As more head coaching jobs at the NFL level continue to open up, in competition with the Texans, and as the NFL waits for the first team with a vacancy to pull the trigger on a new hire, former Houston Texans head coach has found his next home. As first reported by Bruce Feldman of FOX, O'Brien will be headed back to the college game, where he won the Bear Bryant Award in 2012 at Penn State, taking over play calling duties for Nick Saban at the University of Alabama:
As I reported last week Bill O'Brien, the former #Texans and Penn State head coach visited Tuscaloosa about replacing Steve Sarkisian as Alabama’s OC.. I’m hearing that deal is expected to happen in the next few days.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 12, 2021
So while the rest of us wallow in the misery of Jack Easterby's continued employment over at NRG Stadium, and this jacked up roster that O'Brien and Easterby created (possibly in a treehouse), O'Brien gets a pillow-soft landing in Tuscaloosa, scheming up plays for the best amateur players in the country, and possibly getting a title ring next season.
Oh, and the Texans are still paying him for two more years to stay the hell away. Not a bad gig. Now, here are a few more thoughts on this bit of news:
Even O'Brien can't screw this up
When the news broke on Monday night about this decision from Alabama, to name O'Brien the OC, the jokes wrote themselves. "Hey, Tide fans, be prepared to suck on opening drives.... be ready for lots of runs up the middle on 2nd and 10 .... hope you like bubble screens on 3rd and 20!" The fact of the matter is that O'Brien will probably do just fine. An average head coach at the NFL level can scheme circles around most college coaches, and as a COACH, O'Brien was just that, average. (To be clear, he was a dreadful GM, though!) O'Brien will have the talent advantage in literally every matchup ... provided he doesn't trade his best receivers for whatever the college equivalent is of a second round draft pick and David Johnson. (See! THEY WRITE THEMSELVES!)
O'Brien working for Nick Saban makes a lot of sense
The other gut reaction on social media to this news, other than the sea of play calling jokes, was conjecture over who would kill whom first, Bill O'Brien or Nick Saban, what with both guys having some degree of volatility. I think this is very much overblown. O'Brien worked for the ultimate curmudgeon in New England in Bill Belichick, so he's used to toiling under a cloud of perpetual, victorious misery, so he'll be used to the culture. Also, while O'Brien is an egomaniac, he is self aware enough to know where he stands in the pecking order of coaches, and he knows he is well in back of Saban. It will work out fine.
University of Alabama is football's "coach rehab" outlet
Chalk O'Brien up as the latest failed football coach to seek career rehabilitation in Tuscaloosa. After getting fired by USC, Lane Kiffin wound up with the Crimson Tide coordinating the offense for a few years, and now he is back head coaching in the SEC, having just landed a contract extension with Ole Miss. Brian Daboll was a multi-time failed OC in the NFL when he went to Alabama for a year in 2017 as the OC. Fast forward and he is one of the hottest head coaching candidates in the NFL this offseason. Finally, Steve Sarkisian was last seen in college as a head coach getting fired at USC for literally being drunk at work, and in the NFL getting fired by the Falcons for being bad at his job. He gets to Alabama and now he is getting ready to take over at TEXAS! This is a really smart move by O'Brien.
What will be O'Brien's next move after Alabama?
So it begs the question — if it all works out for O'Brien, then what will be next for him? My guess is that he would love to go back to the NFL, but he will never have the level of power he did with the Texans ever again, and it's been proven that he doesn't play well with others. (Ask anybody in the building at NRG Stadium.) I think a Power Five conference college job appears more likely, as O'Brien could go back to being the king of a backwater fiefdom somewhere, recruit his roster, mold a program in his vision, and make a good wage in doing so. He would be a very sellable head coach to recruits with his New England, Alabama, and NFL head coaching background. I can picture him now, name dropping the ever loving crap out of Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson.
And now, I'm just getting angry again. Congrats, Bill. I guess.
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