Houston Texans management is wasting little time targeting prospective head coaching candidates for next season.
And the team isn't limiting the search to recycled head coaches or high-profile assistants from the professional ranks.
According to a report by NFL.com's Ian Rappaport, Penn State sideline general . It comes on the heels of a decent 7-5 mark in his second season with the Nittany Lions.
There is little doubt O'Brien will be leading a team on the field Sundays at some point. He is a former Bill Belichick assistant and has been perfect for a Penn State program trying to recover from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
But is it the right time or fit? O'Brien is highly regarded and has the luxury to wait for the right job to come open.
The Texans wouldn't be a bad landing point.
O'Brien seems like a guy who just wants to coach. He comes off as a no-nonsense Xs and Os professor who is focused on doing a job, not on getting his name in the paper or being the face of an organization.
That alone makes Houston attractive. The Texans are the No. 2 NFL team in in the Lone Star State to Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys circus, and it's easy to fly under the radar.
Still, there is a chance to thrive in a town thirsting for success by a professional team. And there are pieces in place to get that done.
Despite a 2-13 season, the Texans have the league s No. 11-ranked offense. That has to be appealing to O'Brien, who called the plays in New England for Tom Brady and Co. from 2009 through 2011.
Andre Johnson is aging but is still one of the better receivers in the game. He is flanked by talented rookie DeAndre Hopkins, who has a high ceiling. And no O'Brien offense would be complete without a tight end, and Garrett Graham has the tools to be a good one.
Running back Arian Foster suffered a season-ending injury and even though he has a lot of miles, he has shown explosiveness this season. Ben Tate will test free agency in the offseason but if O'Brien enters the mix, the backup running back might give the Texans a discount price to stay and prosper.
The problem is quarterback. Matt Schaub struggled and could be on his way out of town, and Case Keenum showed flashes of brilliance but, at times, looked like an overwhelmed second-year player.
That can be rectified in the draft, as the Texans are in line for the No. 1 or No. 2 draft choice. With Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Texas A M's Johnny Manziel in the pool, O'Brien may leap at the chance to develop an NFL star.
Defensively, the Texans have slipped. I blame that on five starters going down and an offense that turns the ball over. As long as J.J. Watt and Jonathan Joseph are in this locker room, a fresh perspective calling the shots is all that is needed.
O'Brien and a new staff could be that fix.
The hangup for the Texans is a hefty buyout. Although, it s unlikely they would waste O'Brien's time if they weren't willing to dig deep.
As for O'Brien, he has to weigh this job, and others that may come along in the coming weeks, with what could become available after next season. Plus, he probably feels some loyalty to the Penn State program.
There is also the matter of family. O'Brien has a special needs child who requires a facility nearby to take care of his demands.
If the off-field issues can be resolved, this could work.
Living in the shadow of the Cowboys empire might seem undesirable to some. But if O'Brien can look past that fading star, he might find a place he can build a winner.
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