O’Brien leaving Penn State to become coach of Houston Texans

It’s a new year, and Penn State needs a new football coach.

News broke late Tuesday that Bill O’Brien has reached an agreement to become the next head coach of the Houston Texans.

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter first reported the news that O’Brien, who spent two seasons as PSU’s coach, had reached a deal with the Texans. The deal had been widely expected since O’Brien was considered the frontrunner for the job for more than a week.

O’Brien, 44, came to Penn State in January of 2012 in the immediate aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Most expected him to have a tough job with the Lions after the scandal, and the job became drastically more difficult in July of 2012 when the NCAA levied severe sanctions on the PSU football program, including a massive loss of scholarships and a four-year bowl ban.

Despite those limitations, O’Brien led Penn State to an 8-4 record in 2012 and earned several national coach of the year honors. The Lions then went 7-5 this season, securing a winning record in the finale with a big upset at Wisconsin.

Through his entire run at Penn State, and especially after the sanctions were levied, there was always speculation that O’Brien wanted to leave and become an NFL head coach as soon as the right opportunity came along. He previously served as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots and was widely viewed as an “NFL guy” by those who knew his career path.

O’Brien was interviewed by several NFL teams following the 2012 season, but it would have cost more than $19 million to buy out his PSU contract. He restructured that contract this past summer, lowering his buyout to about $6.7 million after the 2013 season.

The Texans went 2-14 this season, the worst record in the NFL, and will have the first pick in the upcoming draft. Terms of O’Brien’s contract are not yet known, but he’s expected to make at least $5 million per year, compared to his PSU salary of $3.3 million.