Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien was in the news quite a bit this week thanks to his sideline shouting match with Tom Brady last Sunday afternoon in Washington.
But yesterday, O'Brien's name percolated through the sports talk radio waters for another reason.
Well-connected Patriots observer and WEEI radio co-host Michael Holley – author of Patriot Reign and the recently-released War Room – espoused that he believed that even prior to this week that he believed O'Brien would be a potential head coaching candidate in the NFL this offseason.
Holley said on WEEI's The Big Show that this week's well publicized sideline spat with Brady might only help his chances and get him on the radar for more owners looking for new coaches. So far the Jaguars, Chiefs and Dolphins have already fired their head coaches. That list of job openings could certainly grow as the season rolls on and into January.
O'Brien's resume is an interesting one. He's in his first season as the Patriots offensive coordinator, at least in a titular sense. He's called the offensive plays for the team in the past.
He oversees a unit that is the NFL's No.2-ranked offense, thanks mostly to the No. 2-ranked passing attack. The offense boasts playmakers and potential Pro Bowlers like Brady, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. But it's O'Brien putting it all together and calling the shots.
O'Brien is in his fifth season on Bill Belichick's coaching staff, just his fifth season in the NFL. He began as a coaching assistant in 2007, moved on to work with Randy Moss and the receivers in 2008 and then worked with Brady and the other quarterbacks for two seasons from 2009-10 before the promotion to coordinator last winter. He continues to be the team's quarterbacks coach as well.
Before landing in the NFL in New England, the entirety of O'Brien's first 14 years in coaching came in the collegiate ranks. He was the offensive coordinator at both Georgia Tech (2001-02) and Duke (2005-06). He also spent time coaching various offensive positions at Brown University, his alma mater, and Maryland.
Seeing a coordinator leave for a head coaching job after limited experience running either his offense or defense wouldn't be something new for Belichick. Josh McDaniels left New England to become the head coach in Denver after just three seasons coordinating the Patriots offense. Eric Mangini took the head job with the Jets after just one season as the New England defense coordinator.
So while O'Brien has just a single, albeit impressive season as an offensive coordinator on his resume, having his name thrown around as head coaching material isn't unprecedented. Holley has spent a lot of time around the New England organization over the years while researching his two books. That gives Holley's claims about O'Brien's rising stock and potential candidacy for a head coaching gig more credibility than it might otherwise garner.