Alabama needs offensive coordinator with Bill O'Brien's departure to New England Patriots

Alabama needs a new offensive coordinator as it prepares for life without quarterback Bryce Young.

Bill O'Brien, who joined the Crimson Tide ahead of the 2021 season, will be the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, according to multiple media outlets. ESPN was the first to report about O'Brien's departure, which was anticipated. His contract with Alabama was set to expire at the end of February.

O'Brien, a Massachusetts native, returns to the Patriots for whom he served as an assistant coach from 2007-2010 and offensive coordinator in 2011.

During his time in Tuscaloosa, O'Brien also served as quarterbacks coach. Under his instruction, Young won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2021 and is projected to be a top pick in the upcoming NFL draft..

Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O
Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien watches quarterback Bryce Young throw during practice before the 2021 football season.  

O'Brien has been a popular lightning rod for criticism from fans for his play-calling, though. The noise grew even louder in his second season. The offense struggled at times in 2022 to be consistent and create big plays, but it still managed to be a top-10 scoring offense. It finished the regular season tied for the No. 4 scoring offense in the country, averaging 40.8 points per game.

In O'Brien's first season as the play-caller, the Crimson Tide averaged 39.9 points per game, which ranked sixth among Bowl Subdivision teams. Alabama totaled 488.3 yards per game, which ranked eighth nationally. The Crimson Tide reached the College Football Playoff championship game, where they fell to Georgia.

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After a loss to LSU in November, Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked to assess the job O'Brien had done with the offense.

"I'm not going to analyze somebody publicly, good, bad or indifferent," Saban said. "We're all working hard together. We're all responsible for what we do. Do we need to play better on both sides of the ball? Absolutely."

O'Brien joined the Crimson Tide after the Houston Texans fired him in October 2020. He had served as general manager and coach of the franchise for whom he finished with a 52-48 record.

O'Brien reportedly was in contention for other jobs at the end of the 2021 season, but he stayed in Tuscaloosa for another season.

"I made a commitment to Coach Saban," O'Brien said at the beginning of 2022 preseason practices. "Those things come up relative to what your role is in different programs, where you've been. I've been doing this a long time and I've had various roles in coaching, so obviously, those things come up. But I made a commitment to Coach Saban. I love coaching here. The players, the coaching staff, it's been - like I said in the opening statement here - it's been a really good experience. I've learned a lot. I'm very appreciative of coach for giving me this opportunity."

Prior to his time in Houston, O'Brien was the head coach of Penn State, where he replaced Joe Paterno. O'Brien won Big Ten coach of the year and Bear Bryant college coach of the year after his first season in 2012 when the Nittany Lions finished 8-4 while dealing with severe NCAA sanctions in the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal at the school. The team went 7-5 the following season before O'Brien's departure to the Houston Texans.

In the college ranks, he also made stops at Duke, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Brown, where he played in college.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alabama loses Bill O'Brien to Patriots, needs offensive coordinator


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