|One thing Belichick's offensive coordinators have had in common: a QB by the name of Brady. (US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has agreed to become Penn State's next head coach, CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman confirmed Thursday night.
This comes after a week of rumors had O'Brien taking the job, not taking the job, then interviewing for the job in that order on consecutive days. But now that his employment status is set, what does this mean for the Patriots?
It's not the first time the organization has lost an offensive coordinator (or even one to a high-profile college job). Notre Dame hired Charlie Weis in December 2004 and he coached the Fighting Irish through five mostly disappointing seasons before he was fired.
Weis was Bill Belichick's first offensive coordinator in New England, arriving in 2000, the same year the Patriots used the 199th on (wait for it…) Tom Brady. The Pats won three Super Bowls from '00-'04; when Weis headed for South Bend, he was replaced by then-29-year-old quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels. (McDaniels didn't officially have the title of offensive coordinator until 2006, but according to a 2008 New York Times, story he called the plays during the 2005 season.)
McDaniels was there in 2007, too, when the Patriots went 18-0 and set countless offensive records on their way to the Super Bowl. They lost to the Giants in one of the biggest upsets in championship history, and following the 2008 season, McDaniels was hired by the Broncos to replace Mike Shanahan. He lasted a season and a half before poor personnel decisions and a string of losses led to his dismissal 12 games into the 2010 campaign.
Both Weis and McDaniels reemerged as NFL coordinators; the former with the Chiefs in 2010 (Weis later returned to college, first as Florida's OC this fall before accepting the Kansas head-coaching gig in December), the latter with the Rams in 2011.
O'Brien's NFL journey began in February 2007, when the Patriots hired him after two seasons as Duke's offensive coordinator. After a year, he was promoted from offensive assistant to wide receivers coach. And like McDaniels before him, O'Brien called plays "unofficially" before eventually being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2011.
So how have New England offense's fared the year after losing their coordinator? Unsurprisingly, as long as Tom Brady's upright, it's pretty much all systems go.
In 2004, the Pats' offense ranked third, according to Football Outsiders metrics. In 2005, after Weis left for Notre Dame, the Pats ranked seventh. In 2008, they were eighth; in '09, with McDaniels in Denver, they were first.
Next question: with O'Brien off to State College, who replaces him in New England? CNNSE.com's Tom Curran has a list of names -- some familiar, others less so.
* Chad O'Shea, Pats wide receivers coach
* Josh McDaniels, Rams offensive coordinator
* Jeff Davidson, Vikings offensive line coach
But again, the most critical element to New England's success isn't the guy calling the plays, it's the guy under center. The Patriots go as far as Brady goes. But we already knew that.
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