The Patriots are headed for an offseason overhaul with plenty of changes in store offensively. It seems Patriots higher-ups (owner Robert Kraft among them) have finally talked sense into coach Bill Belichick, who, after thinking he could get by on smoke and mirrors, has abandoned his failed Matt Patricia experiment, reluctantly agreeing to interview candidates for the team’s vacant offensive coordinator position. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, those candidates include in-house option Nick Caley (New England’s tight ends coach since 2017), Vikings receivers coach Keenan McCardell and Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
It’s the latter name that has fans most excited, owing to O’Brien’s previous head-coaching experience with the Texans from 2014-20, leading Houston to four division titles over that span. The Andover native got his NFL start under Bill Belichick as a Patriots assistant in 2007, eventually replacing Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator in 2011. O’Brien’s close relationship with Belichick would seemingly give him a leg up, though hiring him could complicate the Patriots’ pursuit of DeAndre Hopkins, who the Cardinals are reportedly looking to trade this offseason.
Belichick and Hopkins expressed mutual admiration for each other in a game earlier this season, suggesting a future collaboration could be in the works. Not only would Hopkins fill a major talent void for the Patriots, but it would also allow them to better evaluate Mac Jones after actively impeding his progress the past two years, surrounding him with subpar receivers and a novice play-caller better suited as a position coach. Second among active players in career receiving yards, Hopkins himself could use a change of scenery with Arizona going through a rebuild of sorts, facing uncertainty at quarterback (Kyler Murray faces a long recovery from ACL surgery) while also starting from scratch with a new coaching staff.
Hopkins’ contract includes a full no-trade clause, granting him veto power over any proposed deal. That could come into play if the Patriots hire O’Brien, who Hopkins has criticized in the past, claiming the two had “no relationship” throughout their six years together in Houston. In a cover story published by Sports Illustrated in 2020, Hopkins said he resented O’Brien for judging him in his personal life, frequently commenting on his “baby mothers” while comparing his friends to some of the bad influences that contributed to Aaron Hernandez’s downfall in New England.
This conversation may be a bit premature, a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Still, with Hopkins and O’Brien showing little ability to coexist, the Patriots will likely have to choose one or the other.