Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is a hot coaching commodity in both the NFL and college football given his ability to elevate a program’s culture. So it’s no shock that a blue-blood Big Ten program would have an interest in making him a head coach once more.
Nebraska (1-3), which fired Scott Frost on September 11, a day after a 45-42 upset loss to Georgia Southern of the Sun Belt, has O’Brien on its short list of head coaching candidates to take over a Cornhuskers team that hasn’t been nationally relevant since Bo Pelini left Lincoln in 2012, according to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman.
“O’Brien and [Nebraska athletic director] Trev Alberts have a connection dating back to O’Brien’s days as an assistant at Georgia Tech,” Feldman wrote on September 20 (subscription required). “We hear Alberts has great admiration for the rebuilding job O’Brien did at Penn State. … O’Brien displayed real leadership when he arrived in Happy Valley and helped build the foundation for a turnaround.”
Bill O’Brien Has a History of Stabilizing Teams
Even though Nebraska’s issues run deep, Frost’s recruiting classes were ranked in the top 25 year in and year — that is, until this year, when the program was ranked No. 41, according to 247 Sports.
There’s no excuse for the team’s losing so many games during Frost’s four-plus years leading Nebraska, particularly during a stretch from midway through 2021 to this season’s opener against Northwestern in Dublin. In those 10 games, the Huskers went 1-9, but with a minus-2 point differential. Frost wound up going 16-31 overall and 10-26 in the Big Ten.
O’Brien has entered toxic situations and helped turn around programs in the past. Most notably, O’Brien arrived at Penn State in the wake of Joe Paterno’s 2011 departure — one forcibly imposed due to Jerry Sandusky’s well-publicized sexual abuse of minors — and set up the program for the turnaround it has experienced under James Franklin. In his two years there, 2012 and 2013, he led the Nittany Lions to a 15-9 record.
He also took a Houston Texans team that went 2-14 in 2013 and led them to nine wins in each of his first three seasons, 2014-16.
O’Brien Likely to Finish the Season With Alabama
Being that O’Brien has been coaching at a Power Five/NFL level for 27 years and counting, his name is always one that will pop up in these types of situations. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he developed Alabama’s first Heisman quarterback in program history with Bryce Young.
Still, O’Brien said he understood that it’s the nature of the business.
“Those things come up relative to what your role is in different programs, where you’ve been,” O’Brien said at an August 7 press conference. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve had various roles in coaching, so obviously, those things come up.”
O’Brien told the Boston Sports Journal on April 10 that he’d committed to working for Alabama head coach Nick Saban for two years and that he planned on following through with that agreement. If the 52-year-old does decide to become a head coach again, it appears it likely will come after the 2022 Alabama football season has concluded.