Boston College hires O’Brien as head coach

Published 6:45 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

The Associated Press

Boston College hired Bill O’Brien to be its new head coach on Friday, luring the former Houston Texans boss back to his hometown and away from a job as an assistant on the Ohio State staff he had accepted just last month.

“Bill is a gifted leader who has had a tremendous amount of success as a head coach and coordinator at both the collegiate and NFL levels,” BC athletic director Blake James said in a statement. “His passion for teaching football and developing young men make him a great fit to lead Boston College to greater heights.”

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O’Brien replaces Jeff Hafley, who left Chestnut Hill to be the defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers — a move that set off a chain of events that rippled from from Boston to Los Angeles, and from the NFL to the Big Ten. The decision was first reported by New England Football Journal.

O’Brien, who was the New England offensive coordinator last season, accepted a job on Jan. 19 as the Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after the Patriots fired Bill Belichick. The Buckeyes are reportedly ready to hire UCLA coach Chip Kelly to replace O’Brien, leaving an opening in Westwood as the Bruins prepare to move to the Big Ten.

The Eagles were 22-26 in four seasons under Hafley, who had been the Buckeyes defensive coordinator when he was hired at BC during the 2019-20 College Football Playoffs.

O’Brien was last a head coach for the Texans, where he went 54-52 from 2014-20. Since then, he has worked for Alabama and the Patriots as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

O’Brien also worked for New England from 2007-11. In his second stint with the Patriots, O’Brien presided over an offense that struggled under 2021 first-round draft choice Mac Jones, whom he’d also coached at Alabama.

The Patriots went 4-13 last season and replaced Belichick with Jerod Mayo, leaving O’Brien with a questionable future in Foxborough.

O’Brien was also the head coach at Penn State from 2012-14, taking over the program in the wake of the child sexual abuse scandal that ended the tenure of longtime Nittany Lions mentor Joe Paterno. O’Brien was the national coach of the year in 2012, when Penn State went 8-4.

Boston College earned six wins in each of Hafley’s first two seasons in Chestnut Hill, opting out of a bowl game in the pandemic-tainted 2020 season and then scratching from the 2021 Military Bowl because of a COVID outbreak.

BC went 3-9 in 2022, a season beset by injuries and the same quarterback shuffling that characterized much of Hafley’s tenure in the Heights. When the Eagles opened this season 1-3, Hafley’s job was in jeopardy; five straight wins earned them another bowl berth.