The New England Patriots' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach will come after one of the most dysfunctional seasons in the Bill Belichick Era, according to the Boston Herald. The team's 18.2 offensive points per game were its worst since Year 1 under Belichick in 2000, while its third-down and red zone offense were both the worst in Belichick's 23 seasons as Patriots head coach.as
2022 Patriots offense
Offensive points per game
Total yards per game
Red zone touchdown percentage
* Worst in Bill Belichick Era (since 2000)
O'Brien experienced great success running the Patriots offense as the play-caller in 2011 when the team reached the Super Bowl, and just like Matt Patricia and Joe Judge -- the two longtime Belichick coaches who ran the offense in 2022 -- he's an example of the 70-year-old head coach's living embodiment of the DJ Khaled and Drake hit, "No New Friends."
O'Brien's major task is to reignite the development of 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up Mac Jones, who took a step back in 2022 under Patricia and Judge. He finished his second season with pedestrian numbers: a completion rate of 65.2% with 2,997 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to go along with an 84.8 passer rating.
It turns out the relationship between Patricia and Judge, two coaches who had never coached offense full-time, and their players was even worse than the numbers on the field, according to the Boston Herald.
It started at OTAs in the spring when Jones told the media that he and Judge would "teach each other" -- the first of several comments that weren't received well throughout the franchise. Once the season started, the lack of offensive cohesion wasn't just playing out on the field; it permeated the coaching staff as well.
"I've never seen anything like it," one source informed the Herald.
Judge, whose official title was offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach, came under fire quickly, per the report. Belichick ripped into him at practice, and Judge was on the receiving end of multiple profanity-infused rants from Jones, some of whichthroughout the season. Jones simply didn't trust Judge as his position coach.
One of the problems was the near-removal of the New England offense that had been run the previous 22 seasons. The base offense the Patriots installed was a stark contrast to previous seasons. Under Patricia and Judge, the Pats began to combine a reduced version of the playbook former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left behind with parts of Sean McVay's Rams scheme. The Patriots intended to emphasize the outside zone runs already present in their playbook and install play-action passes from McVay's offense, among other motions and formations.
Play-action typically helps a quarterback because it freezes the defense for a split second, simplifies the amount of reads in a progression, and usually induces a quick decision from the quarterback. Jones' numbers indicated that to be true: He had the 14th-best passer rating in the NFL in 2022 when using play-action (104.0) and the ninth-worst when not using play-action (80.7).
Yet, the Patriots only ran play-action concepts on 11% of their offensive plays, the fifth-lowest rate in the NFL. That shift reportedly alarmed those who felt concerned about the reduced volume of plays. One source told the Herald that a typical training camp practice under McDaniels included dozens of pages of installation for running plays, passing plays and protection schemes. Those numbers were basically halved with Patricia and Judge.
"A lot of guys were getting worried because when we were in the middle of camp, we were wondering what the plan was for our offense. Because we hadn't put enough install in," a source told the Herald. "We had a couple protections, a couple core run plays, but our pass game didn't have much in it."
Pick Six Newsletter
Crafted By The Best NFL Experts
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
The players explained to the media throughout training camp that the goal was to simplify the offense in order to play faster, but that ended up resulting in more problems as situations arose during games in which the Patriots weren't prepared for. In addition, Patricia reorganized the pass protection from a numbers-based system to a word-based system, per NBC Sports Boston. The new verbiage created confusion among the offensive linemen and put Jones under constant pressure in the preseason, which resulted in him developing bad habits that followed him throughout the campaign.
Other lowlights from the season included the Patriots using a pre-planned rotation between Jones, coming off a high ankle sprain, and rookie Bailey Zappe, against the Chicago Bears in Week 7. It was a decision that and yielded a poor offensive showing in a 33-14 rout on "Monday Night Football."
Then there was wide receiver Kendrick Bourne essentially calling out Patricia's conservative play-calling after the team's 24-10 Thursday night home loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 13. Bourne told reporters after the game that the Patriots needed to "scheme up better" and be a more aggressive offensive attack.
With the return of O'Brien, Patriots fans are hoping for a sense of normalcy in 2023. That'll be vital for Jones as he attempts to definitively prove he's the future of the franchise at quarterback.