The Myth of Bill O'Brien, Quarterback Developer
How exactly did Bill O'Brien develop his reputation as a quarterback guru?
Aaron M. Sprecher
As the Texans head into another offseason, following another embarrassing postseason loss, Houstonians are to be reassured that the Texans brain trust is going to do whatever is necessary to fix the problems with the team. The No. 1 priority, according to the Houston Chronicle, is finding a quarterback.
But here’s the question that must be asked: Does anybody out there, besides owner Bob McNair, really think that general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien are the guys to be put in charge of finding that quarterback? After all, the Texans have been searching for a franchise quarterback ever since David Carr was sacrificed to the expansion football gods, and just what is it about O’Brien that makes McNair think he's some quarterback whisperer?
That leads to another question: Just how did O’Brien develop this reputation as a quarterback guru? Where did this “history [of] coaching and developing quarterbacks,” as Deadspin phrased it, come from? Because there’s nothing in his background to indicate that he knows how to coach and develop a franchise quarterback.
O’Brien’s pro coaching career started in 2007 when he was hired on as an offensive assistant coach to Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots. He was elevated to quarterback coach in 2008. He coached Tom Brady for one game, then after Brady was lost for the season, he had the opportunity to develop Matt Cassel, Matt Gutierrez and Kevin O’Connell. In 2009 and 2010, he developed Brian Hoyer into being Tom Brady’s backup. In 2011 he developed the backup talents of Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.
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He became Penn State’s head coach for the 2012 and 2013 season. One of O’Brien’s Penn State quarterbacks, Matt McGloin, has developed into a backup quarterback for the Oakland Raiders (he’s so good as a backup that he couldn’t even beat out Matt Schaub for the No. 2 spot for the 2014 season). Then there’s Christian Hackenberg, who just declared himself for the NFL draft, who never completed 60 percent or more of his passes in college but has a strong arm and looks like a quarterback, just like Ryan Mallett looked like a quarterback.
And let’s look at the dung heap of QBs who have come through Houston during O’Brien’s time. There’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was crap before he came to the Texans, was crap while with the Texans and was only slightly better than crap with the Jets this past season. Then there were Mallett, Thad Lewis and Tom Savage. Case Keenum was here but got the hell out and escaped to the Rams.
This past season saw O’Brien bring in Brian Hoyer to be the quarterback, replacing Fitzpatrick, who had moved on. Hoyer, of course, had been the starting quarterback in Cleveland the year before, only he lost his job to Johnny Manziel, the man-child former Aggie who has now lost the job in Cleveland. Hoyer beat out Ryan Mallett (remember this little speech from O'Brien about how these kids could play). Hoyer then quickly lost the starting job to Mallett, but then Mallett just as quickly lost it back to Hoyer, then Mallett missed a team flight to Miami and the next thing you know, he's gone from the team and replaced by T.J. Yates, whom O'Brien had rejected the year before and who was at the time an unemployed NFL quarterback.
Then Hoyer was injured and then Yates was injured and the new solution for the Texans was Brandon Weeden, the failed former QB for the Browns — who lost his job in Cleveland to Hoyer — who was so bad as the quarterback in Dallas that he lost his job to Matt Cassel. Tom Savage was still with the team, but he ended both seasons on the IR, which seems to indicate that the only thing he's learned is how to get injured. Oh yeah, and then there was some guy named B.J. Daniels whom the Seahawks dumped and who was used by the Texans in the Wildcat when J.J. Watt was otherwise too busy.
So where in that listing of names is one single quarterback that Bill O’Brien has developed into a franchise QB? He’s developed a bunch of guys into mediocre backups and failures, but where’s that franchise quarterback? Where’s that name that has allowed O’Brien to develop this reputation as a quarterback coach and developer, someone whose name screams that Bill O’Brien is the guy to be entrusted with this job?
There’s only one name associated with any of O’Brien’s coaching stops who is an outstanding franchise quarterback. And that one name is Tom Brady. And if you seriously think that Bill O’Brien had anything to do with the development of Tom Brady, then your name must be Bob McNair and/or you’re insane, because Tom Brady was already a seven-year veteran with a Hall of Fame résumé when O’Brien joined the Patriots staff.
So let’s stop with this nonsense that says Bill O’Brien is a genius who knows how to develop franchise quarterbacks because there is nothing in this guy’s background that says he is the one you want in charge of your stud quarterback. Unless, that is, your idea of developing quarterbacks is developing them into bench-warmers who look good on the sidelines carrying clipboards. Because O’Brien appears to be very good at doing that.
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