O'Brien shows love for PSU
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HOUSTON — Bill O'Brien has gone from perhaps the toughest coaching job in college football to the head man with one of the NFL's most respected teams.
Less than two years after replacing Joe Paterno as coach at Penn State, O'Brien, 44, returned to the NFL as coach of the Houston Texans. He was an offensive assistant under Bill Belichick in New England from 2007-12, but the Penn State job was his first as a head coach.
O'Brien, speaking at a news conference Friday, said he enjoyed his time at Penn State and understands the irritation fans might feel.
“I love the players at Penn State, and I respect their toughness and their resiliency and everything that they've demonstrated on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “While I tried never to mislead anyone, I understand if some people feel let down. I do. I understand that. It was a decision that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”
He said his Penn State experience prepared him to take over the Texans, thanking university president Rodney Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner by name.
“Anytime you are a head football coach, there are so many different things that prepare you for what your next job is,” he said. “So many different things that come across your desk. You have to be a multitasker. You have to be organized. You have to be able to deal with all different kinds of people and personalities.
“In that regard, the two years at Penn State really helped me, and I really appreciate Penn State for giving me that opportunity. I owe a lot to Penn State.”
Now he gets the Texans, who spiraled to an NFL-worst 2-14 record last season. O'Brien replaces Gary Kubiak, who was fired with three games left in the 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.”
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 season's meltdown. O'Brien said he spoke to many people he trusted throughout the NFL before making his decision.
“These people were unanimous in one thought, and that is that the Houston Texans are a top-flight organization that does things the right way,” he said. “It's rare enough to be a head coach at the highest level of football. What makes this opportunity special and put it over the top for myself and my family was to work for an owner like Bob McNair.”
O'Brien was 15-9 at Penn State, which was hit hard by NCAA sanctions levied for the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal that cost the late Paterno his job.
He refused to relay what he said to his players to keep them from transferring as the NCAA permitted without penalty.
“A lot of that is between me and the players at Penn State,” he said. “I had a fantastic experience at Penn State. The players there mean a lot to me, and they always will. When we went in there to Penn State, there were some tough things that happened, but those kids and our staff, we never let it affect us. It was all about doing the right thing both on and off the field.”
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