As Year One after Tom Brady is slowly coming to an end, all eyes continue to be on the New England Patriots’ quarterback position. That is not just due to the question whether Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham will lead the offense those last two weeks of the season — the expectation is that Newton remains the starter for now — but also because of their position coach: Jedd Fisch left for the University of Arizona last week.
With Fisch gone, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will take over his duties against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. Heading into 2021, however, the Patriots might feel the need to add a new coach at the most important position in the game. So, who could it be? Let’s take a look at five more or less realistic candidates.
McDaniels will serve as the Patriots’ QB coach for the remainder of the season but him keeping the job next season is also not out of the realm of possibility. The 44-year-old, after all, had already worked the dual role as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the last eight seasons before Fisch’s arrival earlier this year. McDaniels’ future is generally in question given that he is once again a candidate to leave for a head coaching position elsewhere, but if he stays in New England he would be an obvious candidate to succeed Fisch.
When Lombardi rejoined the Patriots in 2019, he served as assistant quarterbacks coach under McDaniels. Following New England’s coaching staff shuffle earlier this year, however, he was moved to the wide receiver position. So why could a move back be in the cards? Lombardi’s experience working with quarterbacks plays a role, and so does the fact that the team employs Troy Brown as assistant running backs and kick returners coach. A long-time NFL receiver himself, Brown appears to be a natural fit to move into the role currently held by Lombardi should the latter move to the QB spot.
Hughes joined the Patriots earlier this year and has been working as an offensive assistant in 2020. While he has no prior experience at the NFL level, he too could be a candidate to climb up the ladder next year: Hughes worked extensively with quarterbacks during his time at Snow College (2005-12) and Ohio State (2013) and presumably also as head coach at Minot State (2014-16) and Bountiful High School (2018-19). Sure, going from high school football to NFL position coach in two years would be quite the jump, but if Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels trust him to do the job he will be a candidate to get it.
Wait, what? Yes, former Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien might be an option to keep an eye on as well. After getting fired following the Texans’ 0-4 start and generally tumultuous tenure with the organization, O’Brien is in need of rebuilding his reputation in the NFL. What better place to do that than in a familiar environment under the league’s best head coach? It did work for Josh McDaniels, after all, and that alone might be convincing enough for his former assistant to rejoin the fold — if New England wants to bring him aboard in the first place.
An unconventional candidate, but there may be nobody outside of McDaniels and Fisch who has as intimate a knowledge of the Patriots’ current quarterback room as Brian Hoyer. Sure, he lost the number two role to Jarrett Stidham earlier this season, but he still enjoys plenty of respect in the organization — so much so that the 35-year-old might be seen as a potential candidate to take over the position if he a) decides to retire following this season, and b) wants to go into coaching to begin with.