HOUSTON -- When Bill O'Brien told his wife at age 37 that he wanted to take a job that required a significant pay cut, she wasn't delighted.
"We had Jack and Michael had just been born," O'Brien said. "For that college coaching deal there, I was making a decent salary. Didn't quite make that same salary in New England.
"She didn't quite have the divorce papers written up then. That came later for other reasons. My suitcase wasn't out on the porch, but I don't think she was real thrilled about the ol' salary."
That job was to become an offensive quality control coach for the New England Patriots, the lowest rung of NFL assistant coaches. It was 2007 and he was leaving a well-paying job as Duke's offensive coordinator. He and his wife, Colleen, had two young children.
The pay cut was worth it for O'Brien to have the chance to work with Bill Belichick. At the time, the Patriots had won three of the last six Super Bowls and were coming off a 12-4 season.
"It was a great opportunity," O'Brien said. "It wasn't necessarily that I was saying, 'I gotta get to the NFL.' It was more about at that time having a chance in my career to work for a great football coach and a great organization."
O'Brien quickly worked up the ladder. He was the Patriots' receivers coach in 2008, their quarterbacks coach in 2009 and 2010, but began calling plays in that role, and their offensive coordinator in 2011. He became the Penn State head coach in 2012, and just seven years after taking that low-paying job with the Patriots, O'Brien became an NFL head coach with Houston.