Alabama coach Nick Saban spoke just before winning a Coach of the Year named after Crimson Tide legend Paul “Bear” Bryant and sounded like the hiring was all but complete. “I think he will do a great job with our players here,” said Saban from O’Brien on Wednesday.
“I’ve always tried to have the best possible knowledge and experience for our players and their development,” added Saban, “and I think he can help in a very positive way.”
The 51-year-old O’Brien was sacked in October, four games in a Texas season that started 4-0 and ended on a 4-12 record. In more than six seasons at the helm in Houston, he went between 52 and 48, won two playoff games and won four AFC South titles.
The Texans hired O’Brien after spending two years trying to get back on his feet as the head coach of a Penn State program after a scandal rocked the university and resulted in the overthrow of Joe Paterno. O’Brien received high praise and a Paul “Bear” Bryant Award in 2013 for his work with the Nittany Lions.
As with Saban, O’Brien has ties to Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick, who was an assistant coach in New England from 2007 to 2011. Prior to that, he cut his teeth at college level, including at Brown, where the Massachusetts-born American had played as a defensive end and linebacker – Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.
Provided O’Brien joins the Flood, he will become the seventh offensive coordinator in Alabama since Saban took over the program in 2007. Four of his predecessors – Major Applewhite, Jim McElwain, Lane Kiffin and Sarkisian – quickly became head coaches at other colleges.Brian Daboll, now the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, could get the top job with another NFL team this off-season.