receivers up. The Pats interviewed two wide receivers coaches for their OC opening: the Vikings’ Keenan McCardell, and the Cardinals’ Shawn Jefferson. It’s become common across the league for WR coaches to hold the additional coordinator title.

    Twelve NFL teams already have a passing game coordinator on their offensive staffs, so it’s obviously a growing trend, and it’d be hard to find a team that could use an infusion of such coaching talent more than the Patriots.

  • Red Zone

    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)

    Speaking of passing game coordinators, there’s also the curious case of Chad O’Shea. He was the Patriots’ wide receivers coach from 2009-18, before leaving to join Brian Flores in Miami as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator. O’Shea lasted just one season with the Dolphins, before spending 2020-22 with the Browns as their receivers coach and passing game coordinator.

    O’Shea has interviewed for the Ravens’ and Jets’ OC openings, but there’s barely been a hint of him returning to New England. O’Shea obviously has OC aspirations and should take that gig if it’s offered to him, but if there’s room for him to come back to the Patriots, he’d be able to resume his duties coaching a critical area that’s significantly regressed since his departure: red zone offense.

    Josh McDaniels told MassLive back in 2018 that O’Shea was “incredibly responsible for any and all of our success in the red zone.” The Pats ranked 12th in red zone TD percentage that season. In the four seasons since O’Shea left, they ranked 26th, 24th, seventh, then dead-last in 2022.

    They obviously got a decent bump in Jones’ rookie year after a big free-agent spending spree. But now, with McDaniels gone and O’Brien starting fresh, they could still use a red zone guru to jump-start that area of the offense after they hit rock-bottom. O’Shea would make a lot of sense there.

  • But The Players!

    Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) looks at a play card prior to huddling teammates during the first half of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) looks at a play card prior to huddling teammates during the first half of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Even if the Patriots do all of the above things on the coaching staff, it’s still players who win games.

    Tackle we’ve been over already, that’s a must. At wide receiver, the question is whether the Patriots feel they have enough there, or whether they need to add a true established No. 1 on top of the current depth chart. DeVante Parker believes he’s that guy. Perhaps Tyquan Thornton could emerge as that guy. But why not a little column A, little column B?

    But the coaching improvements were the one thing that the Patriots absolutely, without question, needed to address, and they’ve addressed it. For a start. We’ll see what else they’ve got coming in this off-season, because the moves certainly aren’t done, not even among the coaches.

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    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.