FOXBORO, Mass. — Rumors that Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien could be fired this offseason turned out to be unfounded. Texans owner Bob McNair said O’Brien would have remained head coach even if Houston had lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Oakland Raiders.
They beat the Raiders, and now they’ll take on the New England Patriots on Saturday at Gillette Stadium in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Texans hired O’Brien after having the NFL’s worst record in 2013, going 2-14. He’s led the Texans to three straight 9-7 records and two consecutive playoff appearances. Count New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick among those who would have believed firing O’Brien, who served as an assistant under Belichick from 2007 to 2011, was ridiculous.
“Billy is a great coach,” Belichick said Tuesday in a conference call with the Houston media. “He’s one of the best coaches in this league, one of the best coaches in football. We saw that at Penn State, too. He’s got a great football mind, does a great job of motivating the players. He’s one of the top coaches I’ve been around, period. You’re not going to do much better than him. He’s solid day-to-day, week-in and week-out. Again, he does an excellent job with personnel, motivation, scheme, building a good team attitude and chemistry. He really does a good job. He’s an excellent coach and I’m very fortunate that I had the opportunity to have him on my staff. We had a great working relationship. I learned a lot from him. I think he’s an outstanding coach.”
O’Brien was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Duke when he accepted a major demotion with the Patriots as an offensive assistant in 2007. He then served as wide receivers coach in 2008, quarterbacks coach from 2009 to 2010 and officially became the offensive coordinator for one season in 2011.
“Yeah, I remember it,” Belichick said when asked about O’Brien joining the Patriots’ staff. “I mean, I’m not that old. You know, Bill and I had talked through the years, and we talked about him joining our organization at different points in time but that was kind of the right one. He and I stayed in contact for years, several years before that. I’d say it was definitely a leap of faith. He went from probably the second highest position on a staff, offensive coordinator, to a quality control position.
“But he did a great job of working with everybody, learning not only the offense but learning an entire system and then he got an opportunity to run the offense and to be in control and he was certainly ready to do that. He had a lot of coaching experience from his other positions in college and really what he needed was just a little bit of time to become familiar with our offensive system and the things that are — the way that we do them. Again, he’s very smart, adapted very quickly, figured it out in a hurry and was a great asset to all of the staff members. He was a big asset to me and then he took over the offense.”
Belichick took another opportunity to praise O’Brien when asked about how Brock Osweiler is back to being a starter after being benched for Tom Savage late in the season.
“Yeah, again, Billy has done a great job with this football team,” Belichick said. “That group has shifted around a little bit but Billy and his staff continues to win and find ways to win and I think that’s a credit to the great coaching and the depth that they have on their roster, an outstanding group of players, and how hard and how well they play. …
“He’s done a great job of turning things around with the Texans. He took them from a place that wasn’t very good to consistently winning. I have all the respect in the world for Billy and that football team.”
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