Bill O’Brien is back in college football, and he’s returning with the reigning national champs.
Alabama announced Thursday that it has hired O’Brien to be its new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Nick Saban. The former Penn State coach is replacing Steve Sarkisian, who left Tuscaloosa to become Texas’ head coach.
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“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,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien, 51, parlayed his work as Joe Paterno’s full-time successor at Penn State — and his experience as an assistant with the New England Patriots — into an NFL head coaching job, taking over the Texans in 2014. He added general manager to his duties in 2020. O’Brien guided the Texans to a 52-48 record and four AFC South championships but was fired last year amid an 0-4 start and heavy criticism of his personnel decisions, such as the trade of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals.
“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,” Saban said.
With O’Brien’s hire, Alabama and Saban are handing the offense to yet another high-profile coach who’s coming off a rocky tenure elsewhere. That group includes Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin and Mike Locksley. Saban reportedly was considering former Jets coach Adam Gase for the OC position as well as O’Brien.
The Tide also are reportedly hiring former Jaguars coach Doug Marrone to be their new offensive line coach. Jacksonville fired Marrone after the 2020 season and replaced him with Urban Meyer.
Sarkisian’s final game on the Alabama sideline was the Crimson Tide’s 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff national championship game on Jan. 11.