With the hiring of Bill O’Brien came mixed reactions from the Tide community. I for one wasn’t sold on it. With him being the sole proprietor responsible for the collapse of the Houston Texans, how could he walk in and get the OC job? Especially, after I put in my application. (Coach Nick if you’re reading this,  I’m still available.)

Once the jealousy subsided, I decided to do a deep dive into what the offense could look like with O’Brien at the helm.

For starters, O’Brien is 52-48 as a big boy league coach which is very respectable, and his firing was more of an indictment on his decision-making as a GM than anything else.

Luckily for us, however, Coach Saban is the one calling the shots on personnel.

Now that the smoke is clear there are two lenses, we can look at this through. O’Brien served as an OC for the 2011 Patriots for one year before getting his break as the head honcho in Houston in 2012. Now with different teams come different personnel and schemes. So, with that in mind, we’re going to look at it from every angle to get a good preview of the 2021 Tide on the offensive end.

As a head coach, O'Brien has shown a propensity to establish the run game, ranking in the top 10 in attempts and yards in four of his seven years as a head coach in Houston. The Tide's loss of Mac Jones, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle lends next year's team to push more towards a run-oriented offense.

Now, this may come as a surprising being that O'Brien was able to nab a generational talent in QB Deshaun Watson but there was a method to the madness.

In two full seasons under O'Brien,  Watson finished top five in rushing yards and touchdowns among QB’s in the league. This laid the foundation for the fruitful RPO and play action attacks.

DWatson Play action RPO

For the sake of comparison, Bryce Young is more Russell Wilson than Watson. An undersized QB with a rocket for an arm and the ability to buy time with quick twitch and shiftiness.

But do I think O'Brien will use Young similarly to Watson?

You’re damn skippy.

Young’s mobility can add a dimension to the offense that’s similar to Watson's, allowing for ball control, low risk plays, and complimentary football to put the defense in favorable positions. In addition to a deep running back room with Brian Robinson Jr, Jase McClellan, and Trey Sanders we might see the return of a run-first squad from previous teams in the Saban Era.

Now let's look at this clip where O'Brien speaks on the mentality he had as an OC on the 2011 Patriots.

“People say pro football is matchups, but all football is matchups. You want to get the ball to the best players.”

Now let's check the ball distribution of the 2011 Patriots.


Now Wes Walker primarily worked the slot and was utilized in the quick/ intermediate game to keep the defense honest. This was bolstered by having Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski as security blankets and red-zone threats.

Now let’s plug the pieces we have into the equation.

With John Metchie having experience in the slot and the outside so it’s very plausible to believe he’ll be moved around to exploit mismatches. With his uncanny skill to blow the top off the defense teams will have to give a cushion, giving him and the other receivers room to work underneath.

Jahleel Billingsley showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season and him playing Aaron Hernandez/ Rob Gronkowski role could unlock an offense that’s multi-faceted and deep with weapons. Alongside that, he can provide a bigger target/ catch radius for Bryce to work with.

Replicating what we had in 2020 is impossible and that shouldn’t be the expectation. Though it wont be as flashy, revolutionary, or creative, the 2021 offense can be effective enough to get us where we want to be.

For more analysis and breakdowns stay tuned to Tide 100.9.

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