The New England Patriots’ offensive coaching staff is starting to take place. The latest addition to the group is Will Lawing, who spent the last two years as an analyst at the University of Alabama — the very same school that also employed recently hired Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
Lawing is not as high-profile a hire as O’Brien, of course, but he still could fill a valuable role on the coaching roster; with Nick Caley gone to coach tight ends for the Los Angeles Rams, he is a frontrunner to take over.
So far, however, neither the hire nor Lawing’s official job title have been announced. Nonetheless, we can take a look at his career path so far to find out why New England opted to bring him aboard.
Who is Will Lawing?
Previous position: University of Alabama analyst
Playing background: A defensive back coming out of high school, Lawing joined the North Carolina Tar Heels as a walk-on in 2004. He started out on the defensive side of the ball, before moving over to wide receiver in 2006. Lawing did not put up any numbers during his four-year career as a member of the school’s football team.
Coaching background: Shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science from the University of North Carolina in Dec. 2008, Lawing went into coaching. He spent the first four seasons of his career at Juniata College, initially working with tight ends (2009) but later moving to passing game coordinator (2010) and offensive coordinator (2011-12).
In 2013, he left the school to join then-head coach Bill O’Brien as a graduate assistant at Penn State. Lawing worked only one season in that role, leaving Happy Valley alongside O’Brien in 2014: he joined the Houston Texans as a defensive quality control coach, spending three seasons under veteran defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.
In 2017, Lawing was moved to the offensive side of the ball to initially work as an assistant with a focus on the offensive line under O-line coach Mike Devlin. After two seasons in that role, he was promoted to tight ends coach in 2019. He held that role for two additional seasons but left after the 2020 campaign; at that point, O’Brien had already been let go as Texans head coach.
The two men did reunite the following offseason, however, joining forces at Alabama under Nick Saban. Whereas O’Brien took over as the school’s offensive coordinator, Lawing was hired as an analyst. Two years after that, the pair has now returned to the NFL.
Why did the Patriots hire him to their coaching staff?
“Familiarity” is the key word when it comes to the Patriots hiring Will Lawing. As his coaching history shows, he spent the last 10 years in various roles working under or alongside Bill O’Brien — an apparent sign that New England’s new offensive coordinator thinks highly of the 37-year-old.
That much became apparent when he named him tight ends coach with the Texans in 2019. Back then, O’Brien explained the decision as follows:
“He has paid his dues,” he said. “He has been a guy who was on defense. We moved him over to offense a couple of years ago. He has an offensive background. When he got into coaching, he’s coached receivers, he’s coached running backs. Then he worked on defense here for [Romeo Crennel].
“He did an excellent job for us on film breakdowns, on projects, on running the look team, on coaching, on certain days when we would ask him to take the rookie offensive line or the rookie tight ends. He did a lot of little different coaching assignments for us that he was really impressive with.”
Lawing’s two seasons as Houston tight ends coach produced moderately successful statistical results. In 2019, he coached the duo of Jordan Akins and Darren Fells to a combined 70 catches for 759 yards and nine touchdowns. The following year, Akins, Fells and the rest of the Texans’ tight end group finished with 75 receptions for 913 yards and seven scores.
It remains to be seen whether or not Lawing will coach tight ends in New England as well, but he has some expertise in that area. Regardless of how he will be used, though, one thing is apparent: O’Brien seemingly trusts him to participate in some capacity to his new staff.