Bill O’Brien has been Penn State coach for a few months. He has not coached a game, yet in the midst of an “unprecedented” crisis he has become the “right man” for Penn State. He’s the type of guy who can sell recruits on being developed for the NFL. Some are even touting him to stay at Penn State for the next 25 years. O’Brien seems like a nice, intelligent man, though we must ask what this glowing praise is based on?
O’Brien did well as Pats offensive coordinator last year. He had the gravitas to yell at Tom Brady, but beyond that his resumé, especially at college level, is not so stellar. He has never been a head coach. He was twice promoted to offensive coordinator, at Georgia Tech and at Duke. He twice had to leave those positions for lower rankings ones, running backs coach at Maryland and assistant to the assistant with the Patriots. The last time he and Ted Roof teamed up they led Duke to two winless against FBS seasons. His offense got shut out by FCS Richmond.
We can give O’Brien all credit for his Patriots offense, (even if said offense was already well in place when he got there) but coaching Tom Brady is not the same as developing Tom Brady. Even developing Tom Brady was not a great indicator for college success. O’Brien was doing a great job recruiting before the sanctions hit, but selling the project is not the same as bringing it into fruition.
O’Brien may end up being a very good college head coach, but there’s nothing in his track record to suggest that directly. Moreover he has inherited a job, following Paterno and coping with a scandal, that would steamroller most coaches. That was before the postseason ban and the scholarship reductions left him a five or six year hole from which he must dig himself out. We wish O’Brien well, but the task before him is Herculean. He may not be the “right man” for Penn State, but there may not be one.
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