I officially apologize for being so hard on you, Coach Bill O'Brien. I judged your season upon the seemingly plain playcalling, which I thought were all your doing. I am posting in full support of you taking the helm as Offensive Coordinator for next season and we'll go from there.
A lot of us as fans jumped to conclusions due to the "vanilla play calling", as some of us called it. We went through some growing pains over some bad calls in dire situations, but I believe that you learn and move on. You had much harder circumstances to coach over than any of us knew of, with injuries to almost every single starter on offense at some point over the season (No, I will not blame you for the injuries to Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Matt Light, Steven Neal, Nick Kaczur, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris or Fred Taylor).
To you, the other readers, I'll try and convince you to give Bill O'Brien another chance. I was one of the ones calling for his head and position, I admit that. However, I attempted to look at this from an objective point of view and came to the conclusion that it isn't fair to condemn him after one season. Especially not after one season of circumstances FAR out of his control.
More after the jump.
1) Your offensive line only had two players start the entire season- Logan Mankins and Dan Koppen. Due to the constant injuries you had to step back your TEs and have them assist in blocking.
2) Chris Baker spent 72% of his time on the field blocking the run or the pass. Ben Watson spent 53% of his time blocking as well. One of our main complaints with your playcalling was the lack of versatility in utilizing the Tight Ends. A few of us knew about the O-Line weaknesses and forgave you for not using TEs. However, I don't think anyone knew that the need for blocking was this high.
3) Kevin Faulk is the only RB who did not get injured over the span of the season. Kevin Faulk also ran the ball only 17.2% of the time he was on the field. You did as much as you could with what little you were given. My only hope is that, over the off-season, we address the dire need for youth and strength in the RBs. Maroney and Faulk are both finesse runners. We need more muscle if we are to succeed and you are to coach an even stronger offense.
4) Our Wide Receiving core was top heavy. I bet you had some say in keeping Galloway over Lewis, but that's like picking between Brussel Sprouts and Eggplant- no one really wins. We had difficulty in the playoffs due to the untimely and unforeseen injury to Wes Welker. We had some difficulty as Randy Moss had a separated shoulder almost ALL SEASON. Hopefully there can be a healing and growing off-season as we pick up an actual 3rd receiver who can catch the ball.
5) Oh yeah, Tom Brady was hurt. And coming back from an injury. And surrounded by an injured team. Yeah.
So please, please, please, do not give up hope and continue to strive forward. Learn more about your play calling (I KNOW you will never call for a pass play on 3rd and 2). Learn more about utilizing your players' strengths (try and use Maroney more in the swing passing game and get him into open field). Vocalize your needs for players and get them.
Here's an off-season shopping list for you!
1. A strong running back. We need a player who can almost guarantee a 1st down on 3rd and short. We need a player who can score in the Red Zone. Can we pick up a free agent? (LenDale White? Cadillac Williams?) Can we draft someone in the 4th round, or move up into the 3rd round if such a player is available? (Montario Hardesty? Jonathan Dwyer might drop. Toby Gerhart? Ryan Mathews if we want a grab in the 2nd round?). Basically, we need one. Badly.
2. A top wide receiver. We saw the impact of losing a top 3rd receiver. Aiken will never be that receiver. Tate might be able to step up, but he's currently an enigma and not a sure thing. Edelman will be a slot player, but he won't stretch the field and be a downfield, mid range threat. I suggest looking into Jason Avant (Philly), Steve Breaston (AZ), Lance Moore (NO), Malcom Floyd (SD) and maybe even Brandon Marshall (Denver, I'm sure we could corral his negative attitude). Looking to draft? Mardy Gilyard, while on the light side, has sure hands and seems to be a hard worker. Danario Alexander is a great player who could immediately step in and produce. I highly suggest utilizing a second round pick on this position.
3. An elite guard. Logan Mankins will continue to perform well. Our issue is in trusting the skills of Nick Kaczur at RG (I'm assuming that Neal is going to retire). He was the weakest link on the line at RT and I don't trust him stepping up his game and becoming a strong player at RG. I believe that Dan Connolly has a ton of promise, but I can see him stepping in for Koppen down the road. Ohrnberger is an unknown right now, and I'm all for giving him a shot, but if we want to win right now and utilize our aging offensive weapons known as Moss and Brady, we need to keep Brady upright and to give him time. I would HIGHLY suggest utilizing our 1st round pick this year on Mike Iupati, if he's available. I also suggest listening to Dante Scarneccia. One of the reason our great O-Line is his coaching and his knowledge of what our team needs. Utilize him as a top resource.
4. A second do-everything running back. Our RBC is wearing thin with the age of Fred Taylor (who I expect to be kept on), Sammy Morris (who I expect to be let go) and Kevin Faulk (who I expect to be resigned). Laurence Maroney can play, but he isn't our strong, short-yardage back that we need (that hopefully shopping point #1 takes care of). However, I still think that we need to improve not only our strength, but our overall talent. Hopefully, if you end up drafting our shopping #1 player, you will grab shopping #4 player in free agency, and vice versa!
5. An offensive tackle who can take Matt Light's position a year or two from now. Use a 2nd rounder on this pick. He has to be young. He has to be versatile a la Sebastian Vollmer. Plain and simple, take the best available tackle at your pick in the 2nd round. Matt Light slows down as the year wears on and we need a young player who can step in from time to time and who will step up down the road. Listen to Dante.
6. Keep both our TEs! Chris Baker and Ben Watson are both great players- both solid at catching and at blocking. We need to cross our fingers and hope for O-Line health, but PLEASE use these players in the offense scheme and throw the ball to them. Please.
Anyways, thanks for reading Bill (is it okay if I call you Bill?). I believe that you can do it!