The saying goes that he who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it. And with the Texans supposedly on the verge of hiring Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien, it's more than evident that Bob McNair has wiped the past from his mind.
O'Brien is the current IT boy of the coaching world. A Bill Belichick protégé who rode the arm of Tom Brady to offensive genius/QB guru status and turned that into the job at Penn State, a former collegiate power on the slide. And now, after he's turned in two mediocre seasons as a college coach, NFL teams are fighting for the chance to anoint O'Brien as their new savior.
What everyone seems to be forgetting is that every single coach hired off of the Belichick/Patriots coaching tree has failed, and failed spectacularly. Like Eric Mangini. And Josh McDaniels. And Romeo Crennel (twice). And Charlie Weis, who is now in the process of flaming out in his second college head coaching gig.
But O'Brien's different, his supporters say. He's got proven head coaching success. He's a known commodity. Yet he's been less successful in his two years as a college football coach (15-9) than Weis was in his first two years as head coach at Notre Dame (19-6), though no one would argue for hiring Weis to be an NFL head coach.
That's not a fair comparison, others would say. Notre Dame wasn't dealing with massive NCAA sanctions like Penn State. Weis didn't have to plead with players to stay, didn't have to deal with a loss of scholarships and a bowl ban. In which case perhaps the more apt comparison would be Lane Kiffin, who was 18-7 in his first two years after taking over a USC squad dealing with massive NCAA sanctions, players who could transfer to other schools without penalty, loss of scholarships and a bowl ban. Yet Kiffin has become a punch line who no sane owner would consider for an NFL head coaching gig, while Bob McNair is rushing to Cape Cod so he can beg for a guy coming from a coaching line known to produce failure after failure.
It's easy to see why McNair would be intrigued by O'Brien. He is the IT boy, the guy everybody wants, so McNair won't be met with ridicule for hiring him. And because of McNair's self-imposed criteria that the coach have both NFL and head coaching experience, well-regarded coordinators like Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden cannot even be considered (though Gruden was a Arena League and UFL head coach). Also, since McNair insisted on keeping the hapless Rick Smith around as GM, it's likely that such star names as Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy would've quickly said no, if McNair even approached them, that is.
Then, when presented with a list of candidates including Mike Sherman (really?), Ken Whisenhunt (yawn), Wade Phillips (meh) and Tom Cable (WTF?), a name like Bill O'Brien stands out and shines brightly. Then again, many people were dismissive of the first person McNair interviewed, former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith. However, if there's one name that should have been strongly considered, it's Smith because Smith has proven that he can win games when saddled with a lousy quarterback and a mediocre GM -- he got the Bears to the Super Bowl playing Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman at QB by emphasizing the running game and riding the backs of a strong defense -- something that could be done here in Houston.
But that's not sexy football, and sexy football is a high-flying offense that puts up lots of points, which is O'Brien's supposed specialty, supposed because no one knows what O'Brien can do without Tom Brady to bail him out, and supposed because that was also supposed to be the specialty of Weis and McDaniels, and they failed miserably without Brady.
Now, unlike the rest of the Belichick coaching tree rejects, O'Brien will get the chance to work with what should be a good QB as the Texans will have the first pick in the draft. But then there's no proof that O'Brien can develop a QB on the NFL level -- his reputation is based on coaching a veteran Tom Brady at the top of his game. Jay Gruden has been developing a QB at the NFL level in Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, and Gruden is well-versed in the same West Coast offense principles that the Texans employ, and Gruden's also used to working with dynamic receivers who can make great plays when given the chance. Then again, Gruden doesn't meet McNair's idiotic criteria, which Mike Zimmer also doesn't, though one would think an explosive defensive coach would be just the person to keep a team competitive while developing a young QB.
But ultimately, the biggest worry here is one anchored in recent history. This whole thing about O'Brien being this offensive genius. It's Gary Kubiak 2.0, a so-called offensive mastermind whose reputation rests on the laurels of great QBs (John Elway and Steve Young for Kubiak and Brady for O'Brien) who were already regarded as NFL legends before the so-called mastermind got to them. O'Brien, like Kubiak, has no real history of developing a QB on the pro level.
Reports are that McNair wants to make a decision by Tuesday. But what's the rush? Take some time, wait for some of the current playoff-bound assistants to become available. If the Vikings want to jump on O'Brien, then let them. There's no reason to rush after a Belichick disciple when history tells us the Belichick disciples fail. There's no need to rush after another version of Gary Kubiak, even if that's what the cool kids think should be done.
Bill O'Brien might end up being as successful as his former boss Belichick. History says that's not likely. History also tells us that Bob McNair is hopeless when it comes to making football decisions. So the Texans are probably doomed yet again. There are qualified candidates out there, but except for a Rooney Rule talk with Lovie Smith, there's zero evidence that McNair has considered any of them, which fits right in with the history of Bob McNair and the Texans, doomed to repeat the dreary past yet again.
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