INDIANAPOLIS – Bill O'Brien enjoyed a terrific rookie season as an NFL head coach, leading the Houston Texans to a 9-7 finish a year after the franchise bottomed out with a 2-14 disaster. Despite missing out on the playoffs by just a game, O'Brien was still thrilled to watch his former team win it all.
"It was fun to watch," O'Brien began. "A lot of those guys are close friends. Those coaches – Josh McDaniels, Nick Caserio, those two guys are two of my best friends. I feel great for those guys. Obviously my relationship with Bill [Belichick]. Tom Brady, what more can you say about a guy who has persevered throughout his career, played at such a high level and goes and wins another Super Bowl. You can't say enough about him.
"At the same time you're watching that game and hoping the Houston Texans are in that game someday. That's the nature of the business. But I felt great watching the Patriots win that game."
Another thing O'Brien seemed to feel great about was the development of Ryan Mallett, Brady's former backup who was dealt to Houston during training camp last summer and started two games before a chest injury landed him on injured reserve.
There was a ton of speculation that the Patriots would move Mallett, and Houston was the most talked about landing spot, but O'Brien said he didn't know anything was in the works until the deal actually went down. Still, he said his relationship with the Patriots 2011 third-round pick was a key part of the acquisition.
"I've known Ryan since his rookie year, I coached him his rookie year," O'Brien said. "I really have a good connection with Ryan. [Former Patriots tight ends coach and current Texans quarterbacks coach] George Godsey has a really good connection with him as well. He enjoys playing in our system, we enjoy coaching him.
"Unfortunately he only played two games due to injury. He played one good game and one game when he was hurt. He tried to fight through the chest injury. We'd like to have him back."
Mallett is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and both O'Brien and Texans general manager expressed the desire to have him back. O'Brien cited Mallett's Patriots experience as a factor.
"Just his huddle command, knowledge of our offense, you could tell he learned a lot from backing up Tom."