White smoke has finally spewed from the chimney at Old Main, the alabaster effluvia signifying an end to the deliberations over who will be the next head football coach, the successor to the sainted Pope Joseph V. Habemus papam!
The new leader of Penn State’s vaunted football program is Bill O’Brien, age 42, presently offensive coordinator for the NFL New England Patriots.
This Turkey felt that O’Brien was the best guy for the job of all the names that had been bandied about during the lengthy search, with the possible exception of Nick Saban, who turned out to be a pipe dream by a deranged fan. Although I didn’t think much of the way the search for the new head coach was dragged out, I am completely happy with the result. The reasons for the search committee moving so slowly will be known sooner or later, but all that is moot now that we do indeed have a coach.
I have supported Bill O’Brien since his name first surfaced; as I stated in earlier columns, I liked his college coaching experience, his youth, and his passion for the job and the game. I hope that all the whining, moaning, bitching, and crying I have been seeing on Twitter will soon end and that we can all settle down to support Coach O’Brien as he moves the program forward.
“Without change, there cannot be progress — and change for this Penn State football program has been a long time in coming. Embrace it!”
Inasmuch as the New England Patriots are expected to play their way deeply into the NFL playoffs, which begin this weekend, I would bet that one of the stumbling blocks was O’Brien’s ability to make a graceful exit. Dave Joyner, acting PSU athletic director, has stated that he wants the new coach on board by January 13, when recruiting restarts. The Patriots might have wanted O’Brien to stay through the playoffs and, potentially, the Super Bowl. It will be interesting to determine what the negotiations involved.
Perhaps we’ll know on Saturday, when the official announcement is made. It was obviously impossible, though, to keep a lid on the news once the decision was made, noting that less than two hours before Chris Mortensen of ESPN told the world in no uncertain terms that O’Brien would be the new Papa Lion, Dave Joyner equivocated in a radio interview conducted at halftime of the Purdue vs Penn State basketball game. He stated the target date, but gave no indication that anyone was even close to being hired. Around 10 pm on Thursday night, the lid finally blew off the kettle.
I suspect that O’Brien isn’t presently getting much love from the Penn State Tweeps because he’s an outsider, a new face, a foreign entity. Many of them are unfairly denigrating his qualifications, if not his temperament. I think that underlying all that noise is a love for Joe Paterno and frustration over Tom Bradley not getting the job that these loyal fans feel he deserves. They’re not thinking with their brains; they’re thinking with their hearts. It is good that the search committee headed by “Bones” Joyner was reviewing the qualifications of the candidates and interviewing them instead of the aforementioned sentimentalist Tweeps. As I’ve mentioned many times over, ad nauseam, Penn State needed to clean house for several reasons, and some of them are related to the staid Paterno system that is all Tom Bradley has experienced in his time at Penn State. One doesn’t stay with a management job for that length of time while radically disagreeing with the operating philosophy. No, folks, we need someone who can lead this program far into the Twenty-first Century, not someone tied to the past.
With both college and professional experience under his belt, the youthful O’Brien is potentially that man. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to keep Ron Vanderlinden and Larry Johnson. Everybody else presently on the staff — except Spider Caldwell — should be given his walking papers. Dick Anderson and Galen Hall will surely retire, while Jay Paterno will be doing whatever he decides to do somewhere besides at Penn State. Tom Bradley has been mentioned in connection with the Akron football program, which would seem to make sense for him in that it is close to Western Pennsylvania.
O’Brien will grow into the job. Some impatient fans will expect things to happen overnight, but it doesn’t work that way. Oh, I expect that by Year Two, some “Fire O’Brien!” websites will pop up, just because fans are impatient. The University will give him a longer leash than that, fortunately for him and for the rest of us. The screwed-up 2012 recruiting class did not happen on his watch, and he’s sure as hell not responsible for the supposed Sandusky shady shower sex situation.
Thank heavens that those who O’Brien will actually report to will not be looking for instant results. Remember, everyone’s got to start somewhere. Joe Paterno did not know shit from Shinola when he decided to eschew law school in favor of becoming Rip Engle’s assistant at Penn State. Once he took over the top job, he made his share of mistakes, for which an earlier generation of impatient fans (myself included) held him responsible, some calling for his head on a platter. However, he did grow into the job as we all well know, and in his forced retirement he is generally revered as an elder statesman.
Without change, there cannot be progress — and change for this Penn State football program has been a long time in coming. Embrace it. You have no choice.
Some good fans have complained to me about O’Brien’s fiery behavior on the sidelines. Why? Don’t you think the Nittany Lions, as flat as they’ve looked for the past few years, could use a little passion? Old Joe had been incapable of generating much enthusiasm in the last decade or so, and Tom “Scrap” Bradley is a laid back nice guy. In the words of the late, intense Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher, “Nice guys don’t win ball games.” While O’Brien is a somewhat more risky hire than Bradley, his upside potential is significantly greater. Anyone who thought Bradley would change his demeanor and change the system on the field from what he has been comfortable with for so many years is kidding himself.
O’Brien does indeed yell at players. He even yells at the Great Bill Belichick. So, what? Paterno yelled when he felt like yelling, too. O’Brien doesn’t throw tantrums because he wants attention. He gets angry and motivates players. Most of you have witnessed this with the Patriots, as I have, and perhaps you, too, have seen the positive results.
You don’t have to “like” the guy. Most of you didn’t like Bob Knight, Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier, or their antics. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t coach.
Another of the naysayers’ outcries is that Tom Brady is so good that he doesn’t need to be coached; therefore, coordinating such a wonderful, prolific offense as that of the Patriots is a job any idiot could do. Besides, we all know that Belichick calls the shots there, right? Sorry, Mr. Rationalizer. Until you’ve attended Patriot team meetings and can report that crap factually instead of pulling it straight out of your ass, you will not convince many people. I’ve seen O’Brien yell at Brady one-on-one on the sideline and I’ve seen Brady respond positively on the field. I’ve also seen O’Brien go at it with Bellicheck. This is a man’s man who will look anyone in the eye and tell them what he thinks. Would you rather have a brooding, insecure pussy running the program?
How do I sum this up, other than to say that I think Joyner’s committee made the right choice? I suppose that I’ll once again cajole you to please give Bill O’Brien a chance. You can go on bitching if it makes you feel good, but eventually, no one will be paying any attention to you. No one knows how this hire will eventually turn out, and we won’t have a clue for at least a couple of years. So, save yourself the heartburn and if you can’t bring yourself to support the guy, at least stop putting him down just because you think you know better than those who hired him. I’m behind O’Brien and I’m looking forward with bated anticipation to the changes he’ll implement to finally get this program moving forward.
I have two, I would say large issues, outside of what you mentioned above. He’s stated publicly before that his dream job was in the NFL. Personally, I’d rather have someone who, if they work out, wants to stay. I’m not asking for 60 years of loyalty, just 10-15 if things go well.
Second, Bill Belichick coaches have a tendency to fail horridly when they take over a team. See Weis, Charlie; Crenel, Romeo for two of the bigger examples.
I’ll give the guy a shot if he’s does come, but he’s already got two strikes against him and it’s the bottom of the 9th. If we were going the NFL coordinator route, I would’ve rather gone with Roman.
The Nittany Turkey says
I won’t argue either of the points you made, which I respect, but I will state that the search committee had the same information you have, plus a whole lot more. You have to view O’Brien as an individual, not as a Charlie Weis clone. Also, you infer that his commitment to Penn State is disingenuous without so much as having overheard the conversations at his interviews.
Obviously, none of us sitting at our keyboards had any input into the committee’s machinations, and would have done things differently if we were running the show. But that is moot. The decision has been made and bitching about it is counterproductive.
I understand where you’re coming from regarding the comment on wanting to be an NFL coach. That was based on his agent putting something out a week ago. I lost the link, but I think it was from an NBC sports site. Maybe his agent was just trying to position and it’s not really his belief. At the very least I hope the question gets asked at the presser so that it can be put to rest.
Also, I just saw something where he was on staff at Georgia Tech when they had the academic scandal involving players not making progress toward graduation. Again, I hope it’s something he can clear up. Especially after the last two months, I don’t want to consider him guilty by association. As we all know by now, that’s not fair or constructive. I would simply like to have him affirm his commitment to Penn State’s graduation/academic standards and see him back it up via recruits and actions.
Normally I would agree about the complaining thing, but ASU seemed to get a different coach by a whole bunch of people being upset. Even with my comments above I’m not at the point where I’d call up and threaten to withhold money or push for the change without him getting a fair shake. Its just based on what I’m seeing, this has got me a good bit worried. Taking a risk is one thing. I just want to make sure we’re being smart if we’re taking a risk and this doesn’t feel smart.
The Nittany Turkey says
Excellent comments, PSUPing.
I, too, think that Joe Linta, O’Brien’s agent, was posturing to eke all they could get from either the Pats or the Jags. I suppose that’s all standard procedure in pro sports. Perhaps the agent was selfishly trying to dissuade O’Brien from college coaching. We just don’t know.
I’m pretty concerned about former players like LaVar Arrington saying they want nothing more to do with Penn State, but I’m sure some of that kind of grousing is self-centered and will fade with time and certainly, with O’Brien’s success.
I don’t know the whole story about ASU. I’m just aware that Erickson was given an extension through 2012 but there was much discontent, leading to his firing after the regular season. I know that there was a lot of waffling until he was summarily canned. How much the whole thing was externally influenced, I do not know.
O’Brien served under George O’Leary at Georgia Tech. While it is possible that O’Leary had O’Brien doing some of his dirty work, I think of O’Brien as his own man. He didn’t mind telling Belichick to shove it when necessary. O’Leary went on to prove his own lack of integrity when he listed a phony UNH master’s degree on his resume when applying for the Notre Dame job. With this in mind, I will stick my neck out to say that O’Leary was the culprit at GT, not O’Brien.
All this condemnation is occurring before the guy makes his first decision as head coach. It is my feeling that we’ll all grow comfortable with him, albeit at our own individual pace.
My issues. 1. He said his dream job is a NFL job. 2. Charlie Weis part 2. 3. OSU has Urban Meyer. We have O’Brien – a dude we had to look up on Wikipedia to figure out who he is. Agree – would have rather had Roman because he publicly stated his love and passion for PSU.
The Nittany Turkey says
See my response to PSUPing above.
My feeling, based on all the extant whining, is that if you were to line up 100 alumni, fans, and supporters at this moment and asked them for their opinions on this hire, you would get largely negative ones, perhaps 75 or 80. Not really a hospitable beginning for a man who has done nothing wrong. Give the man a chance! Let’s start him off with a tabula rasa. I would hope that people would get over their personal disappointments and approach the O’Brien Era with a little objectivity and pragmatism.
Also, everybody starts life without a “name”, which is something they acquire as they progress through it. O’Brien isn’t as widely recognized as Urban Meyer, but so what? Does that mean he can’t coach? His name will be a lot more widely recognized this morning, and in the long run, he’ll look like either a hero or a dork. Condemnation of O’Brien is unfair, in that he hasn’t yet made a single decision as head coach.
No matter who any of us might have wanted to get the job, we owe it to Penn State and to ourselves to give the guy a chance!
the counter-argument to the whole charlie weis thing is that obrien played college ball at brown. like some other psu coach. correlation does not always equal causation.
we need a new philosophy in the defense. any decent qb gives psu defenses fits-look at the wisconsin game as well as the bowl game. i would prefer to keep LJ Sr., but he has stated before he would retire when joe does.
offensively, everyone needs to be liquidated. hopefully, obrien will be calling the plays and we can hire a qb coach and a ST coach.
basically, this program needs to be gutted and i welcome the change obrien should bring.
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks, Drozz. Your first paragraph made me LOL and kick myself for not thinking of it. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak.
As for the rest, I couldn’t have said it better myself. PSU football desperately needs change, not sameness. I welcome it.
Another guy who said it well is PSU safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, who tweeted:
“Beng2smooth: I hate how people are upset because the new coach isn’t Penn State affiliated. … u cant be afraid of change. SMH!”
For the untextified among us, SMH means “shaking my head”.
Agree that O’Brien needs to be given a chance to prove himself.
However, the entire situation reminds me of Michigan and Rich Rodriquez. The fan base wanted a Michigan man, didn’t get it, and was never satisfied. After three years of mediocracy, they got what the wanted.
And Rich Rod was a proven, successful head coach before going to Michigan. Penn State is taking a huge chance hiring somebody with no head coaching experience. People who are “fiery” and argumentative as subordinates often become martinents and failures as leaders. Being a head coach requires a different skill set than being a position coach. He has to hire and motivate the right assistant coaches, and this guy has no experience doing that.
So, if I were in Vegas setting up the betting line for how long O’Brien lasts, I would set the over and under at 3 years.
PS Re the comparison of Paterno’s hiring with O’Briens Yes, Paterno attended Brown. And yes, Penn State was his first head coaching job. But, Paterno was an assistant coach at State for over 15 years, so certainly had “Penn State ties” by the time he became head coach.
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks for your comments, BigAl.
If Jerry Sandusky would have been given the treatment that many want to give O’Brien, Ol’ Jer would have been hanging by the balls upside down in front of the Corner Room six weeks ago. Both guys are innocent until proven guilty, and O’Brien’s only crime is not meeting the exacting standards of many PSU fans — or, as Artificially Sweetened posits, “Not being Joe Paterno.”
I think you interpreted jd’s defusing comment about Brown and O’Brien incorrectly. What he was stating was that O’Brien being as lousy a head coach as was Charlie Weis because both worked for Bill Belichick is about as conclusive as saying that O’Brien will be as successful as Joe Paterno because both graduated from Brown.
Three years is a decent length of time to evaluate O’Brien, although I’m certain that some of the whining will not abate between now and the end of that period. I’m usually a pessimist, which you know if you read my stuff regularly, but in this case I’ll be optimistic and take the “over.”
If O’Brien indeed turns out to be an ineffectual puppet of the administration, I’ll be quick to hop off the peace train.
I just started reading your blog last month and found it to be a cut above the other PS blogs. Think you were the only one got the Ticket City outcome right and your assessment of the team’s problems were accurate.
Plus, the level of discourse on this blog is much more civil. Reading the comments on BSD and PennLive gives one grave concerns about the American educational system and the future of our country
The Nittany Turkey says
The maximum level of incivility was set during the McQueary affair. I was called a pedophile because said I could understand some of McQueary’s purported actions, which was viewed by the comments’ authors as my defending McQueary. All of them, had they been in McQueary’s position, would have stepped right into the shower and kicked Sandusky’s ass. It took a while to settle all that down.
I have noticed that the typical comment I receive here is much more articulate than those I see on the two blogs you mentioned. I’m not doing anything special to attract intelligent readers who can write coherent paragraphs. I am just happy that it has worked out that way. It is a pleasure to read and respond to all of you.
Thanks again for your kind comments.
“without change there cannot be progress”
Okay…how’s that working out for Obama?
The Nittany Turkey says
Real change you can believe in. Or not.
Now why are you bringing Obama into this, Chris?
Hell, I thought that some of the other stuff was out of left field, but this one is out of the far, far left. Are we going to be breaking out all the old Obama “change” jokes? I’ll keep Tom Bradley; you can keep the change. LOL.
No, seriously, do you want the Penn State football program to remain stagnant? Do you disagree that changes (some drastic) are and have been necessary for PSU to become competitive at the highest level?
Change involves risk, but without taking on some risk, your potential return will be limited. “No risk, no reward” applies just as much in all great ventures as it does in finance. We could stick with Bradley and get a relatively safe and secure savings account return of 0.75% per annum; or we could go for the big score with O’Brien — maybe we’d have the next Apple, or maybe we’d have the next Worldcom. Penn State decided that the upside was worth the risk of O’Brien.
I can understand if you’d rather be safe than sorry, but I’m glad that wasn’t the attitude taken by PSU.
The Nittany Turkey says
And one more thing for those who decry the Bill Belichick connection as an ill omen because of guys like Charlie Weis, Romeo Crinnell, and Eric Mangini — Kirk Ferentz. Most of you would have been smiling like a Cheshire cat if Ferentz had been chosen. Why is he never mentioned as one of Belichick’s understudies? Huh? Huh?
I rest my case (almost).