When the firing of Andy Reid became official earlier this week, the Philadelphia Eagles began the search for a new head coach. Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is among the candidates that have been mentioned in the very early stages of the coaching hunt. While it is possible for O’Brien to jump to the NFL, I think he should, and believe he will, remain at Penn State.
After such a successful season in his first year at Penn State, it only makes sense that the Eagles would take interest in O’Brien. In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, O’Brien accepted the challenge of rebuilding the storied Penn State program. Despite being further hindered by unprecedented sanctions handed down by the NCAA prior to the start of the season, which included the loss of scholarships and the loss of players who were free to transfer, O’Brien still kept the Nittany Lions competitive and led the team to an 8-4 record. Furthermore, O’Brien engineered an impressive offense and turned former walk-on quarterback Matt McGloin into the top passer in the Big Ten and the best quarterback statistically in Penn State history.
While the Eagles could benefit from the leadership of O’Brien, and his ability to develop quarterbacks, I think O’Brien has an incredible opportunity at Penn State. With a successful season under his belt, O’Brien has the potential to be remembered for the coach that guided Penn State through the program’s darkest days and returned the team to national prominence.
The reality is that the next few years are the toughest because of the loss of senior talent and the scholarship reductions that will impact recruiting. However, there is a chance that the sanctions could be lessened pending the results of the lawsuit brought forth by Governor Tom Corbett earlier today. Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, O’Brien has already been able to draw the attention of high school recruits.
Even with the negative attention at the university, O’Brien has a strong recruiting class that includes top-rated quarterback Christian Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman. With an already strong recruiting class, some of which are already joining the team this winter, O’Brien can continue to add talent to the roster. In just a few years, the team will be compiled of all his own players and his system will be fully implemented. If the first season is any indication of years to come, O’Brien could certainly have a top-ten team.
While O’Brien has been trying to lay the groundwork for an elite program in the future, he has continued to praise the current players for their commitment to the team and the university through these tough times. Furthermore, he has continued to look for these values in his incoming players. Should O’Brien leave for the NFL, he would appear hypocritical to many at the university and across the country. For a man who has preached commitment, integrity, and leadership, I feel he would honor those values by continuing to coach at Penn State.
Finally, and most notably, O’Brien may have more time to build a winning team at Penn State than he would in Philadelphia. First, O’Brien currently is under a contract buyout that could cost an NFL team between $9 and $18 million, and that’s before he even coaches a down in the NFL. Second, and more importantly, with the sanctions levied against the university, many fans and alumni would be more understanding should O’Brien have a few losing seasons. In Philadelphia, the team has many needs on both sides of the ball and the fans would not necessarily be as understanding should it take O’Brien too long to put a winner on the field.
I understand that opportunities to coach at the NFL do not come that often, but neither do chances to rebuild a storied program. I believe O’Brien can have success at Penn State and gain another opportunity to coach in the NFL in years to come. With a solid foundation in place, O’Brien has the chance to establish himself as an elite college coach and I believe his words and actions to this point indicate that he will remain with Penn State.