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O’Brien leaves Penn State for NFL’s Texans

January 2, 2014

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.

“In your lifetime, you only get certain opportunities so many times,” O’Brien said at a Houston airport. “This is a great opportunity to work with an owner like Mr. (Bob) McNair and an organization like the Texans. It is a very exciting time for myself and my family.”

O’Brien was proud of his time at Penn State.

“They gave me my first opportunity to be a head coach, and I’ll always thank them for that,” he said. “They’re great kids at Penn State; lot of great people there.”

Kubiak took over in 2006 and went 61-64, leading 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 they worked with O’Brien until the end to keep him. They expect to name a new coach within days.

“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.”

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