His basic resume, featuring experience as a college assistant, NFL assistant, college head coach and now, NFL head coach is not unique.
New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin started out as an assistant at Syracuse and Boston College (he also had an early head coaching job at Rochester Institute of Technology) before making three NFL stops as an assistant and eventually taking over as head coach at Boston College. Then came the Jacksonville job.
"He'll have the same challenges we all have." said Coughlin. "What he did at Penn State is a remarkable success story."
For those of you who think college head coaching experience doesn't help, Detroit Coach Jim Caldwell disagrees. "That experience is undervalued." Caldwell told me. He should know as a former Penn State assistant and head coach at Wake Forest.
"College coaching is all day, all night, all consuming." Caldwell pointed out that recruiting is a huge time drain that you don't have to deal with in the NFL. But that doesn't mean the National Football league is 'easier.' Caldwell calls the NFL the "the cream of the crop, the best of the best. It's like getting a PHD in football because you don't have to deal with those other things. From a time standpoint, nothing will surprise him"
O'Brien's close friend and Buffalo coach Doug Marrone was asked about the transition at the scouting combine and said that taking the college head coaching job from the NFL was probably more difficult than going the other way, especially when one has prior NFL experience.