Is it true, already? Will O’Brien leave?

by Ben Goldfarb on December 30, 2013

in Penn State Football

Before I express my thoughts on O’Brien leaving Penn State for purportedly greener pastures, let me excoriate every hack sports commentator’s, hack sportswriter’s, and hack sportswriter wannabe’s tacit resolution to never use the future tense, instead writing ambiguously incorrect crap like:

“Does O’Brien leave Penn State?”

Why, yes. Yes, he does. O’Brien leaves Penn State every night when he goes home.

I’m going to tell you this only once. Use the friggin’ future tense, as you learned in the sixth grade, dumbasses! The correct way to express the query above in an understandable manner is:

“Will O’Brien leave Penn State?”

Got it? Heyyyy, is that so damn difficult? Same number of words, already. If you can’t count to five, I’ll take that burden off your shoulders. Try using the future tense correctly for a change, and stop following the sports lemmings over the cliff of grammatical atrocities. You’re hurting my brain.

See? That wasn’t hard.

Now, back to O’Brien. Of course, we’ve all seen the rumors and the reactions to the rumors. O’Brien himself has been strangely silent through the process, possibly upon advice from his negotiating team. We hear about what he might have said to recruits and to Hackenberg, but haven’t heard directly from him. We know that O’Brien’s contract has a much lower NFL buyout provision than existed prior to its renegotiation this year. Reports of friction between O’Brien and Athletic Director Dave Joyner have added fuel to the fire, as has the departure of two well-regarded assistant coaches. O’Brien has engaged a recruiter type to help him sort out the offers. My only conclusion is no conclusion, as sufficient evidence exists to lead our conjectures in either direction: he will stay, or he will go.

We’ve heard rumors of visits to Old Main by Greg Schiano, soon to be fired Tampa Bay Bucs head coach, and Mike Munchak, soon to be fired Tennessee Titans head coach. Munchak has been around the NFL for a long time and the last time his name came up for the head coaching job at Penn State, primarily due to his PSU connection 30 years ago, he made it clear that he felt no ties to Dear Old State. Schiano isn’t that far removed from college coaching and he did a halfway decent job at Rutgers, but Penn State fans are equivocal about him. They might consider him a step down to the level of Rutgers. (LOL)

For some Penn State fans, anyone of less coaching stature than a reincarnated Joe Paterno, or a disinterred Knute Rockne (ew, no, like, he coached at Notre Dame — ew!) would suffice. Then, there are those who think that O’Brien hanging around will produce a contender for the national championship (less mythical after next year) in short order. These pipe dreams are ridiculous, but so is my digressing from O’Brien intentions. We don’t know yet whether he will bolt.

Let me not participate in the rumor mongering, but instead let me tell you what I think about O’Brien leaving, if indeed he says sayonara.

I’d be unhappy with him for leading some young players astray. To assure them he would be around in order to suck them in as recruits and subsequently abandon them would make him a lying sack of shit. (It seems that lying sacks of shit are popular in high places these days, but I digress).

I’d be unhappy with him for proclaiming that he would hang around for his contract period but later reneging on that promise. Of course, contracts are made to be broken, but the covenant between a head coach and his fan base, his university, his potential recruits, and to God Almighty should be as strong as a hydrogen bond. (Sorry, got a little melodramatic there and overstated the case). Yeah, I’d be unhappy about that breech of trust, but I understand that business decisions rarely make everybody happy. Let’s take this out of the emotional realm and place it where multi-million dollar contract machinations belong: in the dog-eat-dog world of business.

I’d be unhappy with him for leaving a job half done. On the other hand, I never thought that he would hang around for more than a couple of years. I’m too lazy to go back and find my prediction, but what I wrote was that the next guy after Paterno would have such a rough job that he wouldn’t last, and that stability would not return to Penn State’s football program until that first guy’s successor was hired. I still believe that, and I can see evidence that O’Brien is experiencing great frustrations with the NCAA sanctions and with the administration, just as I thought he would.

I’d be unhappy with him for leaving — selfishly unhappy, admittedly — because it would open up the floodgates for pro-Paterno forces (you know those of whom I write) to pop up all over the place trying to turn back the clock and even lobbying to hire “a Paterno”. (You know who that would be, too.) These are people who hypocritically believe publicly that football shouldn’t run the University but their objective is to elect directors who will “restore St. Joe’s win legacy” and do little of import to the academic mission. Accountability is certainly desirable, but let’s dispense with those St. Joe strings, already, please! Penn State will never have another head coach who exceeds 40 years tenure in the position, but some people can’t get that through their heads. If O’Brien leaves, we’re going to be subjected to the pipe dreams of these people, to whom I say: Get a life! Your Penn State degree is in no way tied to the football program (unless your name is Morelli). C’mon! It’s football, ferchrissakes! If O’Brien stays for a while, these Paternoites will fade into obscurity. If he leaves soon, they’re still waiting to pounce. Again. Ad nauseam.

I wouldn’t be unhappy with O’Brien for finding greener pastures for himself and his family. We only get one lifetime to optimize, and most of us have had to step on some toes here and there in order to achieve the successes we wanted. Of course, we’ve also had our toes stepped on, and we don’t like that feeling. O’Brien is human and he has to deal with human problems that extend way beyond his employer. An example is his special needs son. While O’Brien has lauded the care available in State College for the kid and many have made the assumption that he’ll stay to maintain it, do you think that better care wouldn’t be available in the nation’s fourth largest city? Don’t you think NFL bucks would be available to provide that for their coach’s kid? Get your heads out of your asses! I wish O’Brien and his family well if he gets the NFL job we are all pretty sure he wants and has wanted all along, replete with a cherry contract that he practically writes himself. I can’t blame him for striking while the iron is hot!

Oh, and in State College he’s a “couple hour” drive away from Cape Cod, right? That’s a good one! He can fly from Houston to Boston and get a commuter flight to the Cape in significantly less time than driving from Central Pennsylvania, for God’s sake! And with an NFL contract, he’d have other, better options available. His negotiating team will make damn certain of that.

How about schools? Well, State College isn’t the only place in the world with schools.

In short, if O’Brien goes away, it might be a setback for the football program, but that’s all it will set back. The rest of the world will function quite well, as will Penn State University, regardless of what the footballheads think.

Probably by the time I publish this Billy Boy will have made up his mind. I’ve read that Houston could make an announcement as early as Tuesday.

Will Penn State be searching for a head coach in 2014?

What do you feel would be the overall impact of O’Brien’s departure?

lawrence December 30, 2013 at 10:32 am

If BOB is going to do this every year he needs to leave already. Yes, he took over at a tough time, but he probably made 4 or 5 times what he was getting paid by the Pats so it’s not like he made any big sacrifice…he didn’t do this for altruistic reasons. Let’s see what Al Golden thinks about a stint at dear old State. Maybe he’ll stick around for a while.

The Nittany Turkey December 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm

O’Brien saw how well last year’s foot feint with Cleveland and Philly worked, so I wonder whether he is playing the PSU administration once again with bluffs and ultimatums. Perhaps only his agent and the NSA know at this point just what the hell he is up to.

It’s true that O’Brien came to Penn State to earn a decent paycheck while increasing his visibility by rehabilitating what many considered to be a dying program. Two years of winning records have accomplished the latter objective. Now, he he can let the bidding war begin. This is probably the best time for him to hop off the train, because who knows what next year will bring.

Why would Al Golden leave Miami for Penn State? Al and Donna are tight down there, so why leave a stable situation for an essentially lateral move to the turmoil that is Penn State? Because he has old Penn State ties? Nahhhh, it wouldn’t be good business, and that what college and NFL coaching is — a business. Hell, Erickson will be leaving and Joyner will be leaving with him. No one knows who will be running the show. I can’t see anyone taking a job with that looming uncertainty, particularly when the program is hampered by the remaining sanctions without having an ulterior motive or acting out of sheer desperation. In that case, Schiano is out of a job now, so desperation could drive him to give it a whirl.

But O’Brien’s got to quit first before any of these moves can take place. My feeling is that he’s playing the leverage game this year, but hell, I don’t know. No one does. I also feel that if he does leave, Penn State will hire a new coach right out of left field — no Schiano, no Munchak, no Golden, no Paterno, no “we gotta have someone with Penn State ties” bullshit. This is not club football. It’s a business, and it behooves Penn State to run it like one.

—TNT

BigAl December 30, 2013 at 4:15 pm

At the time Penn State hired him, I predicted that BOB would be gone within 4 years, regardless of how the team performed. If the team played well he was going to jump to the pros. If the team sucked (which seemed more likely then), he would be fired after 4 yours.

I think BOB’s plan all along was to leave after the 2015 season when State makes a run at the B1G title and Hack is fully developed. However, the Houston job may be too good to pass up.

The hacks on ESPN say its the opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t completely believe that, since the hacks are usually full of shit, but it is a much better job opportunity than coaching the Clowns or Deadskins.

So, I’m 80% confident he’s gone. And the players he lied to are just collateral damage. Money talks and bull shit walks.

As for the football program – well, it going into the toilet. They’ll be lucky to win 3 games next year and probably for the foreseeable future. This year’s recruiting class will revoke their verbal commitments, Hack, Brenneman, and the better freshman and sophomore players will transfer out, and Joyner will hire some dick who kicks the players’ asses and kisses his.

But in the grand scheme of things, football is just a pastime. The sun will still rise every day and Penn State will still be “educating” students and doing “world class” research.

Actually, the clusterfuck that constitutes Ms Peetz’ search to find the next Penn State President is more of a threat to Penn State’s continued well-being than anything related to the football team

lawrence December 30, 2013 at 4:24 pm

That’s got to be the absolute worst case scenario. Do you think these better players would do this? Do you think they thought that much of BOB?

K. John December 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I am not buying it. Joyner won’t be allowed to get away with Fing up the search the way Peetz and company are messing up the presidential search when it should have been over in March. Yes March. They had somebody in March. If they mess it up, the alumni, and I am not talking about the smaller gift alumni or the ones they have already lost such as myself, I am talking about the big money alumni.

The big money alumni, the ones that have ponied up to make it look like the University’s giving levels are continuing to go up when they are going down everywhere but in this group are going to revolt and they can’t have that. Nobody at that school thinks the hockey teams can support themselves once Pegula’s money runs out. Nobody. They know football has another very expensive mouth to feed in the not too distant future. There are other financial obligations coming due as well and the new Big Ten TV deal won’t pay for everything.

The Nittany Turkey December 30, 2013 at 7:47 pm

The selection Peetz had in March would have been a disaster, so I’m just as glad they didn’t pull the proverbial trigger.

As for the big money alumni, I’m not sure what you’re saying. Joyner’s not going to let O’Brien leave so as to appease them? How’s he going to accomplish that? Does he have pictures of O’Brien screwing Vicky Triponey or something?

—TNT

K. John December 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm

From what I have heard, Peetz and company only became involved in March. Prior to that it was the academics working with the search committee and they had not shortage of qualified candidates. The board allegedly wants another puppet and began leading at that point.

I was referring to BigAl’s thinking that Joyner would screw up replacing O’Brien should he actually leave.

K. John December 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm

I for one do not think it is in his best professional interest to leave. His word will mean precisely nothing which is fine in NFL circles but does not go over so well in the college game. If he leaves Penn State, he leaves the college game for good. No major program will ever touch him if the NFL thing doesn’t work out. And let’s get something clear, he is far more likely to get fired in three years than make it to six as an NFL head coach and we all know what happens after that; floating from team to team from position coach to coordinator back to position coach until you call it quits.

The Nittany Turkey December 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm

You ass-ume a few things too many.

First, you assume that O’Brien is really interested in coaching the college game as anything more than getting head coaching credits toward his NFL-ready certification. He ain’t a college-type guy, genial and all that, and he sure as hell doesn’t like to kiss as many asses as one has to kiss on a college campus these days, something with which I have all too intimate familiarity. He doesn’t get along with Joyner. Now, if he stays, he’s faced with a whole new set of asses to kiss in 2014, when Erickson and Joyner go their merry way.

Second, you assume that he predicts failure for his NFL venture. I don’t give a damn about the statistics. Who the hell goes into a job like that thinking that he will not rule the roost for as long as he wants? If one lacks that kind of confidence, or cockiness, if you prefer, one has no business applying for a top job — anywhere. You know and I know what the statistics say, but to someone with the balls, brains, and confidence to apply for such a job, the damn statistics don’t apply to him! Naahhhhhhh, he’ll go there with the clear-cut notion that he’s Jesus about to save that whole sorry-ass bunch in Houston, and he’ll make sure that if they have second thoughts, he’ll be well compensated. He’s in the catbird seat. They want him. He doesn’t have to go anywhere. That contract will be sweeeeeeeeet!

Maybe I’m wrong about what motivates BoB, but what the hell — everybody’s got an opinion.

—TNT

K. John December 30, 2013 at 8:23 pm

“everybody’s got an opinion”

No truer words have ever been spoken my friend.

As for motives, I understand the cockiness part but from having spoken to O’Brien I think he understands full well that no-win situations do exist and that coaching in the NFL is more no-win than not and he does keep his family in mind at all times.

The Nittany Turkey December 31, 2013 at 12:45 am

But then if Ted Williams was told by pundits that hitting .400 in the Major Leagues was just not possible and he believed them, we all would have missed out on something great. As the old saying goes, you can’t hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate.

O’Brien has to assess the risk versus the reward of making the move. He’ll arrive at his decision fully aware of the level of risk he is taking on. No risk, no reward. If O’Brien wanted a risk-free life, he’d be one of the masses, doing a glory-free job for glory-free pay, while his family remained stable and merely comfortable. However, he’s a risk-taker. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have wound up at Penn State. Therefore, I can see him taking this risk, too, as the reward of an NFL head coaching position can significantly eclipse anything he’s yet had in life for himself and his family.

I’m going beyond money here. It’s where he wants to be, and he’s flatly stated it. It’s just a matter of time before he makes the move. If the deep-pocketed Texans put an offer on the table that he can’t refuse, then he can’t refuse it.

So the NFL is a big gamble. You don’t walk up to the table thinking you’re going to lose your chips. You go there to win.

We might know for sure by this time tomorrow. Look at all the NFL head coaches who fell off the coaching carousel yesterday. Maybe one of them could take on interim duties at PSU until they get this president/ad thing settled.

At the same time, there’s the possibility that BoB will stay and is only playing leverage games with the interviews. I fully understand the business advantages of playing the game, but it isn’t good form to play it every year. If that’s what O’Brien is doing, I understand it, but it still makes him an asshole.

A final alternative is that the whole thing is a figment of the sports media’s hyperactive, rumor-mongering imagination and O’Brien is the squeaky clean family man who intends to stay with the program until hell freezes over or St. Joe descends upon us, or both.

In the words of the flaming red-headed Wendy’s girl, “Now that’s better!”

—TNT

Joe December 30, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I’m not sure what the hell he’s going to do, so I guess we just wait for the presser or the talking heads on ESPN to let us know when the deal is done.

If this is a leverage move, I’m tired of it, so that side of my brain says go and stop telling 18 year olds your going to be there for them during their stay in Happy Valley while you sniff the air for that NFL deal. Chances are he could have stayed with the Pats for the past two years and landed an HC gig at some NFL stadium without the side trip to PS.

But the only one that knows what he’s going to do or the why he’s going to do it is him.

I stopped reading all the shit from the “insiders” when they said he told his staff to get ready to follow him to the NFL-yeah sure Anthony Midget will do a great job coaching db’s in Houston!

So we’ll survive this either way, but I think this says never hire an NFL assistant to be an HC for a college program.

I hope the hell we stay away from Schiano and Munchak. Franklin would be great and so might Golden, but they might be hard to get.

We’ll see what the next few days bring.

The Nittany Turkey December 31, 2013 at 12:58 am

Boy, I’d love to be a fly on the wall over there in Houston. They’ve committed an interview with Ken Whisenhunt, but now that the Chargers have made the playoffs, they won’t be allowed (by rule) to talk with him until the Chargers are done for the year. Until they give him at least a courtesy interview, we’ll be hearing nothing from them about the coaching situation, unless they’re so hot to trot for O’Brien that they completely blow off Whisenhunt.

I agree with you regarding the annual “stick ‘em up, I’ve got you covered” fun-fest with O’Brien.

—TNT

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