Bill O’Brien worked closely with Tom Brady when he was a Patriots assistant.
He’s now set to return to the NFL to coach Houston, and he’s a long way from Brady. The Texans have the No. 1 draft pick, and O’Brien might well find himself having to groom a rookie quarterback.
Two people familiar with the negotiations, speaking to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because an official announcement hadn’t been made, said Tuesday night that O’Brien reached an agreement to coach the Texans. He is expected to be introduced Thursday.
He inherits a team filled with talent, but whose biggest problem is at quarterback. Veteran Matt Schaub, Houston’s starter since 2007, was benched after six games. Case Keenum took over after that, but his lack of success showed he wasn’t the answer either, and the team finished on a 14-game skid.
A number of talented quarterbacks could be available in May’s draft. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, and Fresno State’s Derek Carr, younger brother of Houston’s first-ever draft pick, David Carr, are among the top-rated quarterbacks expected to be in the draft.
O’Brien spent 2007-12 as offensive assistant under Bill Belichick at New England. O’Brien was the team’s quarterbacks coach from 2009-11, and Brady threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns in the 2011 regular season, when the Patriots went to the Super Bowl.
But his success with quarterbacks didn’t begin or end with Brady.
In 2001 he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Georgia Tech and worked with George Godsey. Godsey broke school records for yards passing (3,085) and completions (249) and led the ACC with 257.1 yards passing a game.
His success in grooming quarterbacks continued at Penn State in 2012. Under O’Brien’s tutelage, senior Matt McGloin made remarkable improvement. He led the Big 10 in yards passing (3,271), completions (270) and touchdown passes (24). McGloin increased his completion percentage from 54.1 to 60.5 percent from 2011 to 2012.
McGloin won the Burlsworth Trophy as the nation’s best player who began his career as a walk-on, and signed the Oakland Raiders, for whom he started six games in 2013.
He talked to CBS Sports Radio earlier this year about what O’Brien meant to his development.
“I have no problem saying it,” McGloin said “If it wasn’t for coach O’Brien I wouldn’t be in the NFL today. I wouldn’t have got a look.”
In 2013, O’Brien began his work with freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. He won Big 10 freshman of the year honors after throwing for 2,955 yards, which was second most in the league and third in Penn State history.
He had 20 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions and ran for four more scores in leading the Nittany Lions to a 7-5 record.
O’Brien will become the third coach in Texans history, following Dom Capers, who led the team from its expansion season in 2002, and Gary Kubiak.
Kubiak took over after Capers was fired following Houston’s 2-14 season in 2005. Kubiak went 61-64 and led Houston to its first two playoff appearances and two AFC South titles before being fired in early December.
The Texans were expected to contend for the Super Bowl this season, but instead lost nine games by a touchdown or less to end the season with the NFL’s worst record at 2-14.
Despite Houston’s issues at the position, the Texans’ new quarterback will be surrounded by plenty of playmakers. Houston has receiver Andre Johnson, who had 1,407 yards receiving this season; last year’s first-round pick receiver DeAndre Hopkins; and should get star running back Arian Foster back next year. Foster missed the last eight games of the season after back surgery.