The Buffalo Bills fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey Tuesday morning, and tapped quarterbacks coach Joe Brady as the interim replacement. After averaging 41 points per game in Weeks 2-4, Buffalo’s offense could only muster up an average of 20.5 points per game since. In fact, in Weeks 2-4 (three weeks), they scored the same amount of points (123) as they had the past six games. The offense has been stuck in a rut and the team’s brass decided that making a change at offensive coordinator was the move needed to inject some life into their offense. It will be tough for interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady to make significant changes to this offense during the season, but let’s take a quick look at what we might see from Brady and the offense going forward.
Who is Buffalo Bills interim OC Joe Brady?
Joe Brady is 34 years old and is in his second year with the Bills. Fun fact, Joe Brady went to college and played football at William & Mary, the same college head coach Sean McDermott attended. Here is Brady’s coaching career thus far:
- 2017 - New Orleans Saints, offensive assistant
- 2019 - LSU Tigers (NCAA), passing game coordinator & wide receivers coach
- 2020 - Carolina Panthers, offensive coordinator
- 2022 - Buffalo Bills, QB coach
Some highlights from Brady's coaching career are his involvement in the high-flying offense that included Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase at LSU, which won a National Championship. For his work at LSU in their championship season, Brady won the Broyles Award for best assistant coach in college football.
Brady’s first taste in the NFL was under the tutelage of Sean Payton, and I’m sure much of his concepts at their core come from what he learned in his first couple of seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
What can we learn from Brady’s time at LSU?
College football and the NFL are looking more and more alike in terms of style of play and concepts, but not everything always translates. I think it’s important to take a look back and respect what Brady was able to do during his time at LSU, so let’s take a look at what some of his former players from the 2019 season had to say about him.
Quarterback Joe Burrow
In the Cincinnati Bengals Week 11 press conference, Burrow was asked about Brady’s new role with the Buffalo Bills. Burrow’s response was, “Joe’s awesome, Joe’s very creative. He always has something for a certain look that you’re seeing on tape to take advantage of that. It’s a big opportunity for him, I’m excited for him. He helped me a lot. He helped me become the player I am today. Nothing but love for Joe.”
Burrow also commented on Brady getting hired by the Bills as a QB coach in a news conference before Super Bowl LVI saying, “He really helped me a lot going into my last year. He brought in the Saints’ system. We watched a lot of film of Drew and the things he was doing. That helped me with my footwork and my reads and all that. I owe a lot to Joe.”
Wide receiver Justin Jefferson
In Jefferson’s rookie season, he appeared on “The Pat McAfee Show” and had this to say about Joe Brady:
"Coming from Joe Brady's offense... It kind of gave me a head start to the league, going in & knowing the concepts it was a little easier to grasp"@JJettas2 on balling out as a rookie #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE pic.twitter.com/GPYs9pVaaf— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 14, 2021
Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase
In a news conference before Super Bowl LVI, Chase commented on having Joe Brady as a coach and him joining the Bills at that time. Chase said, “Once he got there, we started doing a lot of hand-eye coordination drills. Doing drills that you don’t usually see every day”. Chase also said, “He gave us a lot of confidence as an offensive unit. I felt like he put his players in a position to be successful. Once he did that, the players just made everything happen after that. Joe Brady definitely made our intelligence go up too. So he helped us out a lot.”
What can we learn from Brady’s time coaching in the NFL?
As I noted before, Joe Brady was brought up under Sean Payton’s offense with the Saints. His core values and principles will likely revolve around what he learned there, but he obviously will have his own tweaks and preferences for calling an offense.
Brady had his chance at calling his own plays in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers in 2020. It’s worth noting that Brady was calling plays under an “offensive” head coach, Matt Rhule. Brady was also working with Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold as his quarterbacks. Here are some tendencies that Brady had with the Panthers.
Reached out to @1PantherPlace once Joe Brady was hired as QB coach by the #Bills for some insight into what his tenure looked like there. Below are his notes. He also ended the conversation with “I like Joe a lot, I think this is a great reboot for him”#Bills #BillsMafia… pic.twitter.com/172bluZP4r— Anthony Cover 1 (@Pro__Ant) November 14, 2023
Brady’s tenure with the Panthers didn’t go all that well, as they were ranked in the bottom half of the league in most offensive categories. In 2020 the Panthers were ranked 24th in points and 21st in yards. In 2021, Brady didn’t even get the chance to see the season through as he was fired in December of that year, but the Panthers finished the season 29th in points and 30th in yards.
Will the Bills’ offense be any different?
Joe Brady took over as interim offensive coordinator on Tuesday morning. That gives him five days to prepare the offense for a game on Sunday. It will be tough to incorporate any major changes, if any in that time span. Furthermore, the Bills are facing the New York Jets this week — one of the best defenses in the league. We’ll likely just get a glimpse of Brady’s play-call preferences in certain situations like early down run/pass, red zone, 3rd & Short, etc. As the season goes it will give Brady time to incorporate some new wrinkles into the offense, especially during their bye in Week 13. Here are some differences that we might see to the Bills’ offense with Brady at the helm.
More unique personnel groupings
I’d expect Brady to try and use personnel groupings to create mismatches and give teams some combinations that they haven’t seen yet. The easiest way to make a “wrinkle” is to change who’s in the play. This doesn’t mean taking wide receiver Stefon Diggs and tight end Dalton Kincaid out, but it might mean instead of wide receiver Gabe Davis on the outside every play, it might mean receivers James Harty or Khalil Shakir or “x” player running the play because their skill set is better for that specific route.
Utilizing players’ strengths
The biggest example I can think of is possibly getting running back James Cook the ball more as a receiver out of the backfield. Brady worked with one of the best backs out of the backfield ever, Christian McCaffrey — he’s no stranger to using these talents. In 2020, the Panthers ranked 5th in the NFL in pass success rate to RBs. This could also mean putting players in a position to win a rep with specific players’ strengths.
Josh Allen being under center more
In 2020 the Carolina Panthers ran 40% of their snaps with the QB under center, which ranked 12th most in the NFL.
Maybe a successful screen or two will happen
The defense will never see it coming, because the Bills have been atrocious at running screen plays in recent memory. Here are some examples of screen plays Brady ran at LSU, courtesy of 247sports.com:
Empty quick screen to the slot on short side of the field
RB slip screen to trips
RB swing screen to wide side of field with trips
Quick screen to motion WR while under center
Some more juice from the offense
Not only has the offense performed poorly the past six weeks, it’s also looked like they just woke up from a nap. The defense can regularly be seen playing with energy and passion — they look like they’re having fun. The offense on the other hand looks lifeless and unexcited. Hopefully, Brady and some new changes can give the offense the energy and passion they’re looking for. This isn’t so much an “X’s and O’s” type of deal, but, honestly, it may be just as important. When you play well, you have fun, and it has a snowball effect that turns into the offense “getting hot.” Hopefully, this “new” Buffalo Bills offense can cause an avalanche.