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Nick Saban: ‘No indication’ potential Patriots target Bill O’Brien is trying to leave Alabama

Related: How will the Patriots replace departed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 SEC Championship Game - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With Josh McDaniels accepting the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coaching position, the New England Patriots are left looking for a new offensive coordinator. There are multiple suitable candidates, but one name pops out among them due to his experience with the team and familiarity with its quarterback: Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.

A former offensive coordinator for the Patriots, O’Brien appears to be a natural fit to fill the vacancy atop New England’s offensive coaching staff. However, if his current head coach is to be believed there is no indication of that happening.

“Bill’s done a great job for us here, and Bill’s had a very successful career. I don’t think Bill’s trying to leave,” Nick Saban said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“I think he likes it at Alabama, and we have an opportunity with some pretty good players at the quarterback position and other positions to maybe continue to grow and develop here offensively. I think he’s looking forward to that challenge.”

Coming off his first season with the Crimson Tide, O’Brien leaving to rejoin New England would not be a surprise.

Arriving in the NFL as an offensive assistant for the Patriots in 2007, he later worked with the wide receivers and quarterbacks before taking over as New England’s offensive coordinator in 2011. At that point, he had already called offensive plays for two seasons after Josh McDaniels had left the first time to coach the Denver Broncos.

O’Brien left the Patriots himself in 2012 to take over as head coach at Penn State, later returning to the NFL with Houston Texans. He was fired by the Texans in 2020, midway through his seventh season with the team, and a few months later joined Saban at the University of Alabama.

Departing quarterback Mac Jones, who eventually was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2021 Draft, reportedly helped O’Brien adapt to his new team’s system.

Given the circumstances, O’Brien returning to his old team to work with Jones appears to make all the sense in the world. However, Saban apparently has “no indication” of that happening.

“I’ve always been one that [if] guys work hard and do a good job for you, if they get opportunities to go someplace else I want to support them and help them if it benefits them and their families,” he said. “We have no indication of that other than what y’all put on the internet right now which is a lot of maybes. We’re not really trying to address something that might happen.”

The Patriots will not only have to replace Josh McDaniels as their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, they will also find a new assistant QB coach. As was reported on Wednesday, Bo Hardegree will leave the team to join McDaniels in Las Vegas.