The Bill O'Brien watch kicked into high gear Saturday evening when ESPN reported the Penn State coach is working on a deal to become the Houston Texans' head coach.
O'Brien is the "overwhelming favorite" to take over the Texans, according to ESPN NFL insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, and a deal could be in place in the next week.
However, Texans owner Bob McNair told the Houston Chronicle later Saturday, "The process continues. We have other interviews scheduled next week. It isn't over."
Also, PSU recruit Thomas Holley had some interesting comments about what the coach apparently told him. Holley, a defensive tackle from Brooklyn, said he spoke with O'Brien on Saturday evening.
"He said, 'You're gonna hear a lot of those things from other schools, saying I'm going to other teams. I'm not. I'm staying here,'" Holley told scout.com (reprinted by fightonstate.com).
The Texans reportedly met with O'Brien this week in Cape Cod to discuss their coaching position, which came open when they fired Gary Kubiak on Dec. 6. The team also reportedly has interviewed its interim head coach, Wade Phillips, along with former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.
Today is the final day of the NFL regular season, and there are expected to be numerous head coaching positions available as early as Monday. For now, the Texans are the only team without a head coach, so they've been able to get a head start on the interview process.
O'Brien is expected "to be on the radar of every team in need of a coach, as long as that team doesn't mind paying big money to its sideline boss," NFL insider Don Banks wrote for Sports Illustrated.
Other potential openings that could entice O'Brien include the New York Giants, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, but the futures of those organizations won't be known until at least Monday.
O'Brien has 3 1/2 years remaining on his Penn State contract, and if he leaves for the NFL his buyout would be about $6.7 million.
Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner did not return a phone message from the Mirror seeking comment about how the school is handling things amidst all the NFL speculation.
Would Houston be a good fit for O'Brien?
The Texans are 2-13 and would lock up the No. 1 pick in the draft with a loss today to Tennessee. The team, however, is widely considered to be capable of making a major turnaround next year.
Former NFL receiver Keenan McCardell is an analyst for Comcast Sports Net Houston and spoke with the Mirror on Saturday about O'Brien. Here's the Q&A:
Q: Why would O'Brien make a good fit for the Texans?
A: I really think he could make a real good fit for the Texans because he's been in the pros before, he understands the schedule, the grind that it is. He comes in with a great sense of offense because he's an offensive coach, an offensive coordinator, had Tom Brady. It helps when you have an offensive guy at the head coaching spot, especially when you're in a position with the Texans. They're looking for a franchise quarterback, and what better person to have as your head coach than an offensive guy and former offensive coordinator.
Q: What concerns about O'Brien would make you think he might not be the right guy for the Texans?
A: I don't think there would be any concerns of mine. He's been under Bill Belichick, and Bill has a great reputation. People sometimes say Bill's [coaching] tree hasn't blossomed as much as he would like for it to blossom. But who knows? Coach O'Brien could be the guy that helps Bill's tree blossom. What he's done at Penn State, to go in under all the scrutiny that he was under and to change the culture there the Texans' culture needs to be changed here, and he's a guy that has shown how he can change a culture.
Q: Can the Texans turn things around quickly next year, or did they miss their window over the past few years and now they're going to have to rebuild?
A: They probably could form a pretty good team next year. It just depends on which way they go in the draft as far as quarterback-wise and how they want to bring along a franchise quarterback. It just depends on the philosophy Coach O'Brien would have and Mr. McNair would have. I think they have enough to make a run, but I don't know if they have enough to win it all. That's what you're in this game for is to win it all. If you don't have enough to win it all, you may want to say, you know what, let's rebuild in two years and come back and see if we can do it.
Q: Will Matt Schaub get another chance at quarterback, or will the Texans have to draft and play a young potential franchise quarterback?
A: Everybody here tells me I love Matt Schaub, but I know being a former athlete that when you have a bad year, how much it motivates you the next year to be better. Matt realizes what kind of season he had. Everybody here realizes that. People around here really think Matt's out the door. But Coach O'Brien might think different of that, thinking he can help him. It just depends on where his philosophy is with the draft and the timetable that he's planning on for him to draft a quarterback. If he has a timetable of two years, I think Matt would serve for Coach O'Brien and be a good fit, at a reduced price.
Q: Do you think O'Brien would be the best guy for the job?
A: That's Mr. McNair's call. He's right there. He comes in with a strong resume.