Former Patriots assistant eyed Foxboro return to potentially succeed Belichick


Much has been made through the years about who would be the quarterback that wound up following Tom Brady with the New England Patriots.

While that question has been answered, there's still the topic of who will ultimately succeed Bill Belichick as head coach in Foxboro.

According to a new book from ESPN's Seth Wickersham titled "It's Better to Be Feared," a former Patriots assistant coach fancied himself as Belichick's heir apparent to the point he tried to get fired from another job in order to position himself for the role.

New book sheds light on when Tom Brady considered leaving Bill Belichick

Bill O'Brien, who spent five seasons in New England as an offensive assistant from 2007-11 -- the final year as coordinator -- told a colleague that he might try to get fired from his head coaching job with the Houston Texans because he thought he might be able to succeed Belichick, according to the book.

As the relationship between Brady and Belichick deteriorated, Brady, Robert Kraft and a few others discussed who might replace Belichick. 

"Kraft sometimes groaned to confidants that Belichick didn't show him the respect he deserved, but he was in no rush for life after him," Wickersham wrote in an excerpt published on "Brady, though, seemed ready for it. ... 'I don't want to play for Bill anymore,' he told people close to him in 2017."

If offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left following that season for a head coaching gig -- as he nearly did, for the Indianapolis Colts -- O'Brien thought that he could return to his former role and be at the front of the line to step in for Belichick some day.


"The leaks from O'Brien's camp, claiming he wanted out, were so aggressive as to be suspicious, as if he knew he had a golden parachute," Wickersham wrote. "In the end, though, the [Texans] chose O'Brien over Smith, giving the coach more control over football operations. O'Brien later joked to a confidant that it was a somewhat empty victory. 'I was trying to get fired,' he said."

O'Brien's victory in Houston was short-lived, as he was fired after an 0-4 start to the 2020 season. Over parts of seven seasons with the Texans, O'Brien went 52-48 in the regular season and 2-4 in the postseason.

Prior to taking over in Houston, the Boston native spent two years as head coach at Penn State, going 15-9 in two seasons following Joe Paterno's departure.