The Texans sported the worst record in the NFL in 2013. O'Brien follows Dom Capers and Gary Kubiak as just the third head coach in the franchise's history, the first to be hired from the collegiate ranks.
In two years at Penn State, under the restrictions of NCAA sanctions, O'Brien posted a 15-9 record, with a 10-6 mark in conference play. In 2012, his Nittany Lions went 8-4, giving him the most wins ever by a first-year head coach at Penn State. O'Brien was an assistant coach with the Patriots from 2007 to '11, helping to lead them to a Super Bowl as an offensive coordinator in his final season.
O'Brien's quarterback-development talents, showcased in both of his college seasons through the improved play of Matthew McGloin and freshman Christian Hackenberg, will be put to the test with the Texans. Houston's quarterback depth chart is one of the NFL's biggest question marks and could feature a rookie starter during O'Brien's first year.
Multiple high-profile names from both the NFL and college ranks have been named as potential candidates for the Penn State position, which is one of the most coveted in college sports, despite ongoing sanctions. We can also expect several names from Penn State's last coaching search to be mentioned again.
The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported Thursday that Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano would be in play. Miami's Al Golden (a former Penn State tight end) would again be floated as a possibility, though it remains to be seen whether Golden, who just dodged sanctions at Miami this season, would want to go through it all again at Penn State. As is the case for every Upper Midwestern coaching search, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald would be mentioned.
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements, and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman were among the most widely reported potential Nittany Lions candidates last time around ... at least among those who haven't either been locked up since then (like Chris Petersen) or fallen off the map (like Mike London).
Schiano and Franklin are among the top targets, according to reports.
Munchak could be another favorite for the position, given his background with the school (he was an All-American guard at Penn State) and his likely impending availability (a 22-26 record through his third year with the Titans). It will certainly be a coaching search to keep an eye on as we head towards another busy offseason.