The Houston Texans underachieving and his ruined relationship with general manager Rick Smith might lead Bill O’Brien to being fired or leaving the job anyway, with his sights set on the Maryland football team, which means a return to college football.
In the awful AFC South, the 3-5 Texans might still make the playoffs. However, making it does not mean O’Brien will make it through another season in Houston, as owner Bob McNair is considering making some major changes to the team’s power structure which includes the coaching staff. It’s been hinted that O’Brien and Smith can’t co-exist within the same organization, and McNair is probably leaning towards retaining Smith.
O’Brien did a good job with Houston in 2014, finishing 9-7, which wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. Considering his quarterbacks are Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer, being 3-5 isn’t such a terrible position to be in. If he still had Ryan Fitzpatrick, maybe they’d even be leading the division. However, O’Brien might be leaning towards leaving the NFL is his Texans gig is up, with the Maryland job on his sights, which makes it a return to College Park for him.
O’Brien was the running back coach for the Terps in 2003 and 2004, before moving on to Duke, the Patriots as an assistant and eventually offensive coordinator which led him to the Penn State job. Helping the Nittany Lions stay respectable after the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Joe Paterno stepping down wasn’t easy, but O’Brien did a good job, posting a 15-9 record there despite the sanctions, doing a fine job recruiting as well. That landed him the Texans job, but maybe that slot has run its course.
Maryland seem to be trying to get over their messy breakup with the ACC and become something of a Big Ten power. They have the influence and money of Under Armour behind them, and CEO Kevin Plank seems to be interested in O’Brien, who fits the profile of who he and other influential alumni (while others aren’t too keen on O’Brien) see as the school’s next head coach: A young (under-50), bright offensive mind who could run an attractive, pro-style offense.
Maryland are 2-8 this season (0-6 in the Big Ten), resulting in Randy Edsall being fired after six weeks. There are quite a few young head coaches setting their sights on landing this job, aware of the massive investment Under Armour are planning, a-la Nike at Oregon, and realize the potential of Maryland, even in the Big Ten, even after so many bad years, even in football. One thing that might stand in O’Brien’s ways is the perception as having a difficult demeanor, and of leaving jobs quickly.