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Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is the “overwhelming” favorite to land the Houston Texans head coaching job and the two sides have now reached the point of working to finalize a deal that is expected to be completed by the end of the week, according to ESPN.
The network reports O’Brien, 44, met with front office officials from the NFL team at his home in Cape Cod just after Christmas and talks quickly began to intensify. “Texans hope to make him the next coach in Houston,” ESPN.com Chris Mortensen later tweeted.
In the event negotiations with O’Brien somehow break down, sources indicate the team has also scheduled an upcoming interview with San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and previously interviewed former Bears coach Lovie Smith and team interim coach Wade Phillips.
O’Brien has spent the last two years at Penn State, where he is largely credited with putting the once proud Nittany Lions program back on solid footing in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
In his first season, he was named Big 10 coach of the year and this season posted a 7-5 mark while being led by freshmen quarterback Christian Hackenberg. O’Brien also previously spent four seasons as an assistant with the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick.
O’Brien’s interest in joining the ranks of NFL head coach has long been documented. He interviewed with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns last year before returning to Penn State after the school agreed to lower his buyout to join an NFL team from $19.33 million to $6.48 million.
Despite all the mounting news, some remain convinced O’Brien’s departure from Happy Valley remains far from a done deal.
Prized, incoming recruit Thomas Holley told ESPN he had a talk with O’Brien on Saturday and the coach assured him of his plans to return to State College. “He said it’s not true, he’s going to be at Penn State and he’s going to be there for me when I get there,” said Holley.
The 2-13 Texans currently have the league’s worst record and will have either the first or second pick in the 2014 NFL draft, where they are expected to target a quarterback.
The Texans fired Gary Kubiak earlier this season in the midst of the team’s ongoing 13 game losing streak.
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