He's arguably the hottest and most accessible collegiate head coach, but the Houston Texans shouldn't hire Bill O'Brien.
Sure, the Penn State head coach has done an admirable job in the aftermath of the almost unfathomably horrific Jerry Sandusky incident that led to the firing of Joe Paterno.
In 2012, the Nittany Lions went 8-4, which included a 6-2 record in the Big Ten. This season, O'Brien's team went 7-5 and 4-4 in conference.
Frankly, though, taking the Penn State job was a win-win for O'Brien—an absolute brilliant decision.
If his team struggled, almost everyone would give the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator a pass due to the unprecedentedly grim circumstances.
But if O'Brien mustered, at the very least, decent campaigns at Penn State—which he did—after some key players transferred and with a dark cloud over the program, he'd receive widespread adulation for being a steadying influence in State College.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport via Gregg Rosenthal, "O'Brien and the Texans agreed to have an interview after Christmas, which means it's already happened or it will happen in the near future."
This news comes on the heels of a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Nittany Lions head coach lowered his contract buyout:
Bill O'Brien's amended contract shows he reduced the price of an NFL buyout from $19.33 million last year to $6.48 million for this year.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 22, 2013
Does that make him more enticing to an NFL team?
But having to pay O'Brien nearly $6.5 million before he even signs his contract?
That's pretty steep.
O'Brien rose to fame as a key member of the Patriots play-calling staff starting in the 2009 season after Josh McDaniels was hired by the Denver Broncos.
That year, with O'Brien as the quarterbacks coach, New England averaged 26.7 points per game—the sixth most in football—and Tom Brady finished with 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions at 7.8 yards per attempt.
In 2010, Brady had the best touchdown-to-interception ratio of his career (36 to 4), and he won his second MVP award.
Brady also led the league in touchdown percentage (7.3) and interception percentage (0.8) with O'Brien as the primary play-caller.
The 2011 campaign culminated with the Patriots advancing to the Super Bowl, a year in which Brady threw for over 5,000 yards for the first time in his NFL career and posted his highest yards-per-attempt average (8.6).
Somewhat quietly, O'Brien was suddenly one of the most appealing offensive coaching minds in the game.
During his first season at the collegiate ranks, O'Brien inherited a competent senior quarterback in Matt McGloin.
Though far from a Heisman candidate, McGloin went into 2012 having already attempt 448 passes during his Penn State career.
Star running back Silas Redd transferred to USC, which unsurprisingly hurt the ground game, but the Nittany Lions managed to score nearly 30 points per game.
Their biggest win came against then-No. 24 ranked Northwestern on October 6 at home, a 39-28 victory. Though McGloin wasn't drafted, he's proven to be backup-worthy in the NFL this year.
Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenburg posted a respectable stat line in 2013 under O'Brien, too. He completed almost 59 percent of his throws with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Penn State averaged nearly 29 points per game, and its most impressive win came in the season finale in Wisconsin over the Badgers.
The Nittany Lions played decent football with O'Brien at the helm, there's no doubting that. But from an on-field standpoint, the team he inherited wasn't bad, although the aftershock of the Sandusky saga painted a picture of hopelessness and despair due to the NCAA sanctions Penn State received.
From a pure talent perspective, Penn State was in the top half of the Big Ten—unequivocally better than Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois and Iowa—and that's where it finished in both 2012 and 2013.
Did O'Brien's teams overachieve?
Remember, the Nittany Lions went 9-4 in 2011 and didn't lose a wave of players to the NFL—defensive lineman Devon Still and wideout Derek Moye were the biggest losses outside of Redd.
O'Brien did, however, do a fine job weathering the media storm and keeping his players focused on the task at hand every week.
Basically, it comes down to this question:
Had the Sandusky scandal never occurred, and O'Brien simply took over after Paterno voluntarily stepped down, would 8-4 and 7-5 seasons in the Big Ten warrant consideration for NFL head coaching jobs?
O'Brien's time spent presumably learning from Bill Belichick and the perennially prolific offenses the Patriots fielded from 2009 to 2011 should be much more valuable bargaining chips than his stint with the Nittany Lions.
Remember, though, every Belichick assistant from New England has failed miserably elsewhere.
All this is not to say O'Brien is a horrible head coaching candidate.
But is he ready to run the show in the NFL for a rebuilding Houston Texans team with a disastrous quarterback situation, massive holes in the secondary, an aging, beat-up feature back and an a deteriorating offensive line?
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