Bill O'Brien (American football)

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Bill O'Brien
Color head-and-shoulders photograph of bald man (Bill O'Brien) wearing a white sport shirt, and sitting behind a microphone and in front of a navy blue Penn State backdrop.
O'Brien in 2012
Current position
TitleOffensive coordinator
Biographical details
Born (1969-10-23) October 23, 1969 (age 53)
Dorchester, Massachusetts
Playing career
Position(s)Defensive back, linebacker
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1993Brown (TE)
1994Brown (ILB)
1995–1997Georgia Tech (GA)
1998–2000Georgia Tech (RB)
2001–2002Georgia Tech (OC/QB)
2003–2004Maryland (RB)
2005–2006Duke (OC/QB)
2007New England Patriots (OA)
2008New England Patriots (WR)
2009–2010New England Patriots (QB)
2011New England Patriots (OC/QB)
2012–2013Penn State
2014–2020Houston Texans
2021–PresentAlabama (OC/QB)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
2020Houston Texans (GM)
Head coaching record
Overall15–9 (college)
54–52 (NFL)
Accomplishments and honors

William James O'Brien[1] (born October 23, 1969) is an American football coach who is currently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Alabama. O'Brien previously served as the head coach of the Houston Texans of the National Football League (NFL) from 2014 to 2020 and at Pennsylvania State University from 2012 to 2013. He also served as the general manager of the Texans in 2020.

O'Brien began his coaching career in 1993 at Brown University before spending more than a decade coaching in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). He joined the New England Patriots in 2007, where he eventually served as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in 2011. In 2012, he was hired by Penn State to take over a program that had just endured the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. In his first season as head coach, he led the team to an 8–4 record and won ESPN's National Coach of the Year award. After the 2012 season, O'Brien garnered significant interest to return to the National Football League (NFL) as a head coach and interviewed with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns. O'Brien decided to stay at Penn State, citing that it would send a poor message to leave after just one season. After his second season, he left Penn State to become the head coach of the Texans.[2][3][4]

Playing career[edit]

O'Brien was born on October 23, 1969, in Dorchester, Massachusetts to John O'Brien and Anne Murphy O'Brien. He grew up in Andover, Massachusetts with his parents and two brothers, John and Tom. As a child he played Little League.[5] After graduating from St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, O'Brien attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he played defensive end and linebacker for the Brown Bears from 1990 to 1992.[6]

Coaching career[edit]

College assistant[edit]

O'Brien's first coaching position was at Brown, where he coached tight ends in 1993 and inside linebackers in 1994. He then spent the next three seasons (1995–1997) as an offensive graduate assistant at Georgia Tech.[6]

He then coached the Yellow Jackets' running backs from the 1998 season through 2000 season. In 1999, running back Sean Gregory ran for 837 yards with six touchdowns. In 2000, running back Joe Burns ran for 908 yards with 12 touchdowns.[7]

From 2001 to 2002, O'Brien served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and was named an assistant head coach for the 2002 season. In 2002, O'Brien was hired as Notre Dame's offensive Coordinator before George O'Leary was dismissed. As offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech in 2001 and 2002, his teams averaged 31 and 21.5 points per game, respectively as the teams went 9–4 and 7–6.[8][9] In 2001, running back Joe Burns ran for 1,165 yards with 14 touchdowns and quarterback George Godsey threw for 3,085 yards with 18 touchdowns. In 2002 under Chan Gailey, running back Tony Hollings ran for 633 yards with 11 touchdowns and wide receiver Kerry Watkins got 1,050 yards and 5 touchdowns.

In 2003, he left to coach running backs at the University of Maryland, where he spent two seasons. In 2003, RB Josh Allen ran for 922 yards with 8 touchdowns while Bruce Perry ran for 713 yards and 6 touchdowns.[10]

As offensive coordinator at Duke in 2005 and 2006, his teams averaged 16.1 and 14.9 points per game.[11] In 2006, QB Thaddeus Lewis threw for 2,134 yards with 11 TD.

New England Patriots[edit]

After two seasons with Duke, O'Brien was hired by the New England Patriots on February 27, 2007 as an offensive assistant.[12] On February 21, 2008, O'Brien was promoted to wide receivers coach.[13] He became the quarterbacks coach and offensive play-caller following the 2008 season after the departure of quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in February 2011.

The Patriots gave the Jacksonville Jaguars permission to interview O'Brien for their head coaching vacancy during the Patriots' playoff bye week; O'Brien was scheduled for an interview, but never actually interviewed for the job.[14] Instead, O'Brien interviewed with Penn State staff on January 5, 2012,[15] was offered the head coach position, and signed a four-year contract to become the Nittany Lions' coach.[16] O'Brien continued as New England's offensive coordinator through Super Bowl XLVI.

Penn State[edit]

O'Brien was hired as Penn State's 15th head football coach, replacing Joe Paterno, who had coached the team from 1966 until his dismissal in 2011.[17] He was introduced as the head coach at a press conference on January 7, 2012.[18]

Response to sanctions[edit]

Due to the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, on July 24, 2012, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) sanctioned Penn State with a four-year postseason ban, and loss of 40 scholarships over a four-year period.

In light of these NCAA sanctions, O'Brien issued the following statement:

"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".[19]

Because of a clause in his contract, O'Brien received an automatic four-year extension that guaranteed an extra year for every year of sanctions put on the program.[20]


In his first game as Penn State's head coach, the Nittany Lions lost to the Ohio University Bobcats, 24–14. O'Brien's first win as the Penn State head coach took place on September 15, 2012, with a 34–7 win against the United States Naval Academy at Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA. Despite the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, his first season as coach at Penn State was far more successful than anticipated and resulted in a final record of 8–4. O'Brien collected the most wins for a first-year head coach in school history and was awarded Big Ten Coach of the Year on November 27, 2012.[21]

O'Brien was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the media and the coaches.[22] On December 8, 2012, O'Brien was named the national coach of the year by ESPN.[23][24] On January 17, 2013, O'Brien was awarded the 2012 Paul "Bear" Bryant College Coach of the Year Award.[25]

NFL interest[edit]

In January 2013, O'Brien interviewed for the head coaching position with the Cleveland Browns[26] and Philadelphia Eagles. However, he decided to remain at Penn State, stating: "I'm not a one-and-done guy. I made a commitment to these players at Penn State and that's what I am going to do. I'm not gonna cut and run after one year, that's for sure."[27]

Houston Texans[edit]

O'Brien delivering a commencement speech at St. Thomas High School in May 2016

After Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak was fired on December 6, 2013, multiple reports stated that O'Brien was interested in returning to the NFL. On December 29, he met with the Texans for further discussion about the Texans' head coaching job. O'Brien was officially introduced as the Texans' head coach on January 2, 2014.[28] The Texans had finished 2–14 in 2013, and owned the first overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, which they would use on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.[29]

In his first season as the Texans' coach, he finished with a 9–7 record, narrowly missing the playoffs.[30]

In his second season, the Texans again finished with a 9–7 record and won the AFC South title.[31] In the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, the Texans were blown out 30–0 by the Kansas City Chiefs.[32]

In his third season, the Texans, for a third consecutive year, finished with a 9–7 record and won their second consecutive AFC South title.[33] The Texans defeated the Oakland Raiders 27–14 in the Wild Card Round but then lost in the Divisional Round 34–16 to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots.[34][35]

O'Brien's fourth season marked his first season as an NFL head coach in which his team did not finish with a winning record. The Texans ended with a 4–12 record, losing nine of their final ten games.[36] This season saw the debut of quarterback Deshaun Watson, whom the Texans selected in the first round with the 12th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.[37] However, Watson's season was prematurely ended after he suffered a torn ACL in practice prior to Week 9, which along with injuries to various other players contributed to the team's collapse.[38]

On January 13, 2018, O'Brien received a four-year contract extension.[39] In his fifth season, the Texans bounced back and finished atop the division with an 11–5 record before losing in the Wild Card Round for the second time in four years, this time to their division rivals, the Indianapolis Colts, 21–7.[40][41]

In O'Brien's sixth season, Houston finished 10–6 and captured another division title.[42] The Texans outlasted the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round with a 22–19 victory in overtime.[43] They were eliminated in the Divisional round with a 51–31 loss to the eventual Super Bowl LIV champion Kansas City Chiefs.[44]

On January 28, 2020, O'Brien was appointed as the Texans' general manager. The Texans had gone the entire 2019 season with the position vacant.[45] During the offseason, O'Brien traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick, a move that was heavily criticized.[46][47]

Following a 0–4 start in the 2020 season, O'Brien was fired by the Texans on October 5, 2020. O'Brien finished his tenure in Houston with a 52–48 (.520) regular-season record and a 2–4 (.333) playoff record for a combined record of 54–52 (.509).[48]


On January 21, 2021, O'Brien was named the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Alabama under head coach Nick Saban, replacing Steve Sarkisian, who left to become the head coach at the University of Texas at Austin. [49]

Personal life[edit]

O'Brien and his wife, Colleen, have two sons, Jack and Michael. Jack, the elder son, has a rare brain disorder called lissencephaly.[50]

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Penn State Nittany Lions (Big Ten Conference) (2012–2013)
2012 Penn State 8–4 6–2 2nd (Leaders)
2013 Penn State 7–5 4–4 3rd (Leaders)
Penn State: 15–9 10–6 ‡ Ineligible for Big Ten title, bowl game and Coaches Poll
Total: 15–9


Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
HOU 2014 9 7 0 .563 2nd in AFC South
HOU 2015 9 7 0 .563 1st in AFC South 0 1 .000 Lost to Kansas City Chiefs in AFC wild card game
HOU 2016 9 7 0 .563 1st in AFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Divisional Game
HOU 2017 4 12 0 .250 4th in AFC South
HOU 2018 11 5 0 .688 1st in AFC South 0 1 .000 Lost to Indianapolis Colts in AFC Wild Card Game
HOU 2019 10 6 0 .625 1st in AFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to Kansas City Chiefs in AFC Divisional Game
HOU 2020 0 4 0 .000 Fired
Total 52 48 0 .520 2 4 .333


  1. ^ "Bill O'Brien". Georgia Tech. 2001. Archived from the original on July 8, 2015. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  2. ^ Schefter, Adam; Mortensen, Chris; Ganguli, Tania; VanHaaren, Tom (January 1, 2014). "Sources: Texans to hire Bill O'Brien". ESPN. Retrieved January 1, 2014. Penn State's Bill O'Brien has reached an agreement to become the new coach of the Houston Texans, according to league sources.
  3. ^ Hill, Josh. Houston Texans agree to hire Bill O'Brien as next head coach, Sports Illustrated, December 31, 2013.
  4. ^ Heinrich, Garret (December 31, 2016). "REPORT: Texans Agree To Deal With Bill O'Brien". CBSHouston. Houston, Texas: CBS News. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  5. ^ Bedard, Greg A. (August 18, 2017). "Bill O'Brien on Andover, Celtics, Belichick and Brady". Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Bill O'Brien '92". Brown University Athletics. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  7. ^ "Bill O'Brien: From Georgia Tech To The Big Time". Yellow Jacked Up. September 28, 2014. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  8. ^ 2001 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team
  9. ^ "Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2002 Football Schedule". Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  10. ^ "Could ex-Penn State coach Bill O'Brien end up at Maryland?". RSN. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  11. ^ Crow, Alfie. "Who is Bill O'Brien? A look at Potential Penn State Football Coach's Resume". SB Nation. Retrieved January 10, 2012.
  12. ^ Reiss, Mike (February 27, 2007). "O'Brien hired". Reiss' Pieces. Retrieved July 2, 2007.
  13. ^ Reiss, Mike (February 21, 2008). "Pats hire Capers". Reiss' Pieces. Retrieved February 21, 2007.
  14. ^ Rodak, Mike (February 8, 2012). "Jaguars get permission to interview O'Brien – New England Patriots Blog – ESPN Boston". ESPN. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  15. ^ "Patriots Assistant Coach O'Brien interviews at Penn State". Archived from the original on January 6, 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  16. ^ "Sources: Bill O'Brien to coach Penn St". ESPN. January 6, 2012.
  17. ^ "Penn State hires Bill O'Brien as coach". ESPN. January 6, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
  18. ^ "Penn State Selects Bill O'Brien To Lead Football Program". Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics. January 7, 2012. Archived from the original on November 21, 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  19. ^ "Statements from Penn State Acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner and Head Coach Bill O'Brien". CBS sports. July 23, 2012.
  20. ^ "NCAA sanctions trigger four-year extension for Penn State coach O'Brien". CBS Sports. July 25, 2012.
  21. ^ "Penn State's Bill O'Brien wins Big Ten Coach of the Year honors". York Daily Record. November 27, 2012. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013.
  22. ^ Moyer, Josh (November 27, 2012). "O'Brien sweeps B1G COY awards". PSU Nittany Lions Blog - ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures. Archived from the original on January 2, 2019. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  23. ^ "Mauti, O'Brien win national honors". Stats, LLC. Archived from the original on December 30, 2013. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  24. ^ Kaplan, Emily (December 8, 2012). "Penn State's Bill O'Brien named top coach, Mike Mauti a first team All-American per ESPN AT&T". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  25. ^ "Bill O'Brien wins 'Bear' Bryant Award". Associated Press. January 17, 2013. Archived from the original on April 12, 2019. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  26. ^ Smith, Michael David (January 3, 2013). "Browns have already interviewed Bill O'Brien". ProFootballTalk. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  27. ^ Taylor, John (January 3, 2013). "O'Brien staying at Penn State". CollegeFootballTalk. Archived from the original on January 5, 2013. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  28. ^ "Penn State confirms O'Brien's new job with Texans, wishes him well". Houston Chronicle. January 2, 2014. Archived from the original on September 15, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  29. ^ Smith, Michael David (December 28, 2013). "Report: Bill O'Brien an "overwhelming favorite" for Texans job". ProFootballTalk. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  30. ^ "2014 Houston Texans Statistics & Players". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  31. ^ "2015 Houston Texans Statistics & Players". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  32. ^ "Wild Card - Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans - January 9th, 2016". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  33. ^ "2016 Houston Texans Statistics & Players". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  34. ^ "Wild Card - Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans - January 7th, 2017". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  35. ^ "Divisional Round - Houston Texans at New England Patriots - January 14th, 2017". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  36. ^ "2017 Houston Texans Statistics & Players". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  37. ^ "2017 Houston Texans Draftees". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  38. ^ "Source: Texans QB Deshaun Watson tears ACL in practice, done for season". November 2, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  39. ^ "Texans give Bill O'Brien extension, hire GM Brian Gaine". January 13, 2018. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  40. ^ "2018 Houston Texans Statistics & Players". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  41. ^ "Wild Card - Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans - January 5th, 2019". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  42. ^ "2019 Houston Texans Statistics & Players". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  43. ^ "Wild Card - Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans - January 4th, 2020". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  44. ^ "Divisional Round - Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs - January 12th, 2020". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  45. ^ Conway, Tyler (January 28, 2020). "Texans HC Bill O'Brien Appointed GM, Jack Easterby Named Executive VP". Bleacher Report. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  46. ^ Patra, Kevin (March 16, 2020). "Stunner: Texans trade DeAndre Hopkins to Cardinals". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  47. ^ Barnwell, Bill (March 16, 2020). "DeAndre Hopkins trade grade: The Texans flunked, and the Cardinals got an elite receiver". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  48. ^ "Sources: Houston Texans fire coach/GM Bill O'Brien after 0–4 start". ESPN. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  49. ^ "Bill O'Brien Named Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach". January 21, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  50. ^ Robertson, Dale (January 4, 2014). "Family life gives Texans coach O'Brien strength". Retrieved September 11, 2020.

External links[edit]