"That would have been a tremendous catch, and he (Welker) should never think twice about that," O'Brien, now head coach at Penn State, told reporters for The Boston Globe and Providence Journal on Saturday at the Big New England Coaching Clinic. "And it had nothing to do with us losing the game. There were many, many plays before that where we could have made better coaching decisions, and better plays. That's just one play of many."
The play in question came with 4:06 left and the Patriots leading the New York Giants 17-15.
It was second-and-11 from the Giants 44, and Welker realized one defender was in Cover 2 and the other wasn't. He split the two of them and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady fired the pass. If Welker would have caught the ball, it would have advanced the Patriots inside the red zone and put them in position to put the game away.
"That's a play I make a thousand times," Welker said after the game. "I just didn't make it."
Welker's failure to catch Brady's pass drew massive amounts off criticism, including from Brady's wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
"My husband cannot f------ throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times," Bundchen said in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium in a video captured by theinsider.com, a gossip website.
Welker, slated for unrestricted free agency on March 13, has made four Pro Bowls and become a fan favorite in New England since being traded to the Patriots in 2007. But the late drop put the 5-foot-9, 185-pound wideout squarely in the eye of the storm following the Patriots' second Super Bowl loss to the Giants.
Welker will likely be given New England's franchise tag by Monday's deadline and O'Brien said his former wideout "definitely" got more grief than he deserved for the missed connection.
"I would tell (fans) they should be very grateful ... to have a player like Wes Welker as a Patriot," O'Brien told reporters. "He is what Boston is all about, in my opinion. He's a hard-working guy, he's a tough guy, he's an honest guy, nothing was ever given to him."
Information from ESPNBoston.com's Jackie MacMullan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.