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Bill O'Brien is reportedly looking to coach in the NFL again with his contract as Alabama's offensive coordinator almost up, and a return to New England -- his first NFL home -- has been a favorite destination of prognosticators, especially given the state of the Patriots' offense.
So why does it seem like Bill Belichick isn't that warm to the idea of bringing one of his old offensive coordinators back to Foxborough?
When asked about the possibility of reuniting with O'Brien during his weekly appearance on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show," Belichick punted.
"I haven't talked to Bill [O'Brien] in a little while," he said. “So, I don’t know, I wouldn’t really want to comment on his situation. I think that’s something for him to comment on.”
On one hand, that doesn't mean Belichick isn't interested in the idea at all or even that there's been no communication about the matter. Both men are coaching their respective football teams, and any discussion in earnest about future jobs will take place down the road.
The Patriots have their own issue up ahead with Matt Patricia's Detroit Lions contract money about to run out, which means the offensive play-calling situation for next season could be up in the air. New England has certainly taken a step back offensively in 2022, and it makes sense theoretically to bring back O'Brien, who has familiarity both with the Patriots as an offensive coordinator and with Mac Jones' old program at Alabama, to coach the struggling unit.
But one wonders if the O'Brien chatter really is much ado about nothing after all.
It's been more than 10 years since O'Brien served as Patriots offensive coordinator, spearheading one of the best offensive outputs in franchise history in 2011, before leaving to coach Penn State and later the Houston Texans. In that way, hiring O'Brien back would be much different from Belichick's salvaging of Patricia, Josh McDaniels and Joe Judge shortly after they flamed out of their respective head-coaching roles.
Perhaps a decade is too much time and too much other experience to come back and obey as Belichick's offensive coordinator. Additionally, if New England's offense rebounded immediately under O'Brien's watch, maybe he could use that as a stepping stone into another job -- something Belichick might be loath to have happen in just one season.
Also, Alabama's inability to fully capitalize on star quarterback's Bryce Young's talent might reflect negatively on O'Brien's most recent work in college.
If the Patriots keep to their recent mantra of promoting from within rather than looking at outsiders, which O'Brien might be considered now, Nick Caley might be a more logical option to step up and run the offense with Patricia perhaps remaining as a true senior advisor.
Whichever way you want to look at it, O'Brien feels less and less likely to come back to Foxborough.