Patriots OC Bill O’Brien – QB Mac Jones has clean slate
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien struck a consistent theme on Tuesday when it came to quarterback Mac Jones potentially bouncing back from a disappointing 2022 season.
He’s giving him a clean slate.
“Fresh start,” O’Brien said in his first remarks to reporters since he was hired in January. “It’s really not anything about what’s gone on in the past. That’s one of our themes on offense — to move forward.”
The Patriots are banking on O’Brien to bring out the best in Jones, the 2021 first-round draft pick who will work under his third coordinator in three NFL seasons. O’Brien and Jones had connected briefly leading into the 2021 draft when O’Brien had arrived as the University of Alabama’s offensive coordinator and Jones’ college career ended with a national championship, but O’Brien downplayed their history together.
“He was there getting ready for the draft. I basically met him, and he talked to me about the generalities of the offense. That was about it,” O’Brien said, stressing that the start of the Patriots’ voluntary offseason program Monday is the time he can start to get to know Jones and all the players better.
Jones was ascending after a solid rookie season in 2021 under coordinator Josh McDaniels, starting every game in the team’s 10-7 campaign, which ended with a blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills in the wild-card round of the playoffs. He finished 352-of-521 for 3,801 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and represented the AFC in the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Head coach Bill Belichick had referenced the “tremendous strides” that Jones had made heading into the 2022 season.
But Jones’ momentum was derailed after McDaniels departed to become the Las Vegas Raiders‘ head coach and Belichick took the unconventional approach of implementing a mostly new offense, turning to Matt Patricia as playcaller and Joe Judge as quarterbacks coach despite them having their most extensive background on defense and special teams, respectively.
Jones started 14 games, missing three because of a high ankle sprain, and finished 288-of-442 for 2,997 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Belichick’s public support of Jones also seemed to shift, with the coach saying at the end of the 8-9 season: “Mac has the ability to play quarterback in this league. We have to all work together to try to find the best way as a football team — which, obviously, the quarterback is an important position — to be more productive.”
Jones’ emotions also bubbled over at times in 2022 — on the field and the sideline with coaches. He was fined three times by the NFL for unsportsmanlike conduct — once for tossing a football at a defender, another time for a low-sliding tackle on a return of a fumble, and finally for jumping into a pile in hopes of recovering a loose football.
When O’Brien was asked Tuesday about his thoughts on quarterbacks showing emotion, he said: “It really is a clean slate. However you played, or however you coached, or whatever you did in the past, in the end it’s all about what are you going to do starting 1681848659? … Football is a game of emotion at times, but at the end of the day, this is a new year, a new start, and we’re excited about it.”
O’Brien acknowledged that the coaching staff, which includes new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, has watched extensive tape from the Patriots’ past seasons and “gleaned a lot” from it as they move forward in a new offense.
As for what the offense might feature, O’Brien took a page out of Belichick’s playbook and kept it under wraps.
“I think it would be crazy for me to stand up here and tell you what we’re doing offensively,” he said.