It has been reported that after interviewing for the Penn State Head Coaching position, Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien has accepted a job offer and will be publically unveiled as their new HC on Saturday. Adam Schefter has¬†confirmed¬†that O’Brien will stay on with the Patriots through the playoffs.
With speculation that former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels may be on his way out of St. Louis,¬†especially¬†if Jeff Fisher is unveiled as their new head coach, rumours are circulating that McDaniels and the Pats could be in¬†store¬†for a reunion next season. There are 2 or 3 candidates that could be considered worthy of the position already on the Patriots staff and we all know how Bill Belichick loves to promote from within. Brian Ferentz (TE Coach), Chad O’Shea (WR Caoch) and Ivan ¬†Fears (RB Coach) are all people who could be considered for the role come the 2012 season.
I’m going to break down all four, and come to a conclusion of who I think we should go with at the end of this article.
First lets start with Josh McDaniels. He was New England’s offensive coordinator during the infamous 2007 record setting year, and it wasn’t long before he started drawing head coaching consideration. After the 2008 season he accepted the Head Coaching job at Denver, which ended up being a tumultuous tenure after he was eventually fired by the Broncos. In his first season Denver started 6-0, which included an overtime win over New England in week 5. However, they went on to lose four in a row before finishing 8-8 rookie season.
He also made some controversial personnel decisions, which saw him trade away both starting quarterback Jay Cutler, and one year later trading wide receiver Brandon Marshall. He also traded up for Tim Tebow in the first round in 2010, but never finished out that season after a videotaping scandal lead to Denver letting him go. The personnel moves, so far, have seemed to work out, with Denver currently in the postseason for the first time since 2005.
He had a tough year as OC of the Rams, with an injury ridden offense and a QB suffering a¬†slight¬†sophomore¬†slump. Taking all of that into consideration, it’s hard to put too much of that on him. Given the success he had here in New England, a lot of fans would welcome him back. It is also rumoured that Brandon Lloyd would follow him out of the Rams. If this is the case, it would be interesting to see if the Patriots would¬†pursue the veteran wide receiver, especially since they still have a need at the position. That would certainly be an added advantage of having McDaniels return.
With the addition of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots offense has changed quite a bit since Josh McDaniels departed from New England in 2009. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
There are, however, some down sides. The offense has obviously changed since McDaniels left the team. We no longer see the spread formations of the past which saw the Patriots so successful in¬†2007 and nearly claim the NFL’s first ever 19-0 season. With the addition of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots now have the two Tight End packages, which has seen the Pats offense¬†rejuvenated under Bill O’Brien the last two season. It’s also seen Tom Brady become the first every unanimous league MVP in the process.
It would be interesting to see how the current system would change if they did bring him back. Would he work with this new system or want his¬†own in place? There is also talk that it could eventually be tough for the team to keep both Hernandez and Gronkowski…if they don’t, could we see the team revert back to more spread formations? It’s tough to say, but it will obviously lead to some interesting discussion down the road.
Saying that, McDaniels is under contract with St. Louis for another season so, right now, this is merely speculation for those who want it to happen. However, if Jeff Fisher gets offered the new Head coach role there, then it sounds like McDaniels could go and maybe even¬†Lloyd¬†could go with him. There is also the possibility of the Chiefs looking for his services.
As for New England, with O’Brien departing the next man up seems to be Brian Ferentz. For me, he seems to be the most¬†logical¬†choice. He has¬†coached¬†the Patriots two tight ends for the last couple of¬†years after joining the team in ’08 as a scouting assistant. He’s clearly done a good job, especially considering the fact we’ve obviously seen some tremendous production from that position over the past two seasons. If the team intends on moving forward with the offensive strategy they use today, it would make sense for Belichick to hire someone like him. There is a down side; he is only 29 and you can count the number of years he has coaching in the NFL on one hand.
He’s actually an interesting story. He experimented as a player in 2006/2007 but turned to coaching when things didn’t quite work out. It’s been a great move and has become a valuable asset to this staff.
It’s also worth noting that Ferentz comes from good football stock. His father, Kirk Ferentz, is the head coach at the University of Iowa (Hawkeyes) with a record of 89-60 in the Big Ten. The younger Ferentz played under his father at College and we all know how much Belichick loves guys with a football background and Kirk Ferentz worked under Belichick as an¬†assistant coach¬†at Cleveland. It would definitely make sense for him to be our long term future at the position.
There is a way around this however; which could see Belichick officially name Matt Patricia as the Defensive Coordinator, while then taking some pressure off of himself and then mentoring Ferentz in his new role. He could also work Ferentz into his new role without necessarily giving him an official title – which we’ve seen them do in the past.
The next man in contention could also be wide¬†Receiver’s¬†coach Chad O’Shea. O’Shea has been with the Patriots a year less than Ferentz, but has 16 years of coaching under his belt at the age of 39, ten years older than our previous candidate. Like Ferentz, he has experience as an offensive coaching assistant and his superior knowledge and presence in the game may make him a bigger candidate. I have a little less to say about this guy; you can’t argue against his experience putting him as the front runner for the job however.
Finally, we have Ivan Fears who has been with the Patriots since 1999 and lived through the dynasty days of the early¬†millennium (he had been with the team in the early 90′s also). He has coached runningbacks, receivers, and quarterbacks in the NCAA/NFL and when you look at how long he¬†has¬†been with us, one might say he should be considered as the front runner for the job. It’s actually kind of a surprise that he hasn’t been offered the role sooner. At the ripe old age of 57, however, one might ask why he hasn’t¬†progressed¬†from anything more than a positional coach, and I can’t help but wonder if the window of¬†opportunity¬†has closed on him already.
My verdict? This is an incredibly tough one to call, it really is. You could see McDaniels return with the chance of maybe being Belichick’s eventual successor, something ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss suggested a couple of years ago, but a lot has changed since then so I find it hard to see. I think he would be enticed over to Kansas City to reunite with Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel. His experience with those guys would most likely take him there if he does indeed leave the Rams. Fears, for me, is probably too old now and, while O’Shea seems like an experienced candidate, Ferentz has done wonderful things with the two second year Tight Ends during the emergence of both players. Who better to run this system than the man who mentors to the two players that made it what it is?
That makes sense to me personally.¬†Honestly, and I could be wrong, but I do not see Josh McDaniels returning to the team. I see Ferentz being eased in as of next season under the watchful eye of Bill Belichick and eventually given the title just like Bill O’Brien was.
As for O’Brien, I couldn’t be more happy with him. He seems like the¬†ideal¬†candidate for a program that is in dire need of a fresh face to turn things around. He has received a lot of unfair criticism over here for two seasons, which have seen us lose just five games. Needless to say what he did for this Pats offense during two solid years should not be overlooked.
Patriots Nation wishes him all the best, and his departure will definitely give us plenty to talk about once this year comes to an end.
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