There are a few possible candidates outside of the organization who already have Patriots ties.
The possibility of Josh McDaniels leaving New England appears to grow each day.
The longtime Patriots offensive coordinator is reportedly interviewing for the Raiders’ head coaching job on Saturday, with several insiders speculating that McDaniels will be the man for the job.
If McDaniels does leave New England, here are eight possible replacements.
Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien appears to be the most obvious candidate for the job if McDaniels were to leave. The Dorchester native has already worked for the Patriots, holding several roles on the coaching staff from 2007-11.
Coincidentally, O’Brien replaced McDaniels when the latter left to become the Broncos head coach in 2009 – becoming the quarterbacks coach and offensive play-caller. O’Brien didn’t officially become the offensive coordinator until 2011.
Maybe the most important factor in O’Brien’s potential candidacy though is his relationship with quarterback Mac Jones. While Jones never played for O’Brien at Alabama, O’Brien credited Jones for helping him prior to coaching his first season with the Crimson Tide.
O’Brien and Jones could be helping each other out on a regular basis soon.
The former Dolphins and Jets head coach has some connections to members of the Patriots’ coaching staff.
For starters, he was the wide receivers coach when McDaniels was the head coach of the Broncos. Bo Hardegree, who was a quarterbacks coach under Gase with the Dolphins and an offensive assistant with the Jets, is also on the Patriots’ staff as an offensive assistant.
But there also appears to be a strong relationship between Gase and Bill Belichick. In 2020, Gase shared that he and Belichick have gotten to know each other well after he was fired from the Dolphins in 2018. Gase also called Belichick and Matt Patricia two of the funniest people he’s ever been around, so there’s that, too.
Belichick spoke highly of Gase days prior to his firing from the Jets in 2020.
“I know [Sam Darnold’s] getting good coaching, and has a good system that works through the quarterback,” Belichick said. “Adam’s always had an offensive system that’s really given quarterbacks all the tools they need to be successful.
“I don’t think you could have anybody better coaching [Darnold] than where he’s at. He’s progressing as you’d expect he would.”
Not long after Gase was fired by the Jets, rumors percolated that the Patriots were interested in bringing him in as their quarterbacks coach. That didn’t happen, though, and Gase sat out the 2021 season.
The former Giants head coach is mostly known as a special teams guy, heading the Patriots’ special teams unit from 2015-19. But Judge was also the Patriots’ wide receivers coach in 2019, giving him familiarity on that side of the ball.
Judge’s experience on offense actually predates his time as a coach. Judge played quarterback in high school before serving as a backup quarterback at Mississippi State.
Belichick has spoken highly of Judge in the past. In 2019, Belichick said Judge “could probably coach any position on the field” and reportedly gave the Giants a “glowing recommendation” on Judge before they made him their head coach in 2020.
Judge was reportedly set to join McDaniels in Indianapolis when the latter accepted the Colts head coaching job in 2018 before he backed out. If that was set to happen, then it might not be a shock if Judge joins McDaniels in Las Vegas should McDaniels get the Raiders head coaching job.
Another external candidate with Patriots ties is Browns receivers coach and passing game coordinator Chad O’Shea. He spent 10 seasons in New England as the team’s receivers coach before joining Brian Flores in Miami to become the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator in 2019.
O’Shea’s time as an offensive coordinator lasted only one season, though. But the reason for O’Shea’s firing from the Dolphins was due to “Flores’s desire to move away from his Patriot roots on that side of the ball,” according to MMQB’s Albert Breer.
“O’Shea tried to teach an offense that was too complex for a young team,” the Miami Herald wrote at the time. “That teaching/instruction during film study was a ‘disaster.’”
With the Patriots having several young players or players who just joined the team in 2021, that could also be a mark against O’Shea.
Nick Caley: If running backs coach Ivan Fears retires, tight ends coach Nick Caley will be the longest-tenured coach on the Patriots’ offensive coaching staff. Caley started off as an offensive assistant in 2015 before getting promoted to tight ends coach in 2017. He added fullbacks coach to his title in 2020.
Mick Lombardi: Patriots receivers coach Mick Lombardi could be another name to keep an eye on internally. Lombardi joined the Patriots in 2019 as an assistant quarterbacks coach. Before that, he worked as an offensive assistant for the Jets and 49ers.
Troy Brown: On defense, former Patriots player and current inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo plays a big role in game planning for the unit. Could the Patriots take a similar approach on the offensive side of the ball? Troy Brown’s been on the Patriots coaching staff since 2019, starting as a running backs and kick returners coach before becoming a wide receivers coach in 2021.
Wes Welker: This is one’s definitely a bit of a longshot, especially considering the way Wes Welker departed New England in 2013. But the former Patriots receiver’s been the wide receivers coach for the 49ers since 2019, helping to develop players like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
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