Texans embattled coach Bill O'Brien, perhaps headed to a showdown with general manager Rick Smith this offseason as ownership mulls a change in its power structure, is very intrigued by the opening at the University of Maryland, according to several sources close to the school, and his interest in the job is not lost on the school's primary boosters.
O'Brien, who had a successful but brief college head-coaching stint with Penn State before taking the Texans job, coached previously at Maryland as an assistant and, according to sources close to the school, prominent Maryland alumnus Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, and other key figures in the hiring process are aware of O'Brien's interest. It is clear to many in the Texans organization that significant change is likely coming, with O'Brien and Smith not both remaining in the current roles in all likelihood, and owner Bob McNair has long championed Smith, creating an uneasy climate within the franchise.
O'Brien is only in his second year with the team, but turmoil has been increasingly common. The Texans are falling far short of expectations, and it is becoming increasingly common for coaches to be gone after just a year or two. The Maryland job is more attractive than many on the outside perceive, especially given Plank's financial and emotional commitment to the school and his desire to turn it into a Big Ten power, including a plan to build state-of-the-art training facilities.
O'Brien's perception as having a difficult demeanor, and of leaving jobs quickly, has not made the prospect of a return to College Park very popular among some alumni -- though his optics generally fit what Plank has told confidants he is looking for: a young (under-50), bright offensive mind who could run an attractive, pro-style offense.
Several rising collegiate coaches are very interested in the job as well. Former Maryland star quarterback Frank Reich, the Chargers' offensive coordinator, is viewed by many as an elite candidate for the vacancy.
The Texans remain in playoff contention given the overall ineptitude of the AFC South, but McNair has grown increasingly concerned with some of the factions within the organization and is aware that changes in how decisions are made and how power is delegated are likely necessary even should the team reach the playoffs. The prospect of everyone returning in their current positions seems very remote. O'Brien's agent, Neil Cornrich, did not respond to several messages seeking comment.