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Patriots Mailbag: Billy O is back, more moves to come?

With Bill O'Brien reportedly returning as offensive coordinator, what other moves need to be made?


I have read a handful of predictions that the Pats are among the odds-on favorites to acquire Lamar Jackson should he not reach an agreement with the Ravens. I'm not honestly sure that I even want that to happen - he does seem injury prone, and the dollar and draft cost concerns me. On the other hand - the kid is dynamic as hell - and would be a lot of fun to watch play. What do you think the realistic likelihood is that the Pats would make the moves in cap designation and draft sacrifice to bring him in if the possibility presented itself.
Dave Hall
Rochester, N.Y.

What are the chances of the Patriots going after Lamar Jackson?
Gary Nason

I've seen the same betting odds that list the Patriots as having the best chance of landing Jackson if he doesn't return to Baltimore as well, and I still find that quite strange. The Patriots haven't been the type of team to spend both significant money and draft capital to acquire one player, and doing so for one as unique as Jackson would be quite a departure for them. Jackson is a dynamic game changer and I'd love to have him. I believe he's one of a handful of quarterbacks in the league who directly impact his team's chances of winning every week. However, he's looking for $200-plus million guaranteed and would require at minimum two first-round picks. Also, Jackson would require at least some changes in scheme and personnel to best accentuate his skills, both as a runner and passer. That won't be easy for any team acquiring him to do overnight. Again, if it's simply of question of wanting Jackson I'm all in. But there's much more to it than that.
Paul Perillo

What are the chances of Tom Brady returning to Pats for his final season? I believe he would be a great presence back in the locker room, but especially to impart some of that immense championship wisdom upon Mac Jones.
Richard Meyers

I think Brady coming back to New England would be highly unlikely. Bill Belichick didn't want him when he was 42, and now he's going to want to re-sign him at age 45? That doesn't make much sense to me, and I also don't think Brady is clamoring to return to Foxborough under Belichick. If Brady continues playing he will likely head to a place like Tennessee or Las Vegas where he can play for someone he's comfortable with. And if you bring Brady in you're basically signaling the end of the Mac Jones era in New England. Jones will be entering his third year and he wants/needs to play in order to develop. Sitting behind Brady wouldn't allow him to do that. He would almost certainly want a trade in that scenario, and the Patriots would likely grant it rather than watch him lose value sitting on the bench for a year.
Paul Perillo

Do you take a trade of Derek Carr for Mac Jones if it comes up? Pre Josh McDaniels he has had four 4000-plus yard seasons with a 2:1 TD/Int ratio. Say if TB12 decides to hook up with his buddy Josh?
Robert Malone

I've actually been a fan of Derek Carr during his career but I must admit that watching him in 2022 made me think I've been wrong. I know … it's happens to the best of us. Carr showed some signs of maturing into a strong leader for the Raiders in 2021 after losing his coach and several players to unfortunate circumstances but he took a major step back this season. I know he was forced to learn a new offensive system and it's not one that is considered easy to absorb, but he played poorly for most of the year and wasn't at his best when it mattered most. I don't look at Carr as a major upgrade over Jones, and the age difference makes that a no-go for me. I'd rather stick with the younger guy who is potentially still getting better.
Paul Perillo

Would you give Mac Jones the opportunity to sit in the interviews with the OC so he has a say in who we get I really would love for him to stay.
Logan Hinkle

I would not necessarily have Jones in on the interviews or give him a say into which guy the team hires. He has not established himself as the quarterback of the future and therefore hasn't reached that point where he deserves to have much input. I do think it would make sense for Bill Belichick to keep him informed of the process along the way, allowing Jones to at least have an idea of the direction the team is headed rather than a repeat of last year when it seems he was caught as off guard as much as the rest of us. So, I don't think Jones should get a vote but I do think he deserves to be in the loop, if that makes sense. And with O'Brien evidently the choice, Jones already has a relationship with him so it shouldn't be a problem either way.
Paul Perillo

The Rooney Rule requires that the Pats interview minorities for coordinator positions. None of the usual suspects for offensive coordinator are minorities. What persons of color could be available/considered for OC and QB coach?
David Petersen

I'm not sure who the usual suspects are in terms of minority candidates for offensive coordinator but multiple reports have indicated the Patriots have already interviewed three for the position. Minnesota wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, Arizona associate head coach/wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and Oregon associate head coach/run game coordinator and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm all met with the Patriots last week. There are several other deserving candidates as well including former Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, who was let go in Indy midseason. It's also possible that one or more of the candidates already interviewed could be added to the staff in a different capacity other than offensive coordinator as it would seem the Patriots are in need of additions at quarterbacks coach and offensive line coach even with O'Brien back as OC.
Paul Perillo

One piece of this confusing season that feels like a billion years ago was the head-banging offensive install in camp that, by most accounts, failed. Do we think that the time allocated to building the zone run game (that was not particularly successful) led to less preparation for situational football? It felt like this was the worst situational Patriots team we've seen in a long time, feels like it wasn't the priority and it slipped over time.
Jack Carlson

While I would agree that the work done on adding the zone running game to the offensive system was largely unsuccessful I don't believe it took time away from other preparations in terms of situational football, especially work in the red zone. The Patriots spent just as much time on those elements during training camp as I've observed over the past 22 years being here. Typically the Patriots do a ton of work in the red zone at the start of camp and this past summer was certainly no exception. Belichick drills the fundamentals home every training camp with time spent working on all kinds of situations from down and distance to clock management to rushing the field goal unit on the field and many others. The difference this season is the team did not handle those situations nearly as well as we've seen in the past, and honestly they didn't handle them all that well in 2021 either. But it was not from a lack of coaching as far as I could tell.
Paul Perillo

Patriots quarterbacks Mac Jones (10) and Bailey Zappe (4).
Patriots quarterbacks Mac Jones (10) and Bailey Zappe (4).

The Patriots had a small QB controversy towards the middle of the season. What do you think could happen this year with both Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe?
Brendan Lyonnais

This is a really good question. My feeling is that Mac Jones will be the starter heading into the offseason and there really won't be a true competition, but that by no means is the end of it. It's possible that Belichick will view it as a competition and allow both Jones and Zappe to get plenty of reps and see how the team responds. I actually think that would be the best course of action as it would send a message to the team – as well as the quarterbacks – that the players who perform best will play. If Zappe plays better than Jones he should be given the opportunity to be the team's starter. I don't believe that will happen, however, as I feel Jones is the more talented option and would prevail in a true competition. But I feel that will be one of the most interesting aspects of the entire offseason to watch.
Paul Perillo

Kicking game needs to be addressed. Sloppy play on special teams hurt big time in Bills game. No TD returns if Nick Folk could have kicked ball out of end zone.
Dan Henry

Special teams in general have been a major problem for the last two seasons. Too many blocked punts, returns allowed and penalties have marred what was once a huge team strength. Marcus Jones did provide a lift in the return game, especially on punts, but that didn't make up for the fact that the Patriots were quite sloppy in coverage and their punting was at or near the bottom of the league in various categories. Not having Jake Bailey available to kick off down the stretch was a problem considering Folk had trouble getting the ball to the end zone. I also believe the added stress of kickoffs hurt his field goal work down the stretch as well. All of these items need to be addressed because the sloppiness was a problem throughout the season.
Paul Perillo

If Bill O'Brien becomes the offensive coordinator would we see the Patriots return to their old system on offense? I see New England being very successful when a good run game and a short "death by a thousand cut" approach was utilized. Jones seems to be capable of processing quickly and perhaps there is a Brown/Welker/Edelman type that can be had for a decent price.
Hugh Sager

With O'Brien returning I'd expect a combination of the Patriots normal offense with some elements of what Alabama does mixed in. Much has been made of O'Brien's brief connection to Jones from when he arrived in Tuscaloosa and when Jones was leaving. They at least have some sort of relationship and an understanding of what Alabama did and how that might augment what the Patriots do. In terms of how to improve offensively, I'd rather get away from the reliance on the short passing game because I think it's difficult to rely of a steady stream of positive plays without some negative ones sprinkled in to short-circuit drives. That's basically what we've seen from Jones and the Patriots over the last two seasons. In order to take a step forward I believe the offense needs to find some playmakers who can provide chunk plays and not always have to rely on going 8-10 plays to score. Jakobi Meyers has been an excellent option in the slot over the last two seasons and produced plenty. But unlike Welker and Edelman, he hasn't had the luxury of having a big-play option like Randy Moss or Rob Gronkowski with him to ease the load. That's the area where I feel the Patriots are most lacking on offense.
Paul Perillo

I'm a lifetime fan of the New England Patriots and wondered something since Isaiah Wynn is a free agent now. What was the purpose with the New England Patriots drafting of Georgia OT Isaiah Wynn some years ago? He was a very undersized tackle and the Patriots could've drafted someone else though I understand they were possibly running out of other likely prospects.
Larry Pearce

Wynn started 15 games at left tackle during his final season at Georgia and performed at a high level. At times early in his Patriots career he played well at that spot, but injuries affected him throughout. Then Belichick decided to switch him to the right side and that never looked good from the start. Wynn struggled with the transition and seemed to be upset about having to make the move. He played some guard this season and didn't look much better inside either. Then he was injured again and it certainly appears as if he will become a free agent in March and leave after five seasons. Wynn was definitely undersized for the spot but showed promise when healthy. Unfortunately that wasn't anywhere near often enough.
Paul Perillo

Is Bill O'Brien the best choice as the offensive coordinator or another case of being either a Belichick son or close friend? Both the Lions and Giants made huge leaps this season under new coaches. Daniel Jones is playing like a first rounder. If neither of those team were competitive under Patricia or Judge why should they be retained here after the mess the offense was this season?
Kevin O'Neil

Actually, O'Brien is one of the few coaches who came to New England without strong ties to Belichick in the past. He came in 2007 as an offensive assistant after several years in college, and eventually replaced Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator before leaving to become Penn State's head coach in 2011. While he obviously has ties to Belichick now, I wouldn't view his return to New England as an example of nepotism in any way. O'Brien has been very successful as an offensive coordinator and he probably has the best track record as a head coach of any of Belichick's former assistants. In terms of the next offensive coordinator, I feel O'Brien was the best candidate.
Paul Perillo

Tackle seems to be a big offseason need for the Pats. Do you seeing them drafting a tackle in say the first 3 rounds? If not, will they target a specific tackle in free agency and, if so, who are some of their options?
Rob Sibert

I believe the Patriots should do both – draft a tackle in the early rounds and sign a veteran free agent. I feel the team needs two quality options at the position as it's possible that both Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown don't return. There are a few tackles who are possible candidates to go in the first round including Northwestern's Peter Skoronski, Ohio State's Paris Johnson, Georgia's Broderick Jones and Oklahoma's Anton Harrison. Tabbing one of those players would be a nice first step. In free agency, Mike McGlinchey and Orlando Brown will be potentially available but neither would come cheap. Veteran George Fant may be a more affordable option.
Paul Perillo

It feels like Vegas might do a partial tear down this offseason. Would Hunter Renfrow be a good fit for the Patriots? I could see him or Meyers being open on every play.
James White

I think Las Vegas is making a change at quarterback, not necessarily tearing things down. Renfrow is likely part of the team's future, and having him and Meyers would be difficult given the finances of having two expensive players at the same slot receiver position. I'd like to see the Patriots try to retain Meyers but he will have some options on the market as well. Renfrow definitely would be a fit in the Patriots system, and in fact he used to sign his autograph as "future New England Patriot Hunter Renfrow" so we're not the only ones who think that way.
Paul Perillo

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