Patriots’ Top OC Options for Mac Jones amid Rumors Raiders to Hire McDaniels to Be HC

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 30, 2022

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 06: Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots walks to the field prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on December 06, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Josh McDaniels will get his second opportunity at being an NFL head coach.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Las Vegas Raiders are preparing to hire the New England Patriots offensive coordinator as the full-time replacement for Jon Gruden, who resigned in October after offensive emails he sent while employed at ESPN were leaked.

Rich Bisaccia served as interim coach after Gruden's dismissal, leading the Raiders to a wild-card berth.

McDaniels previously spent two years as the Denver Broncos head coach from 2009 to 2010, going a dismal 11-17. He returned to the Patriots as offensive coordinator in 2012 and spent the last decade running the New England offense, spurning several head coaching chances in the process.

The departure of McDaniels leaves Bill Belichick with a sizable role to fill on his staff, with McDaniels serving as arguably his most trusted assistant during his second tenure with the franchise.

If Belichick wants a familiar face as OC, he wouldn't have to look hard to find it. Bill O'Brien, who replaced McDaniels as quarterbacks coach when he left in 2009, is currently Alabama's offensive coordinator and could be itching for an NFL return. O'Brien left New England after the 2011 season to take the Penn State head coaching job and then spent seven seasons as the Houston Texans head coach before being fired in 2020. 

Schefter previously noted O'Brien would be a candidate if McDaniels left for a head coaching job. Belichick tends to prefer familiarity with his coaching staff, so it would be a surprise if he went with someone who does not have experience in New England.

It's worth noting that the Patriots went without an offensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010, with Belichick serving as the de facto coordinator during those seasons. It's unclear whether the aging coach, who turns 70 in April, would want to take on the play-calling duties at this juncture of his career.

The top internal candidates are tight ends/fullbacks coach Nick Caley and wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi. Caley has been with the Patriots since 2015 and would be the tenured option, while Lombardi comes with the pedigree of being born with his surname. Lombardi has been with the Patriots since 2019 and is the son of Michael Lombardi, who worked with Belichick in Cleveland and New England. 

Both internal candidates would provide a sense of stability for Mac Jones heading into his second NFL season. Jones outshined his fellow rookie quarterbacks in part because of excellent scheming from McDaniels that accentuated his strengths as an underneath passer while limiting the shots he took downfield. 

Another former longtime Patriots assistant who could get a look is Chad O'Shea, who is currently the passing coordinator and wide receivers coach for the Cleveland Browns. O'Shea spent a decade as the wide receivers coach under Belichick before leaving in 2019 to work under Brian Flores as the Dolphins offensive coordinator. He joined the Browns in 2020 after being fired after one season in Miami.