Texans: Bill O’Brien finds new locker room to influence at Alabama Football
By Brian Emory
Former head coach and general manager of the Houston Texans, Bill O’Brien, is officially the latest patient to check in to what I like to call Nick Saban’s “Reputation Rehab” clinic. While this has been rumored for weeks, O’Brien was formally announced as the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide on Thursday night.
While O’Brien’s new gig is a demotion, he certainly didn’t settle for a cushy landing spot. Saban has built an absolute dynasty in Tuscaloosa, and the 2020 edition of the Crimson Tide was arguably the strongest team he has ever enjoyed throughout his 14-year reign. At Alabama, a season that results in anything less than a national championship is considered a failure.
O’Brien has some large shoes to fill. Steve Sarkisian was the architect behind Alabama’s dominant 2020 offense, and he parlayed his responsibilities as Alabama’s play caller into the head coaching job at the University of Texas.
Next gig after Texans not a bad one for O’Brien
While having the likes of Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Mac Jones, and running back Najee Harris making plays behind a dominant offensive line helps, Sarkisian deserves a lot of credit for meshing this group of talent into a well-oiled machine. Alabama’s 2020 offense was one of the best in college football history, and the Crimson Tide faithful will expect nothing less than another dominant display in 2021.
It will be very interesting to monitor Bill O’Brien’s intentions with his new job. As it was previously mentioned, the job as Alabama’s offensive coordinator became open because the previous occupant (Sarkisian) landed a big time promotion. Sarkisian was hardly the first to follow this sort of career path.
Nick Saban has the most expansive coaching trees in all of college football. In fact, Sarkisian wasn’t even Saban’s only assistant to leave for a head coaching opportunity this offseason. After being fired as the head coach at the University of Tennessee, Butch Jones became an assistant at Alabama and was named the head coach at Arkansas State a few weeks ago.
Alabama the rehab for failed NFL coaches
After failed stints as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers, and USC Trojans Lane Kiffin landed on his feet at Alabama in the exact same role O’Brien is preparing to inherit. After three seasons at Alabama, Kiffin became the head coach at Florida Atlantic and then turned that role into the head coaching job at Ole Miss.
Being one of Saban’s top assistants is a great gig for anyone, but it does make you wonder if O’Brien hopes to follow a similar path that Kiffin and Sarkisian did. After all, most people would agree that O’Brien’s downfall with the Texans can most primarily be attributed to the personnel side of things.
Throughout his six full seasons as the head coach of the Houston Texans, O’Brien guided the team to the playoffs a respectable four times with an aggregate record of 54-52. If Alabama finds themselves lifting the crystal ball again this time next year, don’t be surprised if O’Brien finds himself with another head coach label sooner rather than later.