Penn State's Bill O'Brien could be offered the job of head coach with the Houston Texans as early as Tuesday, ESPN reported Monday.
The network quoted sources as saying the hiring of the Nittany Lions' coach was "imminent."
Reports indicated that Texans chairman Bob McNair wanted to wrap up negotiations with O'Brien by Tuesday, even though he said Saturday that the organization had a long way to go in its search for a successor to Gary Kubiak, who was fired on Dec. 6.
The path for O'Brien was made clearer on Monday when a source told the NFL Network that the Texans would not interview San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, one of their reported targets, because of his involvement in the Chargers' playoff preparations.
Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, who also interviewed with Houston, is considered to be a front-runner for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opening created by Monday's firing of Greg Schiano, according to multiple reports.
On Twitter, Houston Chronicle beat writer John McClain posted: "Teams who fired coaches might be checking on Bill O'Brien [but] find out he's closing in on a new job in Houston."
O'Brien has been unavailable for comment since ESPN first broke the story Saturday on last week's talks with the Texans.
Five NFL head coaches found themselves without jobs Monday. One of them was Cleveland's Rob Chudzinski, who was hired a year ago after the Browns' coaching search included a conversation with O'Brien. However, club president Joe Banner indicated that the team would not interview any candidates who spoke with the Browns last year.
With O'Brien's move to the NFL looking more likely, reports are that Penn State is lining up candidates to succeed him. Schiano, a former Nittany Lions assistant and Rutgers head coach, would appear to be on that list. Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, who played for Penn State and is enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is awaiting his fate and could be in the mix with the Lions.
An intriguing possibility is Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, a Langhorne native and Neshaminy High graduate. Franklin, who has led the Commodores to three straight bowl appearances, is a candidate for the Texas opening and is starting to appear on NFL lists as well.