Patriots play-calling: Josh McDaniels vs. Bill O’Brien

Fans in Denver quickly turned on Josh McDaniels. If the Pats continue to lose, signs like this could pop up around Gillette.

For just a moment, let’s step back from rightfully bashing the NFL, owners and replacement refs to rally around another topic that we all seem to have an opinion on locally: the Patriots offensive coordinator. 

Bill O’Brien spent three seasons calling the offensive plays for New England and now he’s the head coach at Penn State University. Josh McDaniels has taken his place, returning to Foxborough after disastrous stops in Denver (head coach) and St. Louis (offensive coordinator). Previously, he had been calling plays for Tom Brady and Co. from 2006-2008. 

With the insane popularity of fantasy football and the video game series Madden, every slob across the country thinks it must be easy to make the split-second decisions on the sidelines that can ultimately win or lose games in the NFL. Even more so here, for when you have a team with a Hall of Fame quarterback (Brady) and incredible weapons like Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, etc., it should be simple to hang 40 points on the scoreboard, no matter who the opponent. 

Only three games into the 2012 regular season, it’s impossible to make any grand statements on McDaniels’s latest tenure. Much like the team itself, McDaniels’ results have thus far been very up and down. New England has put up 34, 18 and 30 points respectively, losing in the last two contests.

Obviously defense is more of an issue. Still, there are patterns emerging which are scarier than Salem, Mass. on Halloween: McDaniels appears obsessed with wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back Danny Woodhead. They can both make plays but he doesn’t seem to realize that they are best utilized in small doses. How do you explain Woodhead getting more carries than Stevan Ridley Sunday in Baltimore? 

O’Brien’s units were always near the top of the league in points and a slew of offensive categories, hence why he got that awful job in State College, but what was his particular style? I’d have to say using Brady primarily out of the shotgun formation and throwing the ball all over the field to a variety of receivers. That’s not exactly revolutionary since you could say that about many teams in the current NFL. But it got the job done for the most part.

O’Brien also favored throwing the ball in pretty much any situation other than short-yard and goal line opportunities for BenJarvus Green-Ellis or running out the clock. Again, that’s how it is around the league: it’s all about the passing game, particularly when you have such great skill position players. 

McDaniels won three Super Bowls as a minor assistant coach (defensive coaching, quarterbacks) but there is one thing that has eluded both him and O’Brien: a Super Bowl ring when they were in charge of the offense. The Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season and they lost the last two they played-both against the Giants-in 2008 and last February. Until New England wins another title, we will always have that trump card when we start to doubt McDaniels’ ability to win the big game. 


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