By Tom E. Curran
We can now drop the "de facto." For two seasons, Bill O'Brien has been the lead game-planner and playcaller for the Patriots offense. His title, though, has been quarterbacks coach. On Friday, the Patriots decided to hand him the title of the job that best fits the job he's been doing. It's a good deal for O'Brien, who persevered through a tough 2009 after succeeding former OC Josh McDaniels after McDaniels left to coach the Broncos. Coordinating a 2009 offense that featured a still-healing Tom Brady and a subtly declining Randy Moss, O'Brien got a lot of flak for the Patriots' offensive failures, especially in the second halves of games. But in 2010, he helped craft an offense that successfully featured tight ends, reincorporated Deion Branch after the trade of Moss and got production from unlikely sources (Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis). Brady, meanwhile, returned to full strength and had one of the great regular seasons in NFL history with 36 touchdown passes, four picks and arecord for throws without an interception. The fiery O'Brien and equally fiery Brady have been known to flare at each other, but Brady consistently praises O'Brien's preparation and game-calling. O'Brien, meanwhile, has deflectedsole responsibility for offensive game-planning when asked about it, saying it's a shared job among all the offensive coaches and Bill Belichick. Meanwhile, jettisoned safeties coach Corwin Brown will be replaced by linebackers coach Matt Patricia. Brown, we've come to hear, could be an especially hard guy to work with whether you werea coaching peer or a player. Patricia figured to be a leading candidate for the defensive coordinator spot vacated last year after the team's au revoir to Dean Pees (Belichick handles that job). Patricia will be working with a group that - despite Brown's demeanor - had an outstanding season. Patrick Graham, a defensive assistant, now takes over a linebackers group that returns an All Pro inside linebacker in Jerod Mayo. The 32-year-old Graham is a 2002 graduate of Yale where he played defensive line. Brian Flores goes from offensive assistantassistant coach of special teams to Graham's old job. There's no word out of Dallas yet on the possible hiring of highly respected Patriots strength coach Mike Woicik. It's been acknowledged by a source that the loss would be a blow because of Woicik's expertise but that Harold Nash, Woicik's current assistant, is well thought of, as well.