Austin | Dallas | Houston
O'Brien Talks Tough

Tough new sheriff: Bill O'Brien sounds like the anti Kubiak, vows to be hard on Texans players

Enlarge
Slideshow
Bill O'Brien presser
Bill O'Brien will not call the Houston Texans a rebuilding team. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Bob McNair Andre Johnson hug
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair has reason to smile about football again. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Bill O'Brien clap
Bill O'Brien admits he missed the NFL. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Bill O'Brien presser
Bob McNair Andre Johnson hug
Bill O'Brien clap
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

Bill O'Brien certainly hasn't walked timidly into his new job as the head coach/franchise savior of the Houston Texans.

With large posters of J.J. Watt and Andre Johnson flanking him on either side of an elaborate press conference stage, O'Brien didn't pay homage as much as he demanded a new standard.

"To me it's about accountability," O'Brien said. "It's about demanding. It's about putting together a fast, physical football team."

In other words, Mr. Nice Guy went out the window with former Texans coach Gary Kubiak. O'Brien mentioned "accountability" and "demanding" several times in his introductory press conference Friday afternoon at Reliant Stadium. And you can bet the chorus sounded like sweet music to Texans owner Bob McNair.

CultureMap was the first news outlet anywhere to report that O'Brien was the Texans' top choice to be the team's new coach way back on Dec. 18. This was a McNair driven pick from the beginning and it is the 44-year-old O'Brien's toughness that drew the owner to the former Penn State coach and Bill Belichick assistant.

"To me it's about accountability. It's about demanding."

And McNair himself certainly talked tough on introduction day.

"I'm ready to kick 2013 the hell out the door," McNair said. "Not acceptable. Not what we're going to do in the future."

McNair went on to talk about O'Brien having shown he's willing to make the hard decisions — something he clearly felt was lacking as the Texans spiraled from Super Bowl schemers into a 2-14 death march in 2013.

"Some coaches who have been players still think of themselves as players rather than the head of an organization," McNair said. "And have trouble making difficult decisions."

Kubiak, of course, played quarterback for the Denver Broncos. As for an inability to make tough calls? Just look at how long Kubiak stuck with a flat-lined Matt Schaub and how he kept trying to go back to Schaub even after the Case Keenum call was made.

O'Brien noted that "there are a lot of good football players on this team." He also declined to take any pressure off himself and describe this makeover of a team with the worst record in the NFL as a rebuilding job.

"There are a lot of pieces in place here," he said. "It's all about hard work . . . Quick turnaround, rebuilding are labels. I'm not into all that."

Tom Brady Tough?

All in all, it's an impressive opening performance for a first-time NFL head coach. O'Brien knows how to command the stage. Texans general manager Rick Smith talked about the new coach's "charisma."

O'Brien even makes sure to work in the obligatory Texas joke about the cowboy life.

"Right after this, I'm going to go out and buy my first pair of cowboy boots," he said.

It's already becoming clear there will be one cowboy in charge of these Texans. One who happens to be a hard-nosed Northeast guy who's probably still most famous for getting into a sideline screaming match with New England Patriots golden boy quarterback Tom Brady.

 "I'm ready to kick 2013 the hell out the door." 

O'Brien downplayed the incident, but it's clearly helped burnish his taskmaster image.

"You know it's a competitive sports," O'Brien said. "Tom Brady's a great friend. These things happen. The thing that people don't understand is that 30 seconds after it was over, we were sitting together and going over pictures (of game action)."

The Texans players are clearly intrigued by O'Brien. Veteran center Chris Myers sat amongst the press at the stadium and listened to the new head man.

There will be a lot more change coming to the stadium. Smith hinted at as much when he noted how the Texans needed a coach who can guide young players.

It's hard to imagine O'Brien tip toeing around that change. He plans to meet with all the remaining Texans coaches Saturday (as with any head coaching change, it's unlikely many of the current assistants will be kept by O'Brien). He'll tackle the quarterback question later, though it's clear Keenum is still in the picture.

Almost every new NFL head coach sounds good on introduction day. Especially when the team brings out a marching band for the occasion. But O'Brien sounds tough and no nonsense.

Just what Bob McNair wanted. This is his call. His makeover. His tough guy.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address