NFL heads are rolling. Highly touted Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien may be taking one of the available positions. O’Brien reportedly interviewed with the Texans at his home in Cape Cod. According to ESPN, he is the “overwhelming favorite” for the job.
The move would not be a complete surprise. O’Brien interviewed with the Browns after his first year at Penn State. He also renegotiated his buyout for an NFL move to cover just his base salary. Paying $6.48 million just to sign him is not cheap, but it only takes one owner willing to do so.
Penn State would be foolish not to have seen this coming and had contingency plans. According to David Jones, one name to watch may be Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, who reportedly expressed interest through intermediaries.
Franklin’s stock won’t get higher. He has enacted a masterful culture change. But a winning SEC record over two years may be the ceiling at Vanderbilt. Tennessee and other down programs will improve and have much higher ceilings. He’s one injury ravaged, 2-6 type year from being Dan Mullen. Now is the time to move for a bigger job. Penn State could be an appealing one.
Penn State would be a much better job than it appeared when O’Brien took it. The Sandusky scandal has proved far less of a stain moving forward than anticipated. NCAA sanctions have been reduced (and may be reduced further). Immediate expectations are low. There is potential to rebuild into a Big Ten and national power. There’s no better foundation piece than a star quarterback locked down for three years. It’s not Texas, but that job may not be offered.
It’s not clear how much Franklin values this, but Penn State is also home for him. Franklin is from outside Philadelphia and attended East Stroudsburg University. Vanderbilt may be able to match Penn State’s money. Though Penn State may offer him a better chance to compete.
On paper, Franklin would be young, vibrant, proven and would spur forward a new era at Penn State. Though one suspects there would be a strong push, now that the university is better positioned, to land a “Penn State guy.” Alum Mike Munchak and former assistant Greg Schiano have denied interest. Cue the baseless Al Golden to Miami speculation.