A.J. McCarron's take on Bill O'Brien offers hope for Mac Jones, Patriots

McCarron's take on Bill O'Brien offers hope for Mac Jones, Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

By most accounts, the New England Patriots' decision to hire Bill O'Brien as their new offensive coordinator has been very well-received.

Add A.J. McCarron to the list of those who approve of the move.

The former Alabama quarterback and NFL journeyman spent two seasons with the Houston Texans in 2019 and 2020, O'Brien's final two years as the team's head coach. While McCarron didn't see the field much behind starter Deshaun Watson, he has a good sense of what offense O'Brien likes to run -- and Mac Jones should be excited to hear it.

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"A quarterback-friendly offense," McCarron said Sunday, via ESPN's Mike Reiss. "OB is a wonderful coach; very intelligent, and he gets guys to play hard. I think he’s going to do an excellent job there (in New England)."

The Patriots' offense was the opposite of quarterback-friendly in 2022. Senior football advisor Matt Patricia struggled in his first season ever calling offensive plays, leading to frustration from Jones and his teammates over an offense that was inconsistent, dysfunctional and often predictable.

Enter O'Brien, who has prior experience as New England's offensive coordinator in 2011 and also has a relationship with Jones, who helped teach O'Brien the Alabama offense when the Crimson Tide hired O'Brien as its offensive coordinator in 2021. Considering Jones expressed a desire for "hard coaching" and O'Brien comes with a reputation for being rather direct with his players, the two seem like a good match.

"I love the energy that he brings to the table. He has that niche to get you to go out and play your best football," former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who spent two seasons with O'Brien in New England, said earlier this month. "... His football knowledge is through the roof, and I believe that he's definitely going to restore the Patriot faithful on the offensive side of the ball."

Most notably, Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently gave O'Brien his stamp of approval, lauding Bill Belichick's new OC as an "excellent choice" for the new role.

The Patriots still have plenty of work to do after going 8-9 and missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. New England could benefit from bolstering its offensive line and adding a high-end wide receiver to add an explosive element to the offense. O'Brien's hire is a step in the right direction, though -- especially if you ask those who played for him.