HOUSTON — Bill O’Brien got a bit antsy as his introductory press conference with the Houston Texans started to drag on and a question was posed about how much he knows about his new team.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do on this team and the sooner that I can get back to my office and start that work, it’ll be better,” he said straight-faced as the rest of the room erupted in laughter.
Less than two years after replacing Joe Paterno as coach at Penn State, the 44-year-old O’Brien has returned to the NFL as coach of the Houston Texans. He was an offensive assistant under Bill Belichick at New England from 2007-12, but the Penn State job was his first as a head coach.
Now he gets the Texans, who spiraled to an NFL-worst 2-14 record last season.
“He showed that he has the ability to step into difficult situations and turn them around,” Houston owner Bob McNair said. “He did that at Penn State under very difficult circumstances and did an outstanding job there. We expect to see good things happen immediately.”
O’Brien was 15-9 at Penn State, hit hard by NCAA sanctions levied for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that cost the late Paterno his job.
He takes over for Gary Kubiak, who was fired with three games left in the Texans’ dismal season. Despite Houston’s collapse, many believe it is a plum position because the Texans have many talented pieces in place and could make a quick turnaround. Houston won consecutive AFC South titles before this year’s disaster.
O’Brien said he planned to meet with Houston’s assistant coaches on Friday and begin making decisions on who will make up his staff.
Houston has the top overall draft pick and could use it on a one of a trio of talented signal-callers who could be available. 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 the top-rated quarterbacks expected to be in the draft.
“If we wound up with a young quarterback, we’d probably bring in a veteran so we don’t have to depend on that rookie,” McNair said. “That’s tough putting a rookie in there and expecting them to be able play right off the bat. There’ve been a couple of them that have done it but a number of them didn’t do so well. I think having that veteran presence is important.”
Houston has had the first pick in the draft two other times, choosing Carr in 2002 and defensive end Mario Williams in 2006.
“The defensive player worked out better than the offensive player,” McNair said with a laugh. “But that won’t lock us into anything. There’s always a possibility. (General manager) Rick (Smith) and the coaches will trade around. Maybe we’ll trade down and still get a quarterback that can do the job and get an outstanding defensive player.”