Bill O’Brien: Often Overlooked As A Huge Part Of The Puzzle


Sometimes, players get too much of the credit. Coaches are often not credited with the success of their teams when things go right, though often, they should be. Head coach Bill O’Brien seems to be overlooked as a huge reason the Houston Texans did so well this past season.

As we head into the offseason, and yet another year with the Patriots being defending champions, it’s easy to see that New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick has been one of the greatest coaches of NFL history. Belichick is a coach who does get a lot of great credit for what he does, but some other coaches, including Bill O’Brien don’t get enough credit.

Even in his days in Penn State, his success was overshadowed by the reign of former head coach Joe Paterno that had preceded him.

“He got everyone on board and buying into things that he wants from a football team.” – Jonathan Joseph

This year, O’Brien led the Texans to a 9-7 season, which, according to the Houston Texans website, is the best first season for a coach in the franchise. This is seven more wins compared to the year before O’Brien took over.

This wasn’t the first great coaching experience O’Brien has had either. He has a long list of credentials:

  • Brown University – tight end, linebacker coach
  • Georgia Tech University – RB, QB coach/offensive coordinator
  • Maryland University – running backs coach
  • Duke University – quarterback coach/offensive coordinator
  • New England Patriots  – WR, QB, Asst. coach/offensive coordinator
  • Penn State University – head coach

It may just be taking some a while for O’Brien to grow on them. His credibility has been shown in the NFL – he finished at second in the coach of the year voting – but some may be waiting to see consistency from him as a head coach, with a few decent seasons in a row.

So, why is he so successful? I believe it all comes down to the respect O’Brien receives from everyone he works with, as well as the work ethic O’Brien carries with him.

O’Brien is constantly praised by his players. They respect him, and time and time again, are saying great things about playing for him.

"Cornerback Jonathan Joseph said that, “He got everyone on board and buying into things that he wants from a football team.”"

Other players often praise O’Brien as well, but almost all of them also give credit to the entire coaching staff.

While I do think it’s fair to say all of the coaches do a great job, and certainly contributed to the Texans decent season, I think the mastermind would have to be O’Brien. The way he runs things clearly works, and anyone around him respects him. From players, to fellow coaches, everyone who works with O’Brien respects him, and the way he does things.

I truly believe that this respect towards O’Brien is a huge part of  why the team is doing so well. When coaches respect him, they do their best to hold up high standards to themselves, which O’Brien expects of them. This then trickles down to the players, who, in turn, also hold themselves to high standards, which leads to winning.

O’Brien has done this on all levels. Former Penn State players who played for O’Brien claimed that he, “brought an NFL mindset” (Adrian Amos). Mike Hull praised him, saying O’Brien was the best coach he ever had, and that he has, “so much respect for him.” Keep in mind, Hull was also coached by the winningest NCAA coach in Division 1 history, but still ranked O’Brien higher than Paterno.

O’Brien obviously has incredible work ethic, as he’s been able to work his way from low college assistant jobs to assisting in the NFL, and finally, coaching in the NFL. He has been involved with coaching since 1993 and has obviously picked up some skills along the way which he has already implemented in Houston, and will continue to do so.

To be fair, O’Brien has been given a decent group of guys to work with. I’m not saying that players must be perfect off the field in order to win, but the Texans have had zero arrests since 2010, the best in the league. Keeping distractions like this to a minimum certainly helps, and it’s clear that the mission in the locker room is on the field, and not off of the field.

While offseason moves can be made to get big players, and the draft can be looked at as an opportunity to get new talent, that can mean absolutely nothing without a good coach. The Texans went into this offseason knowing that O’Brien can coach, and do a great job of it.

Ultimately, this puts the Texans at an advantage against other teams on the bubble of making it into the playoffs. Some other teams will be looking for a coach and other players to fill voids, but the Texans already have a huge part of the puzzle – a fantastic coach.

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