Bill O’Brien, it appears, is headed back to the college ranks. O’Brien, who was ousted from his position as Texans head coach after an 0-4 start this fall, will reportedly join Nick Saban’s coaching staff at Alabama, replacing Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports. Sarkisian, whose final game was Monday night’s National Championship win over Ohio State, is leaving Alabama to become the new head coach at Texas.
Despite his recent foray into the NFL, O’Brien boasts extensive experience at the college level, previously serving as head coach of Penn State, offensive coordinator at both Duke and Georgia Tech and a position coach at Maryland and his alma mater, Brown University. The 51-year-old rose to prominence as an assistant under Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who maintains a close relationship with Saban, his former defensive coordinator in Cleveland.
This is probably as good a gig as O’Brien could have hoped for to begin his post-Texans career. Alabama’s offensive coordinator position has served as a stepping stone for many including Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll (who many suspect will hand an NFL head-coaching job this offseason), Jim McElwain of Central Michigan and the aforementioned Sarkisian.
Despite leading Houston to four division titles throughout his seven-year tenure with the team, O’Brien at times seemed ill-equipped to be a head coach, butting heads with star players DeAndre Hopkins and JJ Watt while also squandering an early 24-0 lead in last year’s playoff collapse at Kansas City. O’Brien’s hot temper and gruff locker-room demeanor proved to be his undoing in Houston, though Feldman doesn’t expect those shortcomings to hamper him at Alabama. When Feldman asked someone familiar with O’Brien how he would mesh with Saban, the answer he received was, “Really well … He worked for Belichick.”
While O’Brien’s redemption tour kicks off in Tuscaloosa, the Texans are still searching for his replacement, conducting recent interviews with Jim Caldwell, Marvin Lewis and Leslie Frazier, among others.