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Why Bill O’Brien Would Be a Home Run Hire (and Realistic) for Boston College Football

Super Bowl XLVI: New England Patriots Vs. New York Giants At Lucas Oil Stadium Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

News broke on Wednesday night that Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley would be leaving for the Green Bay Packers. After the immediate shock of losing a head coach so late in the offseason, BC fans start thinking about who’s next. The Boston College football job definitely isn’t one of the most desirable jobs in the NCAA, but it still provides the opportunity to be a head coach in a Power 4 conference. Plus, with no other major vacancies still available, BC will be able to pursue their top choices without any external competition.

One of the names that immediately comes to mind as a top candidate for Boston College would be Ohio State offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. O’Brien is a longtime coach in college and the pros, most notably having been on the New England Patriots’ offensive staff from 2007-2011 during some of Tom Brady’s most impressive seasons, as well as head coach of the Houston Texans from 2014-2020. O’Brien’s college resume includes saving the Penn State program as head coach from 2012-2013 after the Joe Paterno scandal, as well as spending time as the offensive coordinator for Georgia Tech (2001-2002), Duke (2005-2006), Alabama (2021-2022), and most recently hired by Ohio State this offseason after a one-year return to the Patriots.

So, does BC have a shot to hire him? And would he be a good choice for the job? Let’s look at the facts.

Bill O’Brien Kept Penn State Football Afloat

In the wake of the Joe Paterno scandal, Penn State was hit with huge sanctions from the NCAA and a bleak future. The NCAA hit the team with yearly and overall scholarship reductions, a four-year postseason ban, huge fines against the university and allowed for any player to transfer to any other school without having to sit out a season. To facilitate as much player movement as possible, NCAA president Mark Emmert permitted other programs to use 2013 scholarships if they wanted to bring in 2012 Penn State players. It was as close to a death sentence as you can get in the modern era, especially from a period before transferring was as common as it is today.

Yet O’Brien stopped the bleeding. His leadership prevented a flood of players from transferring out of the program and he instead led them to two impressive seasons (considering the circumstances) by finishing 8-4 and 7-5. He set up his successor, James Franklin, for an extended run as head coach from 2014 to present day. Obviously Boston College’s situation is not exactly the same, but they are facing similar problems where players are at risk of transferring out in an exodus and the program has structural disadvantages compared to its peers. O’Brien’s performance during those two years as Penn State head coach should inspire confidence that he’d be able to take over a college program and lead it with a steady, experienced hand. Something Jeff Hafley could not do.

Bill O’Brien at Boston College Would Be a Huge Local Marketing Win

Boston College football often struggles to break through the noise of professional sports in New England. Between the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins, Boston is a pro sports town. But the hiring of Bill O’Brien would be a rare opportunity to draw attention to BC’s program in the Boston sports market, especially as the Patriots enter an unknown era. Fan interest in the local college team would get a huge boost with the name recognition of O’Brien and the interest of Patriots fans who are missing the days of Brady and Belichick. It’s a big leg up for BC when the ACC is becoming crowded and national success seems far away. This is a way to popularize BC football in the local market now.

Bill O’Brien’s NFL Experience is a Huge Bonus for Recruiting

Which college head coaches know more about the NFL than one who was an NFL head coach for seven seasons? And coached for 5 years under Bill Belichick? Not many, if any. O’Brien would be able to utilize his NFL experience for recruiting like nobody ever has at Boston College. Prospects will want to play for and be developed by a head coach that knows what it takes to get to the professional level, and someone who has worked with generational players like Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski, DeAndre Hopkins, and others.

Bill O’Brien is a Boston Native

Bill O’Brien was born in Boston, was raised in Andover, went to Brown University, and owns a summer home in Dennisport. He spent years in the Boston area and left Alabama last year to come back home to New England, before the head coaching change prompted his departure to Ohio State. He has stated in previous interviews that he loves the area and was excited to return with his family, especially his son Jack who suffers from lissencephaly and has received treatment locally. If those reasons are playing an important role in O’Brien’s decision-making process, it could be a big reason for him to come to BC as head coach.

Will it Happen?

With O’Brien just recently accepting that OC job at Ohio State, it’s hard to know whether he could be a serious candidate. He is in a transition period for his career, so accepting a job at BC wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. It’s not like he’s leaving a gig in the NFL or a head coaching job somewhere else. He’s a coordinator at Ohio State, the same kind of position that Boston College plucked Jeff Hafley out of four years ago. But the Boston College program is in a lousy spot right now and the ACC is only going to get worse as the years go on, so O’Brien might be better suited to wait it out and find a job somewhere else after spending some time at OSU.