The New England Patriots drafted 10 quarterbacks during Tom Brady’s career. Outside of Jimmy Garoppolo, none of them represented a real threat to Brady’s starting job. In fact, many of those draft picks turned out to make little impact in the NFL.
But while Rohan Davey and Danny Etling barely made a blip on the NFL radar, some of Brady’s former backups have found tremendous success on the coaching side. In fact, three current NFL coaches were once Patriots’ draft selections who worked behind the future Hall of Famer. Let’s take a look at how each of their careers has developed since leaving New England.
Kliff Kingsbury, Head Coach, Arizona Cardinals
One of the first stars to emerge from Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, Kliff Kingsbury left Texas Tech as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in college football history. He threw 95 touchdowns in 43 games and accumulated a ridiculous 12,423 passing yards in a record-setting career. However, despite his gaudy statistics, the 6-foot-3, 213-pound signal-caller fell to the sixth round of the 2003 NFL draft.
Unfortunately, Kingsbury’s time in New England was brief. He spent his rookie year on injured reserve but did earn a Super Bowl ring. The Patriots cut him in the fall of 2004 and Kingsbury managed to bounce around a few practice squads before making his regular-season debut in 2005 as a member of the New York Jets.
Following stints in NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League, Kingsbury began his coaching career at the University of Houston. He played a pivotal role in the development of future NFL starter Case Keenum. Known as an offensive guru, Kingsbury later worked at Texas A&M before returning to his alma mater to become the 15th head coach in Red Raiders history.
Despite annually fielding one of the nation’s worst defenses, Kingsbury made a name for himself due to Texas Tech’s aggressive spread passing game. The Arizona Cardinals took notice and hired him last year to become their new head coach. After taking Kyler Murray with the first overall pick, the Cardinals made incredible improvements on offense. Arizona went from the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense in 2018 to finishing 16th in 2019. And after stealing DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans, the future looks bright out west.
Kevin O’Connell, Offensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
Five years later, the Patriots dipped into the quarterback pool yet again by selecting Kevin O’Connell in the third round. A very good athlete and four-year team captain at San Diego State, O’Connell possessed a lot of the intangibles that New England looks for at the position. The 94th overall pick lasted just one year and was quickly claimed by the Lions. O’Connell did bounce around the AFC East, spending most of his time with the New York Jets.
Though O’Connell never challenged Brady, he did utilize his intelligence in a new profession: coaching. In 2015, the Cleveland Browns hired him to be their quarterbacks coach. His lone year in Cleveland did not go well, as the combination of Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel flopped tremendously.
However, O’Connell got his break in 2017 when the Washington Redskins appointed him to the same position. Kirk Cousins threw 27 touchdowns and posted a quarterback rating of 93.9 that season, which ended up being his final one in Washington. After spending one season as the offensive coordinator, O’Connell landed in Los Angeles and will be the Rams’ offensive coordinator this season. His job may be more difficult without Todd Gurley, but he still has plenty of weapons to utilize while working alongside another bright young mind in Sean McVay.
Zac Robinson, Assistant Quarterbacks Coach, Los Angeles Rams
The last of Brady’s former “backups” to have already made the transition to coaching, Zac Robinson has quickly become one of the hottest coaching candidates in the NFL. That certainly qualifies as a surprise considering how much of an unknown he was early in his career.
A 2010 seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State, Robinson actually didn’t even make it to the final 53-man roster. Still, the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals all gave him opportunities before he called it a career.
However, Robinson really gained steam as an analyst for Pro Football Focus. The 32-year-old parlayed that success into an assistant quarterbacks coach spot with the Rams. Ironically, he was brought in to help replace Zac Taylor, another former NFL quarterback who made the transition to coaching.
Robinson may have barely known Brady in his brief time in New England, but it just goes to show that the Patriots may know what they’re doing when evaluating quarterbacks in the draft.
Now let’s see what Jarrett Stidham brings to the table.
No pressure, kid.