The New England Patriots had prepared for the eventual departure of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels by grooming tight ends coach Brian Daboll to be his successor.
Well, Daboll is going to the offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama and now the Patriots have a serious gap on their offensive staff. Who will be the eventual replacement for McDaniels?
McDaniels is a threat to leave for a head coaching vacancy at any point in time, which means that New England has to be prepared for a transition. Here are the current offensive coaches and whether or not they are under consideration for the coordinator job:
OL Coach Dante Scarnecchia (age: 69): Scarnecchia came out of retirement in 2016 to help with the offensive line and it would be a shock if he became the offensive coordinator.
RB Coach Ivan Fears (age: 62): Fears was the Patriots wide receivers coach from 1999-2001 and has served as the running backs coach since 2002. He would be a surprise selection at offensive coordinator due to his age.
WR Chad O’Shea (age: 44): O’Shea joined the Patriots in 2009 and has remained the wide receivers coach ever since. He is now the top choice to be offensive coordinator should McDaniels leave and is well regarded for his development of the Patriots wide receivers.
Asst QB Coach Jerry Schuplinski (age: 40?): Schuplinski has been credited with the development of QB Jacoby Brissett in his first season as assistant quarterbacks coach. He served as a coaching assistant from 2013-15, but was a head coach of a high school team from 2002-06 and the special teams coordinator and linebacker coach of a small division III college team from 2007-12. It would be a surprise to see him elevated to offensive coordinator so quickly, but not unprecedented.
Former Patriots offensive coordinator and now-Texans head coach Bill O’Brien went from offensive assistant in 2007 to Patriots de facto offensive play caller in 2009, before receiving the offensive coordinator title in 2011. The big difference between O’Brien and Schuplinski is that O’Brien served as offensive coordinator for four years at Georgia Tech and Duke before joining the Patriots.
If McDaniels leaves after the 2017 season, then O’Shea should be the favorite to take over as offensive coordinator. Perhaps Schuplinski could become the favorite for the job if McDaniels leaves in three or more years.
There are also dark horse options. Perhaps Chip Kelly would be willing to take the job if McDaniels leaves after 2017 in order to rehabilitate his image in league circles. There’s also a chance the Patriots re-sign former tight ends coach George Godsey to fill the current opening; Godsey has two years of experience as the Houston Texans offensive coordinator and could be a possibility for the same role with the Patriots.
But unlike the defensive side of the ball, where linebackers coach Brian Flores is the clear next-in-line if defensive coordinator Matt Patricia leaves, and cornerbacks Josh Boyer is playing the defensive version of Chad O’Shea in the hierarchy, there is no obvious successor to McDaniels on offense- and that’s a hole on the roster the Patriots will need to patch before next season.
We’ll find out more when the Patriots play their fourth preseason game and allow an assistant coach to make the play calls.