Two great coaching pickups in the NFL

O'Brien and Lovie Smith

After the dust settled on BLACK MONDAY, there were 6 head coaching vacancies in the NFL – Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington.  Two of those six didn’t waste any time getting their guy to be the head coach of their team for the 2014 season; the Texans snagged former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and the Buccaneers grabbed Lovie Smith from his one season hiatus away from the NFL.

Houston TexansThe Texans and Bill O’Brien has reached an agreement on New Year’s Eve become the team’s new coach.  O’Brien replaces Gary Kubiak, who fired during the 2013 NFL season (December 6) after the Texans loss their 11th game in a row.

O’Brien replaced Joe Paterno at Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal and despite facing various sanctions, O’Brien was able to lead the Nittany Lions to a 15-9 record over two seasons at the school. O’Brien was named Big Ten coach of the year in 2012 after leading Penn State to an 8-4 record in his first year on the job, but there were rumors out there that O’Brien wasn’t happy at College Station.  O’Brien stated that he was frustrated with the PSU “big wigs” and the legions of Joe Paterno fans wanting him to continue doing things the “Paterno Way”, even though he had two winning seasons basically with his hands tied behind his back with all the “close-to-death penalty” sanctions put on the football program because of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  Bill O’Brien just had enough and vented to David Jones of PennLive.com in a Dec. 4 conversation.

“You can print this, you can print that…I don’t really give a —- what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program,” he said. “I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less about what the Paterno faction of people, or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I’m tired of it.  For any ‘Paterno person’ to have any objection to what I’m doing, it makes me wanna put my fist through this windshield right now. . . .

“I’m trying to field the most competitive football team I can with near-death penalty —-ing sanctions. Every time I say something like that and somebody prints it, it’s skewed as an excuse. And I’m not an excuse-maker. I’m trying to do the best I can for the kids in that program. That’s all I care about is the kids in that program. As long as I’m the head football coach here.”

You can tell  that the writing was on the wall that he wanted to leave PSU when he renegotiated his contract at the school last summer, O’Brien had his buyout fee changed from almost $20 million down to $6.5; an easier number for Texans owner Bob McNair to swallow.

O’Brien was working in the NFL before he took the Penn State job; he spent five seasons in the New England Patriots organization. O’Brien was an assistant under Bill Belichick from 2007-11 and was the Patriots offensive coordinator in 2011, when New England made it to Super Bowl XLVI.  Even though the Texans finished last with a 2-14 record, O’Brien will take over a team that’s made the postseason in two of the past three seasons. Not to mention, the Texans also have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe situation wasn’t that hard when it comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith.  After a miserable 4-12 season where the Bucs lost the first eight games, they fired head coach Greg Schiano AND general manager Mark Dominik on Monday afternoon.  Smith interviewed this week and the Glazer family liked him so much they moved quickly to get a deal done.

It has been reported that Smith will bring in Jeff Tedford as the Bucs offensive coordinator and Rod Marinelli – not Leslie Frazier – with him as the Bucs defensive coordinator.  Marinelli (who is under contract with the Dallas Cowboys through the 2014 season) worked with Smith in Chicago, serving as assistant coach, defensive line coach and defensive coordinator.

Even though the Chicago Bears finished 10-6 for the season, they didn’t make the playoffs and new GM Phil Emery replaced Lovie with Marc Trestman.  During his nine years running the Bears, Smith went 81-63, winning three NFC North division titles, appearing in six playoff games and advancing to the Super Bowl (XLI) once.

Smith has a solid squad on defense and I believe he has something to work with in QB Mike Glennon; I just think that if he has the right OC behind him running a smooth offense, the Buccaneers will make some noise in the NFC South in a couple of years and maybe there’s a monster in the making.  We will see.

As of right now, there’s four job openings left – Browns, Vikings, Washington and Lions.  Stay in touch with this blog to see where we rank the teams in appeal and/or who will fill in the next coaching slots.

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