Bill O’Brien: From Georgia Tech To The Big Time


Bill O’Brien played his college ball at Brown University.  Following his collegiate career, he was hired by Brown as tight ends coach in 1993, and then coached their inside linebackers in 1994.

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His first big coaching opportunity at the D-I level took place in 1995, when Georgia Tech brought him in as an offensive graduate assistant, a position he held through the 1997 season.

Georgia Tech promoted O’Brien to running backs coach from 1998-2000.  His coaching abilities played a huge part in the success of running backs Sean Gregory (837 yards, 6 TDs in 1999), and Joe Burns (908 yards, 12 TDs in 2000).

Acknowledging O’Brien’s continued success, Georgia Tech promoted him to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the 2001 and 2002 seasons.  He was also named assistant head coach for the 2002 season.

The Yellow Jackets offense averaged 31 points per game in 2001, while declining to only 25.5 in 2002.  As a result, the Yellow Jackets finished the 2011 season 9-4, while falling to 7-6 in 2002.

Joe Burns followed up his solid 2000 campaign by rushing for 1,165 yards, while starting quarterback George Godsey finished with 3,085 yards passing, and 18 touchdowns thrown.

Following the 2002 season, O’Brien accepted a job with Maryland University as their running backs coach.

He went on to coach for four years under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots from 2007-2011.  He took that experience, and rather than accept another job in the NFL, O’Brien accepted the vacant head coaching position at Penn State, after the fallout from the Sandusky drama.

Following the suspensions handed down by the NCAA, O’Brien made a public statement saying:

“Today we receive a very harsh penalty from the NCAA and as head coach of the Nittany Lions football program, I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the University forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence. I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes.

I was then and I remain convinced that our student athletes are the best in the country. I could not be more proud to lead this team and these courageous and humble young men into the upcoming 2012 season. Together we are committed to building a better athletic program and university.”

His commitment was felt throughout the 2012 season, as the Nittany Lions finished 8-4, and O’Brien was named the “Big Ten Coach of the Year” by media and coaches.  He was also named National Coach of the Year by ESPN, and was awarded the “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year award.  His accomplishments did not go unnoticed by the NFL.

In early 2013, O’Brien had interviews with both the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles. While these offers were very tempting, he remained loyal to Penn State, where he decided to return instead of accepting an NFL head coaching position.  The Nittany Lions finished 7-5 in 2013.

Following the 2013 season, the Houson Texans fired then head coach Gary Kubiak.  The Texans had a strong interest in O’Brien, and on January 2, 2014 he was signed at their new head coach.

O’Brien wasted very little time restructuring the team, in hopes of getting the Texans back in playoff contention, drafting young sensation LB Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina with the first overall pick in the NFL draft.

He would later have the entire depth chart dumped at the quarterback position, to later place the team’s immediate future in the hands of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

As a result, the Texans are off to a solid start (2-1) thus far, and are on pace to challenge for the AFC South title.

The one big advantage the Texans have in O’Brien is the fact that he’s always been a successful coach.  Dating back to his initial years at Georgia Tech, coach O’Brien has always produced a winner, and that same mentality will bring success to the Houston Texans.