It seems as if Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is one of the key candidates to take one of the head coaching roles in the NFL, as well as a prestigious head coaching job in the college ranks. O'Brien is currently interviewing for the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coaching position where the team is under new ownership. He's also the leading candidate for the Penn State head coaching job, which was recently vacated by college legend Joe Paterno.
O'Brien's coaching has been a roller coaster experience for fans. It seems as if we were all complaining about his coaching ability just a few seasons ago; now, he's one of the top prospects in the league. Should Bill O'Brien receive a new coaching role (he states that he would prefer an NFL job instead of a college position), the Patriots would be in need of another new coordinator.
The Patriots have experienced some of the most positive coaching turnover (ie: promotions, instead of firings) over the past decade. The team has no official defensive coordinator, although Matt Patricia has been making the calls, and there appears no immediate replacement for O'Brien on the offensive side. Here's a quick list of the Patriots coordinators over the past few seasons:
Defensive Coordinator: Romeo Crennel - Eric Mangini - Dean Pees - Matt Patricia/Pepper Johnson
Offensive Coordinator: Charlie Weis - Josh McDaniels - Bill O'Brien - ??
Should O'Brien depart, here's a list of potential in-house replacements:
Brian Ferentz - Appears to be the media's leading candidate for long term replacement; Started as a scouting assistant in 2008; Offensive coaching assistant in 2009 and 2010; Promoted to tight ends coach in 2011. Ferentz is son of Belichick's friend and colleague (and current Iowa coach) Kirk Ferentz.
Ivan Fears - One of the longest tenured coaches on staff; Started as wide receivers coach with the Patriots for 1991-92, before taking a job with the Bears; Returned to the Patriots in 1999 to take the wide receivers position until 2001; Moved to running back coach from 2002-present. Seems well entrenched in his position, might not be a firm coordinator candidate.
Chad O'Shea - Joined the Patriots in 2009 as the wide receivers coach; Has spent the majority of his career as a wide receivers/tight end coach, while appearing as an offensive assistant as well; Seems to be limited in his experience and might need more experience in the Belichick circle before receiving a promotion.
George Godsey - Patriots offensive assistant for 2011; former quarterback who played under Bill O'Brien while at Georgia Tech; Spent seven seasons as the quarterback and the running back coach at Central Floria; Could possibly be O'Brien's replacement as quarterbacks coach, but not immediate replacement as coordinator.
Dante Scarneccia - My dark horse candidate as a short term replacement coordinator while Ferentz or Godsey grow into their roles; Joined the Patriots in 1982 as the special teams and tight end coach before leaving in 1989; Returned in 1991 to his old position; Defensive assistant in 1995-96; Special teams coach in 1997-98; Offensive line coach in 1999 before adding the title of "Assistant Head Coach" in 2000; Clearly the most experience coach; Could assume role of coordinator for a season or two.
I believe that Godsey and Ferentz are the two leading candidates to be the Patriots offensive coordinators in the future. Ferentz has the approval of Belichick, while Godsey was hand selected with a likely recommendation from Bill O'Brien. However, both have limited experience in the Patriots system, which leads me to believe that neither will take on the coordinator role in the next couple of seasons. While they learn the Patriots system, I wouldn't be surprised to see Scarneccia take on a larger role on the offense until either of Godsey or Ferentz is able to step up and be an assistant coordinator.