Bill O'Brien vs. Bill Belichick: A Tale of the tape, plus a look at why O'Brien and Jason Garrett might have missed their Super Bowl window
When the Texans hired Bill O'Brien, they hoped they were getting the next Bill Belichick. Of course, every team hopes that, and only one actually did it.
It's no secret O'Brien has struggled in his career against his old boss. He is 0-5 against Belichick, and his teams have been outscored by an average of 30-15.
But let's take a deeper look at how the two Bills match up:
Not much of a comparison
So let's get the unpleasant stuff out of the way first, looking at both coaches records head to head:
Overall head coaching record
O'Brien 49-42, .538. Belichick: 271-124 .686
O'Brien 1-3, .250. Belichick 31-11, .738
Super Bowl record
O'Brien 0-0, Belichick 6-3.
AFC Championship record
O'Brien 0-0, Belichick 9-4
Now the good news...
Yeah, so OK, we know that isn't fair. But on the bright side, O'Brien's six years with the Texans actually measure up nicely with Belichick's first six years in the league, five with Cleveland.
Overall head coaching record
O'Brien 49-42, .538. Belichick: 41-55 .427
O'Brien 1-3, .250. Belichick 1-1, .500
Belichick was 5-11 in his first year in New England after the stint in Cleveland. The next year he went 11-5 and won his first Super Bowl. He hasn't had a losing season since. That correlates with the Tom Brady era, of course.
So maybe next year is O'Brien's year? Looking at other first time Super Bowl winning coaches, If it was going to happen for O'Brien, it probably already would have.
Something more apt
First, let's compare O'Brien to another prominent coach who has yet to win a Super Bowl:
Overall head coaching record
O'Brien 49-42, .538. Coach X: 83-64, .565
O'Brien 1-3, .250. Coach X; 2-3, .400
No championship game or Super Bowl appearances.
Record vs. Patriots
O'Brien 0-5, Coach X 0-3
"Coach X" is the man who just faced Belichick and the Patriots, Jason Garrett. In his 10th year, his run appears near an end. He is comparable to O'Brien with a few more years in the books. We throw him in because like O'Brien, his Super Bowl window may have passed and his team just lost to these same Patriots.
So what is the point?
Yes, O'Brien - and Garrett - do not match up with Belichick. Who does? But Belichick wasn't Belichick at O'Brien's stage of his career, either. Had he stayed with the Browns, would he have been the same coach? Who knows? Obviously having Brady has a lot to do with his success. And realistically, no one will ever be Belichick. But can O'Brien achieve success at the highest level after six years on the job? Can Garrett in year 10? A deeper look at recent first time Super Bowl winners says no.
Super Bowl winning coaches
Let's go back to 2000 and look at how many years a coach was on the job before winning their first Super Bowl aside from Belichick:
2000, Dick Vermeil, Rams. Vermeil spent seven years in Philadelphia. He reached a Super Bowl in Year five. After a 15 year break he returned with the Rams, had two losing seasons and won it in Year 3. So technically he was in his 10th coaching year when he won his first Super Bowl, but made it to one in year 5.
2001, Brian Billick, Ravens: He won the Super Bowl in his second season.
2003, Jon Gruden, Bucs: Year 1 with Tampa Bay, Year 5 as a head coach (four years in Oakland with one AFC Championship game).
2006, Bill Cowher, Steelers: Won it in his 14th season, but also went to a Super Bowl in year four.
2007, Tony Dungy, Colts: He won it in his 11th season, his fifth in Indianapolis, his second team.
2008, Tom Coughlin, Giants: Won it in year 12, but year four with the Giants, his second team.
2009, Mike Tomlin, Steelers: Won it in Year 2.
2010, Sean Payton, Saints: Won it in Year 4.
2011, Mike McCarthy, Packers: Won in Year 5.
2013, John Harbaugh, Ravens: Won in Year 5.
2014, Pete Carroll, Seahawks: Won in Year 8, but his third team. It was Year 4 with the Seahawks. He also had national championships at USC between gigs, so he is an outlier.
2016, Gary Kubiak, Broncos: Won in Year 9, but first year in Denver.
2018, Doug Pederson, Eagles: Won in Year 2.
The bad news...
Not a single coach with his first team won a Super Bowl after year five without previously making it to a Super Bowl. Cowher did it in 14 years, but had already made it to one. Dungy, Vermeil and Coughlin all won later in their careers, but not with their first teams. Only Dungy and Coughlin won their first Super Bowl more than 10 years into their careers without having been to a Super Bowl and lost before.
However, Dungy made a conference title game in Year 4 (with the Bucs). Coughlin made it in Year 2 and Year 5 in Jacksonville. Cowher had been to five conference championship games, his first in Year 3, in addition to losing the Super Bowl. Vermeil was in Year 5 with the Eagles when they made the Super Bowl.
The bottom line: Only three coaches have won a Super Bowl since 2000 without an appearance in at least a conference championship game in their first five years coaching in the league.
1) Former Texans coach Kubiak, who had never made a title game before winning his first year in Denver. He inherited a team that had already been to a Super Bowl, however.
2) Carroll, who took a lengthy break to have success at USC before going to the Seahawks. You could argue the Seattle team he inherited was comparable to the Texans team O'Brien took over. Yet Carroll won in Year 4 and made it back in Year 5. You could also argue national championships should count.
3) Then there is that man again, Belichick.
Belichick, although his career started in the early 90s, is the measuring stick for all since. Year 7 was his first title, and he had not led a team to a championship game before. So there's that to hang onto, even though it was his second team.
Of those three? None were in their first NFL coaching jobs, which means O'Brien and Garrett are up against it. In the simplest terms, if you don't make at least a conference title game by year 5, you won't be winning a Super Bowl with that team.
In reality, what O'Brien and Garrett are hoping to achieve simply does not happen at this point in their careers. Neither has reached a conference title game, which means their window is likely closed, unless they can buck history.
The one positive is O'Brien has accomplished more in his first six seasons than Belichick did in his. But at this stage of his Texans career, he is unlikely to ever win the ultimate prize, at least in Houston.
If history is to be believed, time has run out. But at least there is still a chance to beat his old boss for the first time.