Alabama has made its long-discussed hire of Bill O’Brien official.
The school announced Thursday that the former Houston Texans coach would be Nick Saban’s newest offensive coordinator. O’Brien succeeds Steve Sarkisian after Sarkisian left Alabama to be the Texas coach and had been mentioned as the likely replacement for Sarkisian ever since Sarkisian moved west.
"We are pleased and happy to be able to add Bill O'Brien to our coaching staff," Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a statement. "He has a wealth of experience as both an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL and college. Bill is one of the brightest offensive minds in football, an outstanding teacher and excellent recruiter. He will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best possible chance to be successful."
O’Brien, who will also serve as the team’s QB coach, returns to college football after he was fired by the Texans during their disastrous 2020 season. O’Brien was the head coach at Penn State for two seasons before he was hired by Houston ahead of the 2014 season.
Those two seasons at Penn State came as the school was dealing with the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. O’Brien’s teams went a combined 15-9 during his tenure despite massive NCAA sanctions from the scandal.
O’Brien’s hire also continues a trend of former head coaches serving as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Sarkisian coached at USC and Washington, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin was both an NFL and college head coach like O’Brien before he was Alabama’s OC and Maryland coach Mike Locksley was New Mexico’s coach before he joined Alabama’s staff.
The Texans were 52-48 in O’Brien’s coaching tenure and 0-4 when he was fired a quarter of the way into the 2020 season. His tenure was marred by poor personnel decisions, including the trade of star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. The Texans do not have a pick in the first or second rounds of the 2021 NFL draft.
Alabama, meanwhile, went 13-0 and won the national title after beating Ohio State on Jan. 11.
"I am honored and excited to join Coach Saban's staff at The University of Alabama," O'Brien said in a statement. "I have an incredible amount of admiration for the rich football tradition at this University and the success Coach Saban has had during his time in Tuscaloosa. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work with some of the best football players in the country, while helping to continue the success this program has enjoyed for many years."
Another ex-NFL coach joining the staff?
O’Brien may not be the only recent NFL head coach to be on Saban’s staff in 2021. Former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has been reportedly mentioned as the likely candidate to coach Alabama’s offensive line.
Alabama has an opening at that position because former Rutgers coach Kyle Flood went with Sarkisian to Texas. Marrone was fired by Jacksonville at the conclusion of a 1-15 season in 2020. That season secured Jacksonville the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft and the first chance to draft Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence.
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