By DAN GELSTON
2014-01-03 03:01 AM
Bill O'Brien left Penn State less than two years after replacing Joe Paterno to return to the NFL to coach the Houston Texans, the team with the league's worst record this season.
O'Brien will become the third coach in Texans history, following Dom Capers, who led the team from its expansion season in 2002, and Gary Kubiak. Houston made the official announcement on Thursday.
Kubiak took over when Capers was fired after a 2-14 season in 2005. Kubiak went 61-64 and led the Texans to their first two playoff appearances and two AFC South division titles before being fired in early December.
Houston was expected to contend for the Super Bowl this season but instead lost nine games by a touchdown or less to end with the NFL's worst record at 2-14.
O'Brien spent five years as an NFL assistant on Bill Belichick's staff at the New England Patriots.
The former offensive coordinator helped lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 2011-12.
Then he took on perhaps college football's toughest job in January 2012, joining a university rattled by a child sex abuse scandal.
Despite a lack of scholarships, a bowl ban, an overall sense of doom and player defections from the late Paterno's roster, O'Brien led Penn State to two winning seasons while restoring some tempered enthusiasm.
Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said O'Brien's contract buyout was about $6.5 million. Penn State worked with O'Brien until the end to keep him. They expect to name a new coach within days.
"I really believe that he loved it here," Joyner said. "From the get go, he looked at himself as a long-termer. But I think a tremendous opportunity came up for him."