Coach Bill O’Brien

January 6, 2012 by staff 

Coach Bill O'BrienCoach Bill O’Brien, First, congratulations are in order for Bill O’Brien, before the next stone is thrown. He’s had a better coming-out year than Pippa Middleton. Bill O’Brien has a tall task ahead of him as the new head football coach at Penn State. One minute, he’s a New England Patriots offensive coordinator who only the most ardent NFL aficionado would recognize in a grocery store. The next, he’s the guy who got into a nationally televised sideline tiff with Tom Brady. The minute after that, he’s the new coach at Penn State.

You wonder. Was arguing with Brady like standing in front of Mt. Rushmore and yelling at one of the stone faces? But we digress.

About this Penn State gig. No doubt he’s done his homework, in between watching Patriots game films, but let’s review the situation.

The program’s past could not have been more dirtied had a team of mules dragged it through the mud.

Its players have been beleaguered.

Recruiting has been endangered.

The faculty is suspicious.

The media is cynical.

The Jerry Sandusky legalities will last for eons.

The stories might only get worse, if that’s possible.

Joe Paterno’s shadow has been sullied, but it still comes with 409 wins.

Several former players have said they would be enraged if the next coach is not a Penn Stater, and O’Brien is not.

Welcome to State College, Bill. There’s not much happy these days about Happy Valley.

But wait, there’s more.

Winning in the Big Ten is growing more arduous. Michigan is revived, Nebraska has arrived, Wisconsin and Michigan State are surging, Ohio State is now in the hands of Urban Meyer. The TicketCity Bowl was fine this season, times being what they are, but not every year.

Penn State’s starting quarterbacks threw 10 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions the past season. In other words, he won’t confuse anyone with Tom Brady.

Maybe there’s a reason candidates weren’t lining up for this job like coffee customers at Starbucks in the morning.

All O’Brien has to do is get past the most sordid scandal in the history of college football, heal a program’s fractured psyche, win over shattered players, convince a skeptical public, and make himself at home among wary strangers in a close-knit place where the same man has been in charge for 46 years.

He wasn’t even born the last time Penn State started a season without a head coach named Joe Paterno. Following Paterno was supposed to be of the garden variety replacing-a-legend difficulty, but now it has grown so much more, ah, complicated.

We have here O’Brien’s bio. At least he’s from Brown, and so was Paterno. That ought to be worth a couple of minutes at his introductory press conference.

He’s had five years with Bill Belichick in New England, which says a lot. Brady passed for thousands of yards on his watch, not that that is any guarantee of happiness. How’d Notre Dame work out for Charlie Weis?

His most recent college experience was two years as offensive coordinator at Duke. The Blue Devils went 1-22. Maybe we should move along.

Maryland, Georgia Tech and Brown are on there, too, all as assistants. The first day he spends at Penn State will be the first day he spends as a head coach anywhere. The football equivalent of a head-first dive into icy waters.

No doubt, he’s a solid football man who would have a chance to succeed in any normal situation. Penn State these days is anything but normal.

The folks who hired him are on the line, too. Some will say they botched this process. Some will say they are still a disorganized mess in post-scandal State College. Some will say they have turned their back on Penn State’s people, and are in such a hurry to get rid of the past, propriety was thrown out faster than interim head coach Tom Bradley’s resume.

Of course, nobody will say much of anything if the Nittany Lions win, but that will be trickier than it used to be.

The FBS has 120 head coaching jobs, and there is no question who – all things considered – will have the toughest job next fall:

The non-Penn Stater, who is being asked to save Penn State.

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