Possibly the biggest offseason move made by the New England Patriots so far this year was bringing back Bill O’Brien. The 53-year-old, who already worked in New England from 2007 to 2011, will resume his former role as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
As such, he will work closely with the passers on the team — a group that currently consists of Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. On Wednesday, Zappe shared his first impression of O’Brien and what he might bring to the Patriots’ offensive operation.
“I’ve only met him a few times, of course. With all the offseason rules you really can’t do that much with coaches right now,” he said at a youth football clinic in Rhode Island (via 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Bob Socci).
“The little amount of time that I’ve met him when he got hired — I’ve heard a bunch of stories about him, how great of a coach he is. I’m really excited just to learn with all the knowledge that he has about the quarterback position, of not just the position itself but from a defensive standpoint as well, how he sees a defense.”
O’Brien brings considerable experience at the college and pro levels to the Patriots offense. Starting his career in 1993 at his alma mater, Brown, he later joined Georgia Tech, where he rose through the ranks until becoming the Yellow Jackets’ offensive coordinator in 2001. Via stops at Maryland and Duke, he then arrived in New England.
Over the next five seasons, O’Brien would continue climbing the coaching ladder: he went from offensive assistant in 2007, to wide receivers coach in 2008, to quarterbacks coach in 2009. At that point he already worked as a de facto coordinator, a title he was given officially in 2011.
He served as New England’s OC for only one year before departing for Penn State, but it was a successful one: the Patriots had the third-ranked scoring offense in football that season, and advanced all the way to the Super Bowl.
12 years later, O’Brien is now back at his old stomping grounds — returning via head-coaching opportunities at Penn State (2012-13) and with the Houston Texans (2014-20), and two seasons as offensive coordinator at Alabama (2021-22). The time was ripe for a reunion: not only did O’Brien’s contract with the Crimson Tide expire, the Patriots were also in dire need of some upgraded coaching on offense.
Their 2022 season, after all, was a dilemma on that side of the ball. After losing long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Patriots appointed the inexperienced Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to head a collaborative effort.
The experiment did not yield the desired results, and has led to some sweeping changes this offseason: besides O’Brien, New England also hired assistant coaches Adrian Klemm and Will Lawing, who do not have official titles yet but are realistic candidates to work with the offensive line and tight ends, respectively.
This process, and some additional moves made, have left Zappe excited about what is lying ahead.
“I’m really excited about this year with some of the new guys that we got on the team as well. Just ready to get after it,” he said.
Zappe himself is entering his second season in New England. A fourth-round draft choice a year ago, he saw extended action in four games in place of an injured Mac Jones. While he eventually returned to backup duty, his performance as a whole was promising.