Bill O'Brien is back in New England, where the job might be a bit more difficult this time around.
The newly hired offensive coordinator returns to the Patriots with a wealth of coaching experience gained at the NFL and collegiate levels, as both a head coach and an assistant. He's traveled quite a winding road in recent years, spending the last decade with stops at Penn State, the Houston Texans and Alabama before moving back to New England.
A fellow product of Tuscaloosa -- quarterback Mac Jones -- awaits O'Brien's arrival. After a remarkably frustrating season in 2022, Jones could use the help of O'Brien, a seasoned play-caller with a history of producing success with the Patriots. And as Jones enters his third NFL season, there's no better time than now to redirect his course toward a positive performance.
"I think the big thing for us right now is everybody start with a clean slate. I think that every year is different," O'Brien, who was previously with the organization from 2007-2011, said on Tuesday of Jones and the QB position as a whole. "I think this year is no different than any other year relative to each year in the NFL is different, right? So, what you did in the past, whether it's a player or coach or anybody in the organization, really has no bearing on what happens moving forward. So like, we just started yesterday and we're looking forward to having a good Phase 1 and then a good Phase 2 and then a good Phase 3 and that's kind of what it's all about."
Jones' third season comes with enough speculation and rumors to make one question his future with the Patriots. A difficult season will have that effect, especially for a franchise that grew accustomed to competing for Lombardi Trophies. The Pats have reached the postseason just once since Tom Brady's departure.
O'Brien isn't one for hyperbole, and he isn't going to play up the Alabama connection between he and Jones. They barely crossed paths in Tuscaloosa, and it won't have any bearing on how he evaluates the quarterback, telling reporters Tuesday, "I met him and that was about it."
He will, however, bring enough experience gained with Bill Belichick to enjoy an expedited acclimation period to the Patriots. He's returning to a home of sorts, after all, and is encouraged by what he's seen so far.
"Yeah, it's been good. It's been really good. Good staff, great guys," O'Brien said. "Just started with the players yesterday and that's been good. Great attendance so far. You know, the whole thing leading up to this period is a dead period so this is the first time we've actually had a chance to be with players and that's really exciting because that's what it's all about on the coaching end of it. So it's been good."
O'Brien's hiring completes a journey that began in New England in 2007, and returns him to a place that is familiar to O'Brien and his family. Familiarity is always beneficial in this instances, even if O'Brien doesn't have much with his starting quarterback.
They'll have the months ahead to get to know each other quite well. After a forgettable 2022 season, O'Brien, Jones and the rest of the Patriots will hope to produce quite a memorable bounce-back campaign in 2023.