While Bill O’Brien will be listed as the Patriots’ quarterbacks coach this season, it’s likely he will have a sizable impact on the rest of the New England offense as well.
If history is any indication, O’Brien is poised follow the same path as the since departed Josh McDaniels. In 2005, the Patriots were without an offensive coordinator, so head coach Bill Belichick took a more active role on the offensive side of the football. In truth, McDaniels — listed only as quarterbacks coach on the New England masthead that season — actually spent the season in an apprenticeship role as offensive coordinator, working with Belichick and eventually taking on play-calling duties at the end of the season before taking on the dual role of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach the following year.
Now, with the departure of McDaniels, it’s a safe bet that O’Brien is poised to follow that same path. A 39-year-old Andover native, O’Brien was reportedly named quarterbacks coach earlier this week, and every indication appears the move is to help groom him to eventually oversee the entire New England offense in the not-too-distant future.
The paths of McDaniels and O’Brien are certainly similar, beginning with their origins in the Belichick system as coaching assistants. When it comes to the New England coaching staff, working as a coaching assistant under Belichick can be the surest way to jumpstart a career in pro football. Despite the long hours and relatively low pay, consider the life of some of Belichick’s gridiron grad students: In 2000 and 2001, Brian Daboll was a coaching assistant for the Patriots — he was just named offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. From 2001 through 2003, McDaniels and Nick Caserio were New England’s coaching assistants — McDaniels was just named head coach in Denver, while Caserio is poised to replace Scott Pioli as the Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel. Matt Patricia was a New England coaching assistant in 2004 — he now coaches the Patriots linebackers. And O’Brien (along with Josh Boyer and Kevin Bickers) were listed on the New England masthead as coaching assistants in 2007.
Now, O’Brien appears to be next in line to benefit. He certainly has a more extensive resume than McDaniels when he made the move back in 2005: O’Brien has 14 years experience in the college game, having worked his way up through the system at Georgia Tech to become the Yellow Jackets’ offensive coordinator in 2001 and 2002. He also spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Duke (2005-06), with a stop at Maryland as running backs coach in between (2003-04). After spending 2007 as a New England coaching assistant, he took over as the wide receivers coach last year, and despite not having Tom Brady for the bulk of the season, the passing game flourished. Wes Welker has more receptions (223) the last two seasons than any receiver in football.
O’Brien certainly has the backing of quarterback Matt Cassel.
“He’s a great coach. He’s very detailed. He works hard. He’s meticulous,” Cassel told “Mohegan Sun’s Sports Tonight” last night when asked about O’Brien as quarterback coach. “He’s going to be a guy who’ll step up and step into the role. He’s been there for two years, so he’s familiar with the offense and how we try to attack different teams and our schemes, so I think it’ll be a great fit.”
Christopher Price covers the Patriots for WEEI.com.