By Robert Henslee, SportsRadio 610By Robert Henslee

Houston (CBS Houston)- Before the final gun has even sounded on their disastrous season, the Houston Texans reportedly are closing in on the coach who they hope will lead them out of a two-win season and back into playoff contention.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen report the team has intensfied contract discussions with Bill O’Brien after meeting with him during Christmas week.   If all goes well, a formal agreement could be in place by next week.

O’Brien took over the embattled Penn State football program two years ago and led the sanction-riddled Nittany Lions out of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  Under his direction, Penn State had back-to-back winning seasons and a combined 15-9 record.  O’Brien was named 2013 Big Ten Coach of the Year this year and received National Coach of the Year honors from ESPN.

Before replacing Paterno, the 44-year-old coach spent six seasons as an offensive assistant on Bill Belichick’s staff in New England.  He worked closely with Tom Brady as the Patriots quarterbacks coach and was later promoted to offensive coordinator where he spent three seasons as the Patriots’ play-caller.

The Texans received permission to interview O’Brien a few days ago and the meeting at his Cape Cod home reportedly went very well.  Bob McNair’s close friendship with Patriots owner Bob Kraft may have helped pave the way for O’Brien’s hiring.  McNair has made it known that he considers Kraft a close friend and mentor among the exclusive fraternity of NFL owners.

The Texans will have to negotiate a buyout of the remaining years on O’Brien’s Penn State contract, reportedly at a price of $6.5 million.

Previously, the Texans met with former Bears coach Lovie Smith.  Smith was fired after a 10-6 season in 2012, despite amassing an 81-63 record in nine seasons in Chicago.  Other NFL teams will likely bring him in for interviews as soon as the hatchet falls on other head coaches next week.

Wade Phillips has also met with the Texans brass to discuss being the head coach beyond this season.  Phillips became interim head coach after Gary Kubiak’s firing on December 6th.  The team has not responded well, going 0-2 since Phillips took over and being outscored 62-16 in those games.

The Texans finish their season Sunday in Tennessee.  A loss guarantees that the new coach will inherit the number one pick in next year’s draft.

Robert Henslee has been covering the Texans on a daily basis since the team was born in 1999.  Follow Robert on Twitter: @SportsRadioRH