Bill O'Brien, Chip Kelly reminisce on friendship ahead of preseason game

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Friday's joint practice between the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers was more than 20 years in the making, starting when Texans coach Bill O'Brien and 49ers coach Chip Kelly met when O'Brien was at Brown and Kelly was at New Hampshire.

The two coaches, who were both born and raised in New England, continued to stay in touch throughout the many coaching stops over the years.

"I think he's outstanding," Kelly said. "We've kept in touch wherever he's been, whether it was at Georgia Tech, I had opportunities when I was at New Hampshire to go visit him there. When he took over as the quarterbacks coach at the Patriots and I was at Oregon, I would always come back in the summertime and spend time with OB then, just talking football.

"So, we've kept in touch over the years. I think he's done an outstanding job, did an outstanding job when he was at Penn State as the head coach, and then obviously taking Houston to the playoffs last year."

The 49ers and Texans play in each team's preseason opener Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. This is not the first time Kelly and O'Brien have coached against each other in the NFL; in 2014 the Kelly-led Eagles played in Houston.

"I just think he's sound in everything he does," Kelly said. "I think he takes a real good analytical approach in terms of how it is. But OB's a tough guy, and I think his teams reflect his personality. There's a toughness to any team that he's coached and I think it shows when you see his teams play on the field."

O'Brien shared similar sentiments about Kelly.

"He's a great coach," O'Brien said. "Very, very bright guy, has a very quick mind, good sense of humor, great relationships with his players, and he really understands the game. Any time you can pair up with a team like that, you're going to get a lot of work done because there's a lot of ideas, a lot of creativity that goes into planning that practice. It was really good."

O'Brien said the two have had a lot of mutual friends on their coaching staffs, including 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins, 49ers defensive assistant Shane Bowen, 49ers defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro and Texans tight ends coach John Perry.

"We just kind of ran in the same circles," Kelly said of O'Brien. "But, we are kindred spirits."

When told of Kelly's description, O'Brien laughed.

"He's older than me, so he knows bigger words than I do. We both grew up in the Northeast, so we have a lot in common that way. We believe in a similar type of football, smart players and guys who love the game. We both have really good coaching staffs.

"We believe in similar things when it comes to football."