Bill O’Brien has emerged as the overwhelming favorite to become the next coach of the Houston Texans, and the two sides are working to get a deal in place within the next week, league sources told ESPN.
O’Brien met with the Texans this week after Christmas at his home in Cape Cod, resulting in intensified discussions they hope will culminate with a finalized contract, the sources said.
The Texans still have a short list of candidates in case talks break down with the Penn State coach, sources added.
The Texans had been doing due diligence on O’Brien, including his six-year stint with the New England Patriots. The feedback has been strong in his favor, sources said, which motivated Houston to commence negotiations to get a deal in place.
O’Brien, 44, just finished his second season at Penn State, where he was the Big Ten coach of the year in 2012, followed by a 7-5 season this year while playing with a freshman quarterback (Christian Hackenberg) and amid heavy sanctions placed on the Nittany Lions after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
O’Brien was a New England assistant from 2007 until 2012. He eventually became the offensive coordinator for a Patriots team that lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
As a condition to returning to Penn State for 2012, O’Brien and the school agreed to an amended contract that lowered his buyout to join an NFL team from $19.33 million to $6.48 million. There had been conversations to further reduce the NFL buyout.
Incoming Penn State recruit Thomas Holley, the school’s second-highest ranked recruit in 2014, told ESPN.com that he had a conversation Saturday with O’Brien, who told the defensive lineman that he way staying with the Nittany Lions.
“He said it’s not true, he’s going to be at Penn State and he’s going to be there for me when I get there,” Holley told ESPN.com.
The Texans will have either the first or second overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and are expected to target a quarterback for the future.
The Texans, who will enter Sunday’s season finale with a 2-13 record, are searching for a replacement for Gary Kubiak, who was fired earlier this month.
ESPN.com’s Tom VanHaaren contributed to this report.
- ESPN Senior NFL Analyst
- Joined ESPN in 1991
- Has covered every Super Bowl since 1979
- ESPN NFL Insider
- Joined ESPN in 2009
- Former president of the Pro Football Writers of America and the author of four books