Brett Coomer/Associated Press
After Alabama won the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Ohio State, head coach Nick Saban was tasked with finding a replacement for offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
The Texans fired O’Brien following a 0-4 start this season. He finished his tenure with a 52-48 regular-season record, four AFC South titles in six-plus seasons and two playoff victories. However, his offense in Houston never ranked among the league’s top 10 in either points or yards.
O’Brien does bring a wealth of experience to the position, though. He served as an offensive assistant, quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator through five seasons under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots.
In between his NFL stops, O’Brien was the head coach at Penn State, where he posted a 15-9 record through two seasons (2013-14). During his tenure, Penn State was one of the premier offenses in the Big Ten, finishing fourth in total offense each year and second and third in passing offense, respectively. He earned two Coach of the Year honors—the George Munger Award and the Bear Bryant Award—when he led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 campaign in his first season.
Prior to his time with Penn State, O’Brien had NCAA experience as an assistant at Brown, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.
He reportedly bested another NFL candidate—former New York Jets head coach Adam Gase—for the Alabama gig.
O’Brien takes over for new Texas head coach Sarkisian, who helped continue the Crimson Tide’s position as the preeminent force in college football during his time with the team. He’ll try to maintain that when the 2021 season begins, although the Crimson Tide are set to lose major cogs such as Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, quarterback Mac Jones and running back Najee Harris.