The O'Brien Era Begins
By Emin Avakian
This week, the Houston Texans introduced Bill O'Brien as the new head coach following Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips.
Phillips, of course, was given the interim tag after Kubiak was fired on December 6. The Texans lost their final 14 games of the season, a streak that will carry over into next season under O'Brien.
O'Brien, who exceeded expectations at Penn St. after stablizing the program in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal, will need to guide the Texans to a quick turnaround after a disastrous 2-14 season. Arguably, he steps in with higher expectations than Kubiak did when he took over the then expansion team in 2002.
The 44-year-old Brown University alumnus isn't a stranger to the NFL, either. He served two years under Bill Belichick as an assistant in New England.
While Belichik's coaching tree hasn't proven to be the most successful (Josh McDaniels, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Charlie Weis come to mind), O'Brien's 15-9 record at Penn State under difficult circumstances, plus being experienced in the professional ranks, and add Chip Kelly's recent success with the Eagles, it's understandable why the Texans went with O'Brien over a current assistant in the NFL.
During his comments, O'Brien thanked Penn State for the opportunity to be head coach. He said he never attempted to mislead the school or its fan base -- or those players -- but couldn't turn down the opportunity with Houston. "The players there mean a lot to me, and they always will."
"I spoke to many people during this process who I have great respect for in this league," O'Brien added. "These people were unanimous in one thought. That is that the Houston Texans were a top-flight organization that does things the right way."
The Texans have the first overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, and it will be up to O'Brien and Houston's front office to kick off the new regime on the right foot. Given the team is uncertain at the quarterback position, expect the Texans to draft one. Teddy Bridgewater is widely predicted to be the No. 1 pick, but Texans Owner Bob McNair said recently the team is open to trading the pick.
More than likely, McNair leaked that information to attract offers from other teams. Another possibility is that the Texans have their eyes on UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, who might still be on the board if, say, the Jaguars trade up to take Bridgewater and swap top-five picks with Houston.
If the Texans decide to keep the first overall pick, it will mark the third time in the franchise's history. The previous two picks (David Carr and Mario Williams) weren't stellar, in hindsight.
No matter who the Texans draft, O'Brien is in the rare situation of not being in rebuilding mode, despite a 2-14 season. He takes over a solid roster, with a core still in its prime, backed by Arian Foster, J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing. Foster and Cushing will be returning from serious injuries, but look for them to fuel and spark the offense and defense, respectively.
It doesn't help O'Brien's cause that he has a 14-game losing streak hanging over his head, and the quarterback position not being solidfied is something a new head coach could do without. Matt Schaub is probably on his way out, leaving Case Keenum and T.J. Yates to battle ::insert rookie here:: for the starting job. Regardless, it's going to be a busy offseason for a front office and coaching staff that wants to quickly forget 2013.