Bill O’Brien

Latest On Bailey Zappe, Patriots QB2 Situation

When the Patriots’ 2022 season ended unceremoniously, some pundits wondered if 2022 fourth-round quarterback Bailey Zappe could battle 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones for the starting gig. Now, heading into the regular season, it’s uncertain if Zappe is even set to be New England’s QB2.

[RELATED: Patriots Claim QB Matt Corral]

Zappe was a surprise cut by the Patriots on deadline day, but he ended up landing back with the practice squad. The team has since added former third-round pick Matt Corral to the mix, muddying the QB picture behind Jones. As Albert Breer of writes, Zappe’s preseason struggles and apparent misfit with Bill O’Brien‘s new offense ultimately led to the quarterback’s placement on the practice squad.

For all their warts, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge actually helped Zappe become acclimated to the NFL by having him play in an offense that resembled his collegiate system from Western Kentucky. The rookie won both of his two starts last season, completing 70.7 percent of his passes for 781 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions. Jones, meanwhile, played to a 6-8 record while completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns vs. 11 interceptions.

Zappe seemed prime to push Jones for the starting job in 2023. However, as Breer notes, O’Brien’s new offense better leverages the starter’s strengths, and that system doesn’t necessarily fit Zappe’s play style. The second-year QB proceeded to struggle during the preseason, and with a handful of roster-worthy players eligible for IR, the Patriots succeeded in sneaking him through waivers and signing him to the taxi squad (the team took a similar path with UDFA Malik Cunningham, who impressed during the preseason at both quarterback and wide receiver).

New England’s recent waiver wire claim of Corral doesn’t necessarily mean that Zappe has been demoted to QB3, however. Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald believes Zappe will be the QB2 (via practice squad elevation) to begin the season. The incumbent backup already has a head start on understanding the offense (even if it doesn’t fit his strengths), and the organization would only had around two weeks to catch their newcomer up to speed. Both Zappe and Corral will likely battle it out in practice to determine who’d be the replacement in the event of a Jones injury.

AFC East Notes: Floyd, Patriots, Dolphins

Over the past two offseasons, the Bills have added both the Super Bowl LVI-winning Rams’ top edge rushers. Leonard Floyd‘s deal did not move close to the Von Miller ballpark, with the Bills guaranteeing the younger defensive end $7MM. The incentives that could bump Floyd’s deal to $9MM are now known as well. They are each sack-based. Floyd can earn $500K bumps by reaching the eight- and 10-sack plateaus, Albert Breer of tweets. If Floyd registers 12 sacks — which would be a career-high total — he can add $1MM to his base pay. Over the past three seasons, Floyd has hit the first benchmark three times (9.5 sacks in 2021, nine in ’22) and the second threshold once (10.5 sacks in 2020). The Bills tacked on three void years to the deal to keep Floyd’s cap number at $2.6MM.

The Bills began talking to Floyd just before the draft, per GM Brandon Beane, who adds (via the Buffalo News’ Katherine Fitzgerald) Miller led the way in recruiting the former top-10 pick. Floyd turned down at least one more lucrative offer to join Miller and Gregory Rousseau in Buffalo. With Miller now aiming to return in Week 1 after rehabbing an ACL tear, the Floyd addition becomes more interesting given the pair’s production together in Los Angeles.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Although Bill O’Brien‘s Patriots past undoubtedly helped him take over as offensive coordinator, but the former Texans HC is using concepts from his most recent gig as he installs his offense. O’Brien is adding pieces from the Alabama offense he ran, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). This stands to be good news for Mac Jones, who starred at Alabama in 2020. While Tua Tagovailoa‘s Crimson Tide successor did not play for O’Brien in college, he helped the incoming Alabama OC with the playbook on his way out in 2021. Considering Jones’ issues with the Patriots’ Matt Patricia– and Joe Judge-run offense in 2022, O’Brien’s arrival is shaping up as a significant step forward. Jones looks far more comfortable thus far in O’Brien’s offense, Howe adds.
  • A period during the Patriots’ recent OTA sessions may shed some early light on Mike Gesicki‘s New England role. With other tight ends staying on one field to work an inside-run drill, Mike Reiss of notes Gesicki was working with the Pats’ wide receivers on another field. Gesicki is not known for his run-blocking ability, which became an issue in Mike McDaniel‘s Miami offense last season, but he has long been a proven pass catcher. Lining up as a receiver will not be foreign to Gesicki, though it is still a bit early to determine the five-year Dolphin’s true role with his new team.
  • The Dolphins initially came into the offseason with a goal not to devote much money to their backup quarterback spot, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes they became “smitten” with Mike White. Miami added White early during the legal tampering period, giving the ex-Jets starter a two-year, $8MM deal ($4.5MM guaranteed). It is interesting the Dolphins would have considered skimping at QB2, considering how Tagovailoa’s injury trouble hijacked their promising 2022 season. But White (seven starts from 2021-22) is now in Teddy Bridgewater‘s former role. White, however, has also dealt with multiple injuries over the past two years. Skylar Thompson and rookie UDFA James Blackman are the other Miami QBs.
  • James Robinson‘s Patriots release came after the team included three injury waivers in his contract, Breer tweets. This rare protection measure included waivers on both Robinson’s knees and his left Achilles. This since-scrapped contract — Robinson has cleared waivers — illustrates the ex-Jaguars starter’s lack of options. Robinson, who saw a torn Achilles halt his early-career surge in December 2021, is facing an uncertain NFL future. The 24-year-old back has yet to earn much, either. Robinson totaled a rookie UDFA-record 1,414 scrimmage yards in 2020 but spent his first three seasons attached to league-minimum salaries.

Patriots Notes: Coaching, Meyers, Lawing

The Patriots offense was in disarray in 2022, and Andrew Callahan and Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald provided us with a peek behind the dysfunctional curtain. According to the report, the Patriots’ season was filled with tension on the offensive side of the ball, particularly between Mac Jones and coach Joe Judge.

The issues started in the spring, when Jones irked Patriots brass by indicating that he would be teaching the offense to his new quarterbacks coach. While the players and coaches would ultimately work together “in good faith,” the team was unable to overcome the shortcomings of Judge and de facto offensive coordinator Matt Patricia. The duo tried a simplified approach to Sean McVay’s offense in Los Angeles, but this resulted in an incomplete and underwhelming catalogue of plays.

“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 Boston Herald. “We had a couple protections, a couple core run plays, but our pass game didn’t have much in it.”

While Patricia seemed to garner most of the criticism, the Boston Herald points a finger at Judge. Bill Belichick would later phase Judge out of the offense, but not before frustrations boiled over. Per the report, both Jones and Belichick got into shouting matches with the former special teams coordinator, and there were even occasions where positional coaches would have to correct Judge’s mistakes.

Ultimately, the relationships that underpinned “the offense became so strained, they engendered internal doubt” about Belichick’s decision making. The head coach was quick to make changes following the season; shortly after announcing that they’d be conducting an offensive coordinator search, the Patriots hired Bill O’Brien to fill the role. Still, both Judge and Patricia are expected to be back in 2023.

More notes out of New England…

  • Speaking of, Belichick had a much larger role on offense than he let on, according to Albert Breer of The head coach was “active on the headsets” during games, providing the same “oversight over the offense that he’d traditionally had over the defense.” Belichick even had a stint “moonlighting” as the offensive play-caller, which resulted in the offense occasionally looking “messy from an operational standpoint.”
  • For what it’s worth, Patricia’s contract has expired, according to Breer. This provides the coach with an open opportunity to pursue a different role elsewhere, something he may consider since he’s already facing a reduced role in New England. Tight ends coach Nick Caley also has an expiring contract, but Breer says the coach still has a chance to return to New England. Caley has received several OC interviews, including an interview for the Patriots job.
  • Top receiver Jakobi Meyers played through a small tear in his knee this past year, per Callahan and Guregian. Despite the inconsistent Patriots offense, Meyers continued to produce in 2022, topping 800 receiving yards for the second-straight season while also establishing a new career-high in touchdown receptions (six). The former undrafted free agent is set to hit free agency this offseason and should be in line for a significant pay day as one of the top available players at his position.
  • O’Brien is already starting to add to his new offensive staff. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter), the Patriots are adding Will Lawing to their offensive staff. The 37-year-old coach has worked alongside O’Brien at multiple stops, including Penn State, Alabama, and the Texans. Lawing held multiple roles during his time in the NFL, including tight ends coach. He spent the past two seasons as an offensive analyst at Alabama.

Patriots To Hire Bill O’Brien As OC

The Patriots’ search for an offensive coordinator has come to an end. New England is reuniting with Bill O’Brien to fill the vacancy, as first reported (on Twitter) by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. O’Brien will also serve as the Pats’ quarterbacks coach, the team announced.

Both during and after New England’s season came to an end with the team sitting outside the postseason (in large part due to their offensive struggles), it became clear that O’Brien was the Patriots’ preferred choice to help the unit rebound in 2023. The 53-year-old spent the past two seasons at the helm of Alabama’s offense, but his next NFL gig will be in a familiar place.

O’Brien began his pro coaching career in New England in 2007 as an offensive assistant. Over time, he took on a larger role on Bill Belichick‘s staff, working with the team’s wide receivers and quarterbacks before being promoted again to offensive coordinator in 2011. While he only held that title for one season, he operated as the team’s play-caller after Josh McDaniels departed in 2009.

Following that time, O’Brien took a two-year head coaching gig at Penn State, which led him to the same role with the Texans. He operated as the team’s bench boss – and, for part of that stretch, the general manager as well – from 2014 to the one-quarter mark of the 2020 campaign. Overall, the Texans sported winning records in five of his six full seasons at the helm, though his firing came as little surprise by the time it happened in the wake of an 0-4 start and several missteps in terms of managerial moves.

O’Brien returned to the college ranks after that, working under Nick Saban and with the help of current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. The latter helped O’Brien, a Massachusetts native, get acquainted with the Crimson Tide’s scheme, one which allowed Bryce Young develop into a Heisman winner and a serious contender to be selected first overall in the upcoming draft. O’Brien and Jones working together on a full-time basis could be beneficial to unlocking the latter’s potential.

After a rookie campaign in which Jones earned a Pro Bowl nod, the former first-rounder took a step back statistically. Overall, the Patriots finished below-average in almost every offensive category in 2022, a season in which Belichick drew criticism for his arrangement with Matt Patricia calling plays and Joe Judge having a key role in the unit as well. Both ex-head coaches had plenty of experience in New England, but not on the offensive side of the ball.

O’Brien’s hire comes not long after he interviewed for what will be a much more traditional OC role. New England also spoke with their TEs coach Nick Caley, Vikings WRs coach Keenan McCardell, Cardinals assistant head coach Shawn Jefferson and Oregon associate head coach Adrian Klemm in a more expansive, outward-looking search process than many others Belichick has overseen. O’Brien and the Patriots will enter 2023 with expectations for a significant step forward in offensive production to compliment the team’s highly-regarded defense.

Patriots Interview Bill O’Brien For OC Job, To Meet With Keenan McCardell

Rumored to be the favorite for the Patriots’ offensive coordinator gig, Bill O’Brien has now met with the team. The Alabama OC interviewed with the Patriots on Thursday, Ian Rapoport of tweets.

O’Brien emerged as a contender for this job before the Pats’ season ended, and a report earlier this week indicated he is the favorite. The former Texans HC coming back to New England would continue a trend, as Bill Belichick rehired the likes of Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge following their initial dismissals as HCs.

Like McDaniels at the time of his New England return, O’Brien has experience running the Pats’ offense. While McDaniels was in Denver and St. Louis, O’Brien took over as Belichick’s top offensive assistant. He finished his New England tenure with the official title of offensive coordinator, something Belichick did not give Patricia this year — despite the ex-Lions HC being the Pats’ primary play-caller. After Belichick placing a career-long defensive coach in this role predictably backfired, the Pats are operating intently with their OC search this time around.

This search is different from the most recent such pursuits. Belichick promoted McDaniels to OC in 2006 and elevated O’Brien from the position coach level to OC in 2011. Thus far, the Pats have reached out to a few outside staffers. The team conducting an official search mandates an interview with at least one external minority candidate. Thus far, the Patriots have three on their radar.

Keenan McCardell, the Vikings’ receivers coach for the past two seasons, is expected to interview for the job today, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets. The team sent out an interview request to the former Belichick Browns wideout Thursday. The Pats are planning to meet with Cardinals receivers coach Shawn Jefferson on Friday and have interviewed Oregon assistant Adrian Klemm. All three also have a history with Belichick — either in New England or Cleveland. The other candidate here, Pats tight ends coach Nick Caley, has been with the team for eight years. Caley has also interviewed with the Jets this week.

With the O’Brien interview done, this process looks like it will wrap soon. He has a few factors working in his favor. Even though O’Brien, 53, was not in place as Alabama’s OC during Mac Jones‘ career, the current Pats quarterback helped the coach learn the Alabama offense following his hire. Patriots ownership is also fond of O’Brien, who is a Massachusetts native. The Texans employed O’Brien as HC from 2014-20, firing him early in the 2020 season after his short GM stint did not go well. As a coach, however, O’Brien is 52-48 with four playoff appearances on his resume.

Bill O’Brien “Primary Target” For Patriots OC Job

The Patriots are looking to revamp their offensive coaching staff, and it sounds like a familiar face is a favorite for the gig. Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston writes that Bill O’Brien is the “primary target” for New England’s offensive coordinator job.

[RELATED: Patriots Will Start OC Interviews Next Week]

Curran notes that there are “other candidates with merit,” but there’s “unanimity on all sides” that O’Brien is the best person for the position. The main thing going for O’Brien is his relationship with the Patriots organization, especially when you consider Bill Belichick‘s penchant for bringing back former assistants. O’Brien spent five years with the Patriots, culminating in him becoming the team’s offensive coordinator. Following head coaching stints with Penn State and the Texans, O’Brien spent the past two years as the offensive coordinator at Alabama under Nick Saban, a close confidant of Belichick.

Speaking of Alabama, O’Brien also has an advantage over the field thanks to his relationship with Mac Jones. While the QB prepared for the 2021 NFL Draft, he also helped O’Brien learn the Alabama offense following the coach’s hiring. O’Brien could look to add elements of Alabama’s quick-strike offense to the Patriots offense. While the familiar scheme would obviously benefit Jones, the offensive philosophy would also take better advantage of Jones’ game-management skills (vs. his average QB skills).

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Mike Reiss looks at a handful of additional potenital candidates for the offensive coordinator position. After O’Brien, Reiss lists former Jets head coach Adam Gase as a candidate considering his mutual respect with Belichick and his experience with Saban. Reiss also lists Vikings receivers coach Keenan McCardell, former Jets/Cardinals associate head coach/receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, Cowboys QBs coach Doug Nussmeier, and current Patriots tight ends coach Nick Caley as potential targets for the job.

In a surprising press release last week, the Patriots revealed that they would begin interviewing offensive coordinator candidates. This follows a 2022 campaign where Belichick opted to go without an OC to replace Josh McDaniels and chose former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and former special teams coordinator Joe Judge to lead the way. The results were ugly, as the inconsistent Patriots offense struggled for much of the year.

Patriots Expected To Shake Up Offensive Staff; Latest On Bill O’Brien, Kliff Kingsbury

Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft met this week to discuss the franchise’s outlook, and although rumors of the owner and legendary coach not being on the same page regarding staffing circulated during the season’s final weeks, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran reports the two are believed to be in step when it comes to the coaching situation.

Patriots staffers have not been informed of any changes yet, Albert Breer of notes, but Curran adds that Kraft did not need to issue any ultimatums to Belichick to shake up his staff after a strange plan helped produce a disappointing season. Following a season that featured Matt Patricia as the Pats’ primary offensive play-caller, changes will be coming to New England’s offensive staff. Several coaches are under consideration to join the offensive staff, per Curran.

[RELATED: Belichick Confirms Return For 24th Patriots Season]

Bill O’Brien has been linked to a New England return, but Curran tweets the Pats and the current Alabama OC have not been in contact yet. That said, Breer adds O’Brien likely “would love” to return to his home state to aid the Patriots. O’Brien was on Belichick’s staff from 2007-11, finishing that stay as the team’s offensive coordinator during Josh McDaniels‘ three years away. Although O’Brien was not on board as the Crimson Tide’s OC until the 2021 season, Breer mentions Mac Jones helped bring the incoming play-caller up to speed on the program’s offense. Robert and Jonathan Kraft are O’Brien fans as well, per Breer.

Belichick has also done some homework on Kliff Kingsbury, whom he drafted in the 2003 sixth round. The recently fired Cardinals HC spent just more than a year in New England, before being waived, but Breer adds Belichick placed the former Texas Tech QB in a de facto quality control role during a rookie year on IR. That said, Kingsbury may be readier to take a break compared to diving back into a high-pressure situation, Breer and’s Josh Weinfuss (Twitter link) offer. Tight ends coach Nick Caley came up previously as a potential McDaniels heir apparent, and he earned increased responsibility — in Year 6 coaching the Pats’ tight ends — following McDaniels’ departure.

It does not appear Patricia and Joe Judge will need to be too worried about losing their places on Belichick’s staff. The Patriots are expected to find roles for both of their de facto offensive coordinators, Dan Graziano of adds. Belichick thrusting both ex-head coaches into new roles impacted the Pats’ fortunes this season. The Pats plummeted from sixth to 17th in scoring offense, from 15th to 26th in total yards and from ninth to 24th in DVOA. It should be expected whoever calls Patriots plays in 2023 will have at least done it before.

Patriots Notes: Belichick, Patricia, Mayo

The Patriots’ offense has had a difficult time of it in the 2022 season. While the unit ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of points per game, it has posted the seventh-fewest yards per game. More importantly, second-year quarterback Mac Jones has regressed after a promising rookie season, and Jones’ struggles, combined with the offense’s problems as a whole, have led to increased scrutiny of head coach Bill Belichick‘s offseason staffing decisions.

Of course, after longtime OC Josh McDaniels accepted the Raiders’ head coaching job, Belichick installed Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as the Pats’ top offensive coaches. Patricia has served as the offensive play-caller despite not having worked as an offensive coach since 2005, and Judge has operated as the club’s offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach, despite having no coaching experience whatsoever on that side of the ball.

The general ineffectiveness of Belichick’s former staffers, both of whom had flamed out as head coaches elsewhere, means that the end-of-year meeting between Belichick and owner Robert Kraft will be of particular importance, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required). If Kraft — like many league evaluators that spoke to Howe — believes that a shakeup is in order, one wonders how Belichick will respond. Perhaps he will agree and will bring an experienced OC aboard in an effort to maximize Jones’ talents and inject more organization and variety into the offense (the team is already rumored to be interested in a reunion with Bill O’Brien).

But if Belichick does not agree and elects to give Patricia and/or Judge another opportunity in their current roles, then Kraft could have a difficult decision to make about Belichick himself in the near future. While it seems unfathomable that Belichick would not be given the opportunity to walk away on his terms, keeping his 2022 offensive staff intact in 2023 may put the spotlight more squarely on him, particularly if some of this year’s unforced errors — blown assignments, substitution mishaps, late play calls, etc. — should persist.

Now for more Patriots notes:

  • Albert Breer of agrees that identifying the team’s 2023 offensive play-caller will be at the top of Kraft’s offseason agenda, and he pegs Patricia’s chances of remaining in his current role at less than 50% (though he does believe that Patricia will remain on the Pats’ coaching staff in some capacity). Breer confirms that O’Brien will be in the mix, though the current Alabama OC could have other NFL opportunities outside of Foxborough.
  • Add Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald to the list of pundits who believe Belichick must make a change at offensive coordinator, lest he put his own job security in jeopardy. “Kraft has to make it clear that Belichick needs to come up with real solutions, as opposed to getting his friends on the cheap with their former teams still paying them,” Guregian writes (via Peter King of NBC Sports). “If Belichick isn’t willing to budge, then Kraft has to decide whether it’s worth it to keep the status quo, or move on from his sure-fire Hall of Fame head coach and clean house.”
  • While neither Patricia nor Judge will be interviewing for head coaching positions anytime soon, linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is a different story. Mayo, 36, interviewed for the Broncos’ and Raiders’ HC positions last year, and Mike Reiss of expects the two-time Pro Bowler to be busy again in the upcoming coaching cycle. Mayo, for his part, is prepared for the challenge, saying, “I think I’m ready to be a head coach in the league.”
  • New England suspended P Jake Bailey and CB Jack Jones on Friday. According to Reiss, the team believed that Bailey — who had been on IR since November 19 — was ready to return to game action, but Bailey apparently believed otherwise. Jones’ suspension, meanwhile, stems in part from his missed rehabilitation appointments, which also led to his being fined by the team. Jones played in only eight snaps in the Pats’ Week 14 victory over the Cardinals due to a knee injury, and he missed the next two contests before being placed on IR on December 31. The agents for both players have noted their objections to the suspensions, with Bailey’s agent indicating that he has filed a grievance. Reiss says that it is difficult to see Bailey playing for the team again, and since his suspension technically voids the guarantees in his contract, he and the Pats could find themselves embroiled in a financial battle in the coming weeks.
  • The Patriots signed cornerback Tae Hayes to their active roster at the end of December, and Reiss tweets that Hayes’ contract is actually a two-year pact. Hayes, who appeared in 24 defensive snaps in his New England debut on January 1, is now one of six CBs under contract for 2023.

Tom Brady Could Return To Buccaneers In 2023

Recent reports have indicated that quarterback Tom Brady will not return to the Bucs in 2023, but Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times says that is not necessarily the case. Assuming Brady wants to continue his playing career, a fourth year in Tampa should not be ruled out.

After all, the future Hall-of-Famer continues to enjoy a strong relationship with team ownership and with GM Jason Licht, and the team has proven throughout Brady’s tenure that it will do whatever it takes to build a contender around him, even if its maneuvers create future salary cap headaches. Plus, the fact that the Bucs clinched the NFC South and qualified for the postseason could encourage Brady to return (although the weakness of the division obviously played a major role in the team’s playoff berth).

Stroud does note that Brady’s preference would be to play for Sean Payton, the former Saints head coach who is presently working as a FOX analyst but who appears ready to return to the sidelines in 2023. At present, only the Broncos have obtained permission to interview Payton, and Denver would be unable to add Brady due to its commitment to Russell Wilson. Of course, Payton and Brady appeared ready to join forces on the Dolphins in 2022, though it is now unclear whether Miami would be willing to make current HC Mike McDaniel a one-and-done just to facilitate a brief Brady-Payton partnership.

Payton could elect to return to the Saints, and New Orleans boasts enough offensive talent to entice Brady to join him there. However, as Stroud notes in a separate piece, joining the Bucs’ division rival would be difficult for Tampa Bay ownership to stomach, and Brady may not want to “stick it” to the Glazers in that way.

Brady will likely have suitors that are interested in only him and not in Payton. The 49ers, Raiders, and Jets could all be in play, and none of those teams appear as if they will be parting with their current head coaches (plus, if Brady elects to sign with Las Vegas, he would be reuniting with longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, which could appeal to him). The upshot here is that all options, including a new deal with the Bucs, remain on the table.

On a related note, it seems that a Brady return to Tampa would lead to a dismissal of OC Byron Leftwich, especially in light of the reported friction between the two men. If that happens, then Stroud expects current Alabama offensive coordinator and former Texans head coach Bill O’Brien — who was on the Patriots’ staff for five of Brady’s years in Foxborough — to be in the mix as a possible replacement. Indeed, O’Brien and Licht have a close relationship, and the Bucs were interested in O’Brien’s services last year, when it appeared as if Leftwich would leave Tampa to become the Jaguars’ head coach.

The Patriots are also said to be interested in a reunion with O’Brien.

Bill O’Brien Emerging As “Strong Option” To Be Patriots OC

The Patriots offense has struggled mightily in 2022, and the organization may turn to a familiar face to right the ship. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Bill O’Brien is emerging as “a strong option” to be New England’s offensive coordinator next season.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard O’Brien’s name connected to the gig. He was mentioned as a potential option when Josh McDaniels left New England for Las Vegas, but Bill Belichick ultimately didn’t want to steal O’Brien from good friend Nick Saban. O’Brien has served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons. Rapoport notes that the coach gave Saban a two-year commitment when he joined the program, and no extension has materialized. This has left an NFL return as a “real thought” for O’Brien.

Naturally, the Patriots would be a fit. O’Brien was on New England’s staff for five seasons, culminating in him earning the role of OC. The coach eventually left for Penn State before returning to the NFL as the Texans’ head coach. Houston went 52-48 in O’Brien’s six-plus seasons, including four playoff nods.

Further, the Patriots offense has taken a major step back during Mac Jones‘ second season in the NFL, although the organization hasn’t necessarily put the former first-round pick in a position to succeed. The Patriots have turned to former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and former special teams coordinator Joe Judge to help guide their offense, and as a result, New England ranks in the bottom half of the NFL in most offensive categories.

“I think it goes back to just trusting the process of everything and doing whatever you can do to become a great football player,” Jones said recently (via Rapoport). “Eventually that will show up on film. So a lot of things as an offense, it’s 11 guys and you have to try to push everybody as a quarterback to do the right thing and make sure we’re all on the same page. We’ve done that at times. But just getting that consistency. Obviously with myself, too.”