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Karen Guregian: Patriots finally get it right with Bill O’Brien

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Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien looks on prior to a game against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Jan. 10, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien looks on prior to a game against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Jan. 10, 2022, in Indianapolis. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/TNS)

BOSTON — In Bill We Trust.

O’Brien, that is.

The other Bill — Belichick — is still teetering on the edge of being trusted given some of his curious decision-making in recent years.

At least he got the right guy to be his offensive coordinator, and gave him the actual title. While Belichick’s a year late with this hire, it’s better late than never as the saying goes.

Landing a coach who has a master’s degree in running an offense, isn’t a stranger to coaching quarterbacks, and runs the type of ship Mac Jones both needs and craves, makes Bill O’Brien the perfect hire.

Given all the variables at play, with his knowledge of the Patriots offensive system that backed six Super Bowl wins, and also having a handle on the Alabama offense that brought out the best in Jones, O’Brien should be able to get Mac back on the proper course.

With that background, there’s trust. With those credentials, there’s belief that Bill O’Brien — the sequel — is just what the doctor ordered.

O’Brien was the heavy favorite going in, and expectations are high the former Patriots assistant will be able to morph the league’s 26th-ranked offense into one that will be able to go toe-to-toe with the Bills, Chiefs and Bengals, three of the AFC’s current juggernauts.

Had Belichick been unable to close the deal, settling for a Plan B, it would have been a huge letdown, which is something an 8-9 team whose owner is pining for a playoff win could ill-afford.

While O’Brien doesn’t solve everything that’s wrong with the offense — namely at offensive tackle where help is needed, and also in the receiver room not having an explosive threat — having him on board is a good start.

With him in charge of the offense, the Mac Jones mystery should be solved in fairly short order.

With O’Brien, we’ll know if the Patriots can win with Jones, or at least get back to contender status, or if they will ultimately have to move on from their 2021 first-round draft choice.

There was little to no chance of finding those answers with Belichick sticking Jones with two coaches who had little to no experience running an offense, much less dealing with a quarterback in his crucial second year of development.

Add in the fact that the Patriots dumped the offense Jones thrived in during his rookie year in favor of a new system that never took off, and it was a colossal mess.

Jones not only regressed, but in letting his frustration show, and dropping some not-so-subtle hints about being saddled with the wrong coaches, he didn’t paint the most professional picture. Most people cut him some slack given the dubious situation he was put in. He’ll have no excuses now.

Jones wanted tough coaching. He’s going to get it. O’Brien wasn’t nicknamed “Teapot” by the players because of being a soothing presence.

As former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia recalled, O’Brien got the nickname because “that teapot every once in a while got a little hot.”

Jones showed a ton of promise as a rookie. He appeared to come as advertised, with an ability to process and decipher defenses in an instant while delivering the ball quickly and accurately. He also displayed poise and good footwork in the pocket.

Many of those traits disappeared in 2022. He was especially poor under pressure, when he didn’t have a clean pocket.

It’s now on O’Brien to rebuild Mac’s confidence, recapture what was lost, and have him take off from there.

It remains to be seen if O'Brien will be able to bring in a few coaches he's comfortable with to help accomplish the mission. Offensive line would be a good place to start. It's hard to imagine Matt Patricia, who may or may not be headed out the door now that the Detroit Lions are no longer paying him, being kept in that spot.

If Belichick is smart, he'll keep both Patricia and Judge out of O'Brien's way. It's doubtful O'Brien would have returned without being given full autonomy, along with some clarity about the roles of the not-so-dynamic duo — if one or both is still with the team.

O’Brien spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. In his first year, the Crimson Tide played in the national championship game, while Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best quarterback.

In Year 2 under O'Brien, Alabama averaged 41.4 points per game, the fourth-most in major college football. And yet, Crimson Tide fans couldn't wait to see him leave.

Let's just say that kind of scoring would be a welcome change from the third-down challenged, and red zone-deficient Patriots.

Another benefit of having O'Brien is that it allows Belichick to hand over the offense to him so he can focus on other areas. That's the way it was with Josh McDaniels during his most recent years.

Without Belichick's finger fully on the pulse, the Patriots have clearly slipped in terms of situational football, and being among the best in that department.

So O'Brien, who went to St. John's Prep and was born and raised a New Englander, returns home with the goal of fixing what's broke on offense, starting with the quarterback.

The good news is with him, it won't feel like mission impossible.


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