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Will O’Brien return to college, and is he a fit at Bama?

Bill O’Brien did terrific work at Penn State navigating the program after the scandal, but it became clear during his two-year tenure that he is an NFL guy. O’Brien had to deal with a whole lot of nonsense as a college coach — far more at PSU during that time than any other program in America — and it was obvious he wanted to be in a situation where just had to deal with football.

That chance came with the Houston Texans, and O’Brien did well there as a head coach for six-plus seasons. He won four AFC South Division titles and compiled a 52-48 record.

But O’Brien was an absolute disaster when he took over as the Texans’ general manager, making one awful decision after another. His personnel and business decisions crippled that franchise possibly for years, with terrible trades that often sent good players away and still cost the team valuable draft picks.

He was fired earlier this season after an 0-4 start, and he’s been heavily ridiculed ever since.

LISTEN: Cory Giger and Neil Rudel of the Altoona Mirror discuss O’Brien’s future, plus PSU assistant coaches Brent Pry and Ja’Juan Seider as potential college head coaches at some point on “Sports Central” on WRTA in Altoona.

Will O’Brien get another chance in the NFL any time soon — in any major role? It probably won’t be as a head coach, but look, some head coaches are terrible, and after they’re fired they still get opportunities as coordinators within a reasonable amount of time.

O’Brien, though, may have become too toxic with how everything shook out in Houston, too much of a “my way or the highway” kind of guy that he actually could be blackballed for a while as he waits for another good job.

If that is the case, and if O’Brien wants to keep working in the meantime — he certainly doesn’t need the money — then he may have to come back to college in order to get a major job.

I seriously doubt Bill O’Brien wants to be a college head coach right now. Again, he is a football guy through and through and wants to spend as much time as he can dealing only with football — not dealing with boosters, gladhanding everybody and sorting through all the extracurricular things that college head coaches have to do.

James Franklin is great at all that stuff, by the way. O’Brien is not.

So, if O’Brien wants to coach right now, the offensive coordinator job at Alabama would seem to be a great spot for him. He was in Tuscaloosa over the weekend getting interviewed, and we could find out very quickly if he’s the choice there or not.

Alabama’s outgoing OC, Steven Sarkisian, made $2.5 million a year, by the way, so that is an elite job with the most elite pay you’ll find for an assistant coach anywhere. Sarkisian is the new head coach at Texas and will be leaving after Bama plays Ohio State in the national title game.

Would O’Brien do a good job at Alabama? Could he put his own ego aside and work for Nick Saban?

Those are good questions, and I don’t really have a good answer.

O’Brien did work for control freak head coach Bill Belichick in New England and did well there as offensive coordinator. So you’d think he could fall into that role at a place like Alabama with a coach like Saban.

Still, O’Brien was on a major power trip for the past couple of years in Houston, and that all blew up in his face. I’m sure he was humbled by it and will learn from it, but that doesn’t guarantee he would just fit right in at Alabama and under Saban.

As for the offense stuff, the Texans were mediocre at best and often pretty bad on offense for a good bit of O’Brien’s tenure. Watching his teams was like pulling teeth at times because the offense was lousy and everything relied on the defense winning games.

The Alabama offense has been phenomenal for several years under various coordinators. The Tide have awesome players all over the field, so you’d think any offensive coach could do well there.

But again, O’Brien would have to prove himself, and Alabama will be losing star QB Mac Jones and receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle to the NFL.

I ultimately believe going to Alabama to do his football coach rehab work would be a good thing for O’Brien. It’s hard to NOT have success there, just because of the Tide’s talent, and O’Brien could spend a year or two away from the NFL without the pressure of having to make all the decisions.

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Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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