No ill will, Bill? Patriots reunion with O’Brien ‘in the game’

tide roll? The New England Patriots may not be hoping.

As the team seeks offensive clarity, namely under center with franchise quarterback and University of Alabama alum Mac Jones, they could turn to a known source to get their plans back on track. NBC Sports Boston’s Albert Breer, who can be seen on the Patriots’ flagship network WBZ-FM, says a Bill O’Brien reunion “could be in the game” for New England.

O’Brien, whose most recent NFL experience was more than six years as the Houston Texans boss (2014-20), is currently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Nick Saban’s staff in Alabama. In Tuscaloosa, O’Brien has been overseeing the latest work from Bryce Young, the defending Heisman Trophy champion who is expected to be among the first quarterbacks selected in the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City.

Such a reunion would likely be decided by what’s happening at the college level: Not only might O’Brien be asked to return to Alabama, but he’ll likely emerge as the top coaching nominee when the annual carousel begins to turn. For example, Breer listed the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s suppressed program.

“I would watch very closely what the college coaching carousel is doing,” Breer said. “Billy O’Brien’s name has been mentioned for some of those jobs … If he has an opportunity for some of the college jobs and doesn’t even interview, that tells you he wants to come back to the NFL. I think that could certainly be at play.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, perhaps anxious to maintain some continuity in the New England staff, turned to tenured Matt Patricia to play at the helm in Jones’ crucial second season. Patricia works with another returnee, Joe Judge, as they more or less share the role of de facto offensive coordinator.

Unfortunately, New England was mainly sustained by a defensive effort, namely a fearsome passing rush. The Patriots (5-4) were ranked 26th overall in offense when they entered Week 11 and Jones hasn’t made any notable progress as a franchise man. O’Brien spent five seasons (2007-2011) with the Patriots in various offensive roles before taking the job as head coach at Penn State. If the Patriots were to move away from Patricia and Judge, Breer O’Brien called the “ideal” replacement.

New England returns to fight the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, CBS). O’Brien and the Crimson Tide, currently ranked eighth in the College Football Playoff standings, will battle Austin Peay in their penultimate game of the regular season Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN+).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags