HOUSTON — Bill O’Brien has gone from perhaps the toughest coaching job in college football to a coveted gig with one of the NFL’s most respected teams.
Less than two years after replacing Joe Paterno as coach at Penn State, the 44-year-old O’Brien has returned to the NFL as coach of the Houston Texans. He was an offensive assistant under Bill Belichick at New England from 2007-12, but the Penn State job was his first as a head coach.
Now he gets the Texans, who spiraled to an NFL-worst 2-14 record last season.
“He showed that he has the ability to step into difficult situations and turn them around,” Houston owner Bob McNair said. “He did that at Penn State under very difficult circumstances and did an outstanding job there. We expect to see good things happen immediately.”
O’Brien was 15-9 at Penn State, hit hard by NCAA sanctions levied for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that cost the late Paterno his job.
He was introduced on Friday, taking over for Gary Kubiak, who was fired with three games left in the Texans’ dismal season. Despite Houston’s collapse, many believe it is a plum position because the Texans have many talented pieces in place and could make a quick turnaround. Houston won consecutive AFC South titles before this year’s disaster.
O’Brien said he spoke to many people he trusted throughout the NFL before deciding to come work in Houston.
“These people were unanimous in one thought, and that is that the Houston Texans are a top-flight organization that does things the right way,” he said. “It’s rare enough to be a head coach at the highest level of football. What makes this opportunity special and put it over the top for myself and my family was to work for an owner like Bob McNair.”