HOUSTON - Two people familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday night that Penn State's Bill O'Brien has reached an agreement to coach the Houston Texans.
The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because an official announcement hasn't been made.
Less than two years after replacing Joe Paterno as coach of the Nittany Lions, O'Brien will return to the NFL. He was an offensive assistant with the New England Patriots from 2007-12.
O'Brien went was 15-9 at Penn State, hit hard by NCAA sanctions levied for the Jerry Sandusky scandal that cost the late Paterno his job.
O'Brien will become the third coach in Texans history, following Dom Capers, who led the team from its expansion season in 2002, and Gary Kubiak.
Kubiak took over after Capers was fired following Houston's 2-14 season in 2005. Kubiak went 61-64 and led Houston to its first two playoff appearances and two AFC South titles before being fired in early December in his eighth season.
The Texans were expected to contend for the Super Bowl this season, but instead lost nine games by a touchdown or less as part of a 14-game skid to end the season with the NFL's worst record at 2-14. The job is still seen as a plum position because Houston has a roster filled with talent, including 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and star receiver Andre Johnson.
The Texans need to find a solution at quarterback though after veteran Matt Schaub had a terrible season and was benched after six games. He was replaced by Case Keenum, but the former record-setting quarterback at the University of Houston proved he wasn't the answer, either.
Houston has the top overall pick in the draft and could use it on a one of a trio of talented signal-callers who could be available. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, and Fresno State's Derek Carr, younger brother of Houston's first-ever draft pick, David Carr, are the top-rated quarterbacks expected to be in the draft.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips served as interim coach for the last three games and reportedly interviewed for the job along with former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith. But Houston went with the 44-year-old O'Brien instead, going with a first-time NFL head coach for the second time in its short history.