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Bill O’Brien says that who starts at quarterback isn’t up to him




Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien (right) said there is blame to go around on the offense, and not just on Mac Jones: “I don’t think he’s the No. 1 guy to blame.” Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Bill O’Brien is responsible for directing the Patriots’ offense.

But there is a limit to his power as offensive coordinator when it comes to personnel decisions. He can design the plays, but he doesn’t have the final say in who suits up to run them, he said.


For instance, when asked Tuesday if he could sit Mac Jones for a week if he felt that the quarterback needed a quick reset, O’Brien said he wouldn’t be able to do it.

“We don’t make those calls,” O’Brien said. “There’s a chain of command. The chain of command is Mr. Kraft at the top, then it’s Bill Belichick, and then I would say the assistant coaches are somewhere down in here.

“Within the chain of command, especially on the coaching staff, do we have a lot of discussions? Yeah.”

O’Brien declined to say whether he has recommended that the Patriots sit Jones.

“I’ve made a lot of recommendations over the years as an assistant coach,” O’Brien said. “But none of those would ever be public because I have a strong belief in how private those discussions are.”

Design flaws

Jones has started all 11 games this season. He also has been benched four times. The latest benching came after he threw a pair of interceptions during the first half of Sunday’s loss against the Giants.

His decision-making was an issue, O’Brien said.


“I don’t want to get into all the details of each play,” O’Brien said. “But the one play where he threw the first interception, that was a protection breakdown. He’s got to make a better decision there to throw the ball out of bounds.

“We have to do a better job of protecting, designing the protection, executing the protection. I’m just being real with you.

“Then the next interception, we were basically in a situation where they brought an extra guy and we’ve got to get the ball out, we’ve got to make a good decision, or we’ve got to take a sack.

“Both those situations, he’d probably be the first to tell you he has to make a better decision.”

The Patriots have to do a better job collectively on offense, O’Brien said, and there’s more to blame than just the quarterback.

“What I see is that he’s a very bright guy,” O’Brien said. “He works very hard. He’s passionate about the game. Things haven’t gone well for him this year. I don’t think he’s the No. 1 guy to blame.

“If you want to blame anybody, blame me. I’m the one that designs it, and it’s not going very well. At the end of the day, can he execute better? Are there things he can do better? Sure. But there are things that all of us have to do better to put a winning product on the field, and right now, that’s not what it is.”


Splitting time

Although he played quarterback in college, Malik Cunningham is practicing primarily as a receiver, O’Brien said.

“He gets some reps at quarterback on a scout team and things like that,” O’Brien said. “But he’s mostly played receiver and he’s gotten a lot better as a receiver.

“I do think it’s hard to learn both positions. It’s not like learning right tackle and left guard. When you’re learning quarterback and wide receiver, it’s difficult, but I think he’s done a really admirable job trying to do both.”

Cunningham has played in only one game this season. He has zero passing attempts and zero catches. But he’s making strides in practice, receivers coach Ross Douglas said.

“It’s a big challenge because you’re talking about a kid who even since peewee football, he never got in a wide receiver stance,” Douglas said. “So you’re talking about taking someone from A to Z in that position. So it’s been a process, it’s been fun, and he’s gotten better.”

Heated moment

Receivers coach Troy Brown addressed an incident with JuJu Smith-Schuster that took place after Jones’s second interception.

NESN reported that Smith-Schuster slammed his helmet and got into a “heated exchange” with Brown.


Smith-Schuster said after the game that he was frustrated because the Patriots were playing well on that drive until the turnover ended it. Brown told reporters Tuesday that it wasn’t a back-and-forth.

“I didn’t say a word,” Brown said. “I didn’t go back and forth with anybody. It just happens sometimes; it’s football, man.

“There’s a lot of heated moments out there, guys frustrated about what’s going on. He was just expressing himself, and I’ve been there many times myself. So it was an understandable reaction from him.”

Source: Boston Globe


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