MOBILE, Ala. - Whoever the Patriots' starting quarterback ends up being next season - Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, or Kevin O'Connell - he will be working with Bill O'Brien as his position coach.
With the departure of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has decided, according to two sources familiar with the team's thinking, to turn over McDaniels's quarterbacks coach job to O'Brien, who served as the Patriots' wide receivers coach in 2008.
The 39-year-old O'Brien will not officially replace McDaniels, who was introduced as coach of the Denver Broncos Jan. 12, as offensive coordinator, but he will inherit some of those duties and have input into the play-calling. Most likely, Belichick will take on a greater role in the team's offensive strategy and game planning to ease O'Brien's transition.
It's the same succession progression Belichick used in 2005, when he had to replace offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. McDaniels, who had become quarterbacks coach in 2004, was not given the title of offensive coordinator, but was allowed to call plays in 2005. He was named offensive coordinator in 2006.
O'Brien, an Andover native and St. John's Prep graduate, has enjoyed a meteoric rise since joining the Patriots in 2007, following 14 years as an assistant coach at Brown, Georgia Tech, Maryland, and Duke.
O'Brien was a coaching assistant in 2007 before replacing Nick Caserio, who after one season returned to the scouting/player procurement side as director of player personnel.
Although O'Brien has never been an NFL offensive coordinator during his 16-year coaching career, he was an offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech (2001-02) and Duke (2005-06).
He has a tough act to follow in McDaniels, who had the Patriots in the top 10 in the NFL in points per game each season since 2005.
O'Brien's promotion leaves a vacancy at wide receivers coach. The Patriots also have openings at secondary coach and special teams coach after longtime special teams coach Brad Seely signed on as assistant head coach/special teams coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and special assistant/secondary coach Dom Capers parted ways with the team after one season. Capers was named the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator Monday.
While attending Senior Bowl practices here Tuesday, Belichick was asked about the openings and cordially declined comment. He was not part of the Patriots' contingent attending Senior Bowl practices yesterday.