New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, whose sideline dust-up with quarterback Tom Brady made headlines a few weeks ago, has emerged as a head-coaching candidate, according to league sources, and is expected to receive overtures to interview with teams.
Working in O'Brien's favor is the fact his contract is set to expire. He loves working with Brady and coach Bill Belichick, according to sources, and making a lateral move isn't very likely, as the Patriots want to keep him. However, it's very difficult to secure top coordinators in the NFL -- teams routinely block permission for assistants to interview for lateral moves -- and O'Brien's contract status makes him, in essence, a free agent.
One job that could intrigue O'Brien is with the Kansas City Chiefs, according to a source familiar with his thinking. The team is considering lifting the "interim coach" label from Romeo Crennel and promoting him, with an offensive-minded "coach in waiting" joining the staff, according to league sources.
Josh McDaniels, currently the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, also will be a candidate for that role in Kansas City and the head-coaching position, given his relationship with general manager Scott Pioli and prior work with quarterback Matt Cassel from their Patriots days.
O'Brien also worked with Pioli in New England, worked with Cassel and knows the system and terminology.
In an offseason in which seven teams or more could be interviewing head-coaching candidates, and at a time when there are fewer "hot coordinators" than normal, O'Brien's stock is on the rise. Playoff success with the Patriots would only boost his profile.
O'Brien also is among the list of candidates that Penn State has compiled for its opening, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.