It looks like Alabama has narrowed down to its next offensive coordinator. After making several trips to Tuscaloosa, Ala. This month, former Houston Texans and Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien looks set to take over Crimson Tide’s offense next season.
While O’Brien’s appointment has not yet been announced, Alabama head coach Nick Saban hinted at the move during a Zoom call for the Paul Bryant Award on Wednesday.
“I think he will do a good job with our players here,” Saban said during the call. “I have always tried to have the best knowledge and experience I can, for our players and their development, and I definitely think he can contribute to that in a very positive way.”
O’Brien was fired by the Texans in October after leading the team to a 0-4 start. Prior to his dismissal, he spent six full seasons as head coach of the organization, winning AFC South four times. Prior to that, O’Brien spent two seasons as head coach at Penn State. He received the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award and Maxwell Coach of the Year Award in 2012 after bringing the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 season despite an 0-2 start and NCAA penalties. O’Brien also spent five seasons with the 2007-11 New England Patriots, working under Saban’s close friend Bill Belichick.
O’Brien served as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator in 2011. He also coached quarterbacks in 2009 and 2010 after coaching running backs in 2008. The 51-year-old also has offensive coordinator experience at the college level and led Georgia Tech’s 2001-02 offense and Duke’s offense from 2005-06.
“I’ve known Bill O’Brien for a long, long time, all the way back when he was an assistant at Georgia Tech with George O’Leary,” Saban said during the call. “I think when he was with Bill Belichick at the New England Patriots – who I think everyone knows the relationship with Bill – he was the offensive coordinator there. Went to Penn State in probably the most trying times of any good program that came out of a lot of crazy stuff, and he did an excellent job of rebuilding that program, getting players to stay there and have a really representative positive program.
“And I think he did a really good job in Houston when he was head coach. I think when he became general manager, things might not go exactly as he would have liked, and tried to have both roles. But having been the head coach of that league, I know how hard it is to do both of those things – probably impossible. So based on the workload until then, I think he is an excellent coach and a really good person. “
If hired, O’Brien will replace Broyles Award winner Steve Sarkisian, who accepted the head coach job in Texas earlier this month. O’Brien wanted to take over an Alabama team that ranked among the top five in scoring (48.5 points per game), the total offense (541.6 yards per game) and the offense (358.2 ypg). However, he is likely to miss several key components of this group, including Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, Davey O’Brien Award winner Mac Jones and Doak Walker Award winner Najee Harris, as well as the majority of an offensive line that served Joe Moore- the price.
During O’Brien’s last full season in charge of Houston last year, the Texans ranked 13th in the NFL in total offense, averaging 362 yards per game. Before the 2020 season, he handed over playcalling tasks to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly after taking over the role of manager in addition to his head coaching job.
Over the last four seasons, O’Brien has coached quarterback Deshaun Watson with double threat. In Alabama, the newly named coordinator will oversee another mobile passerby as former five-star recruiter Bryce Young is ready to take over the reins behind center. O’Brien helped Watson develop into one of the league’s best passers-by as the former Clemson star led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards en route to his third Pro Bowl this season. Alabama hopes he has a similar effect on Young as the tide seems to reload his offense for yet another title run this season.