Bill O'Brien is in his seventh season as the head coach of the Houston Texans and added the title of general manager on Jan. 28, 2020. He became the third head coach in franchise history on Jan. 3, 2014 and received a four-year contract extension on Jan. 13, 2018. He is also the fourth general manager in team history.
O'Brien, who owns 28 years of collegiate and NFL coaching experience, is tied for the most division titles (four) and winning seasons (five) by an active head coach in their first six years in the NFL. Houston is also one of three teams to win its division four-or-more times since 2015 (Kansas City and New England) and its 21 wins since 2018 are the second-most in a two-year span in franchise history (22 wins from 2011-12).
In 2019, the Texans put together a 10-6 regular season and captured the AFC South title on the back of a 4-2 division record and signature wins against Kansas City, New England, Tennessee and in London against Jacksonville. Houston went on to defeat the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round and earn its fourth appearance in the AFC Divisional Round in franchise history (2011, 2012, 2016 and 2019).
Houston executed five trades before the season to acquire pivotal pieces to its division title run: T Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills from Miami, RB Duke Johnson from Cleveland, OLB Jacob Martin and OLB Barkevious Mingo from Seattle, RB Carlos Hyde from Kansas City and CB Keion Crossen from New England. During the season, the team landed CB Gareon Conley from Oakland to give them eight key contributors acquired via trade. Tunsil was named to his first career Pro Bowl after bolstering the left tackle position and signed a contract extension with the Texans in April 2020, while Hyde put together the first 1,000-yard season of his six-year career.
On offense, the Texans were led by three Pro Bowlers: Tunsil, WR DeAndre Hopkins and QB Deshaun Watson. Houston finished the season with a 3,500-yard passer (Watson), a 1,000-yard rusher (RB Carlos Hyde) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Hopkins) for just the fourth time in franchise history and first since 2012. Under O'Brien, Watson has become a two-time Pro Bowler and the only player in NFL history to record consecutive seasons (2018-19) with at least 25 passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns.
The Texans tied the team record for most overall touchdowns scored (46) in a single season in team history (2009 and 2012) and set franchise records for highest redzone touchdown percentage (64.2) and fewest three-and-outs (24). Houston also tallied 27 receptions of 30-or-more yards in 2019, which tied for third in the NFL, and TE Darren Fells broke the franchise record for most touchdown receptions by a tight end with a career-high seven.
Defensively, ILB Zach Cunningham (137), who notched the fourth-highest single-season tackle total in franchise history, and ILB Benardrick McKinney (101) led the team in tackles and combined for the most by a pair of Houston teammates since 2009. OLB Whitney Mercilus led the team with 7.5 sacks followed by DE J.J. Watt (4.0) while eight other players set single-season career highs.
Additionally, Houston led the NFL and set the single-season franchise record in opponent punt return average, allowing just 3.4 yards per return, and opponent field position after kickoffs (22.9 yard line). The Texans also blocked multiple field goals in a season for the fourth time in team history (2003, 2011, 2013 and 2019) and recovered an onside kick for the first time since 2016.
Under O'Brien (2014-19), the Texans are 37-3 when leading at halftime of a regular season game, which marks the third-highest winning percentage (92.5) in the NFL over that span. Houston is also 34-2 when allowing less than 20 points to their opponent under O'Brien, which is the second-best winning percentage (94.4) in the league since 2014. Additionally, the Texans have posted a 17-1 record when they don't turn the ball over, which is the second-best record in the NFL since 2014, and they lead the NFL with 15 comeback wins over the last two seasons (2018-19).
In 2018, the Texans captured an AFC South title with an 11-5 record, which marked the second-most wins in a season in franchise history and the first season with double-digit wins since 2012. Houston became the first team to start 0-3 and win a division title since 1992 and won a franchise-record nine consecutive games in Weeks 4-13, which made it the first team in NFL history to win nine straight games after starting 0-3.
Houston allowed just 19.8 points per game in 2018, including an NFL-best 17.3 points per game from Weeks 5-17. The Texans had a turnover differential of plus-13, which set a single-season franchise record, led the AFC and ranked second in the NFL. They also led the AFC and ranked second in the NFL in points off turnovers with 111 total points scored off their 29 takeaways (15 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries) while committing the fewest turnovers (16) in a single season in team history. Additionally, Houston led the NFL in opponent rushing average, allowing just 3.44 yards per carry, and in comeback wins with nine total.
The Texans had six players named to the Pro Bowl in 2018: DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney, WR DeAndre Hopkins, ILB Benardrick McKinney, RB Lamar Miller, QB Deshaun Watson and DE J.J. Watt. Hopkins and Watt were also named to the Associated Press NFL All-Pro First Team. Hopkins finished the season with a single-season career-high 115 receptions for a single-season career-high 1,572 yards (13.7 avg.) and 11 touchdowns. Watt compiled 61 total tackles, 16.0 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, 18 tackles for loss, four passes defensed and seven forced fumbles while Watson became the first player to record at least 4,000 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, 500 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in a single season in NFL history.
Under O'Brien's tutelage in 2017, Watson put together a historic rookie season despite playing in just seven games before sustaining a season-ending injury. He set NFL records for most passing touchdowns (19) through a player's first seven career games in NFL history and most passing touchdowns (18, Weeks 3-8) by a rookie over any five-game span in NFL history. At the time of his injury, the Texans featured the league's highest-scoring offense (30.7 points per game). Additionally, Hopkins was named to the AP NFL All-Pro First Team after posting 96 receptions for 1,378 yards (14.4 avg.) and a franchise-record 13 touchdowns in 2017, making him one of 15 players in NFL history to post those numbers in a season and the third-youngest ever to do so.
The Texans scored 30-or-more points six times in 2017, which tied the franchise record for the most games with 30-or-more points in a season (2012). In Week 4 vs. Tennessee, the Texans scored the most points in a game in franchise history with 57 and scored a team-record seven touchdowns. Houston won by the largest margin of victory in Texans history with a 43-point win and won by the largest point differential of any divisional matchup in AFC South history.
In his first three years (2014-16), O'Brien led the Texans to three straight winning seasons for the first time in franchise history and back-to-back AFC South division championships. He became just the 14th coach since 1978 to begin his NFL head coaching career with three consecutive winning seasons.
In 2016, the Texans defeated the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Wild Card Round and advanced to the Divisional Round for the first time since 2012. The Texans finished the season with the NFL's top-ranked defense for the first time in franchise history, surrendering an average of only 301.3 total net yards per game. The team also posted a 7-1 record at home during the regular season, which set a single-season franchise record and tied for the best home record in the NFL.
In 2015, Houston became the first NFL team since 1950 to make the playoffs with four different starting quarterbacks winning a game during the regular season when they won the AFC South division championship for the first time since 2012. Houston set franchise single-season records for sacks (45) and opponent third-down percentage (28.5), which also was the lowest mark by any NFL team since the 2003 Tennessee Titans (27.7). DE J.J. Watt won his third Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year award after leading the league with 17.5 sacks, 50 quarterback hits and 29 tackles for loss.
In 2014, O'Brien's first year as the franchise's head coach, Houston's seven-win improvement from 2013 led the NFL and made the Texans the sixth team since 1978 to post a winning season following a season in which it won two-or-less games. The Texans just missed the playoffs as the last team out in the AFC and O'Brien finished second in AP NFL Coach of the Year voting to Bruce Arians.
O'Brien earned his first victory with a 17-6 season-opening win against Washington at NRG Stadium, ending Houston's 14-game losing streak in the process. Following a bye in Week 10, Houston went 5-2 with three different starting quarterbacks leading the Texans to wins down the stretch. The team also led the NFL in takeaways with a franchise-record 34 and became just the third team in the last 20 years to lead the league in takeaways after finishing last the year before.
Prior to joining the Texans, O'Brien, a Brown University alum, took on one of the tallest tasks in college football history when he was named head coach at Penn State on Jan. 6, 2012. He spent two years leading the program through one of the greatest periods of strife any major college has endured, garnering national and conference coach-of-the-year awards in the process. In addition to replacing Joe Paterno, the all-time winningest head coach in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision history, O'Brien had to guide PSU through heavy scholarship reductions, a four-year postseason ban, an open transfer policy and the public aftermath of a devastating scandal that threatened the football program's storied existence.
Although odds of success were low, Penn State won eight of its final 10 games to finish the 2012 season with an 8-4 record. O'Brien, who also served as offensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions, was named the Bear Bryant, Maxwell Football Club and ESPN National Coach of the Year after winning more games than any other first-year head coach in the program's previous 125 seasons. He was also named the Big Ten Conference's Dave McClain Coach of the Year by media and the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year by coaches. O'Brien directed a fast-paced unit in 2012 that averaged 437.0 yards per game in conference play to lead the Big Ten. His offense also produced the conference's top rusher (Zach Zwinak), receiver (Allen Robinson) and passer (Matt McGloin).
A member of the Patriots' coaching staff from 2007-11, O'Brien helped lead the team to a pair of Super Bowl berths. He rose from offensive assistant to wide receivers coach in 2008 and then quarterbacks coach from 2009-10 prior to being named offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2011. The Patriots earned the top seed in the AFC with a 13-3 record and advanced to Super Bowl XLVI with O'Brien coordinating the offense in 2011. New England led the AFC in scoring with 32.1 points per game, and was second in the NFL in total offense (428.0 yards per game) and passing (317.8). QB Tom Brady threw for a career-high 5,235 yards (second in NFL) and 39 touchdowns. WR Wes Welker led the NFL with 122 receptions and set a career high with 1,569 yards. TE Rob Gronkowski, who set career bests with 90 receptions for 1,327 yards, led the NFL with 17 touchdown receptions, a record for an NFL tight end.
In O'Brien's second season as quarterbacks coach with the Patriots in 2010, Brady was selected as the first unanimous AP NFL MVP after leading the team to an NFL-best 14-2 mark. While O'Brien was his position coach from 2009-11, Brady led the AFC in attempts (1,668), completions (1,096), touchdown passes (103), interception percentage (1.7) and passer rating (104.0) and ranked second in the conference in passing yards (13,533).
O'Brien began his coaching career at Brown in 1993 as a tight ends coach before serving as inside linebackers coach in 1994. He joined George O'Leary's Georgia Tech staff in 1995 as a graduate assistant, helping the Yellow Jackets to bowl appearances in each of his last six seasons. O'Brien coached running backs from 1998-2000 before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2001 and assistant head coach in 2002.
O'Brien joined Ralph Friedgen's staff at Maryland in 2003 as running backs coach. Following two years in College Park, O'Brien served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Duke from 2005-06.
Born in Dorchester, Mass., O'Brien grew up in Andover and graduated from St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers. O'Brien went on to play linebacker and defensive end at Brown from 1990-92. He graduated with a double concentration in political science and organizational behavioral management in 1992. O'Brien and his wife, Colleen, have two sons: Jack and Michael.
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