If Dave Joyner’s search committee is seeking to replace Joe Paterno’s job in its entirety by one man, it might just as well be sending up smoke signals in the hope of convincing Vince Lombardi to drop in for an interview. This head coaching job is far too big for most pure football guys — guys who are great coaches and personnel developers, who love the game and want to spend their time being coaches. It is no wonder that the search committee is taking what seems like forever.
The Penn State job is not just a head coaching job. Paterno was de facto CEO of a $50 million a year business, one which supported most of the other athletic programs at the University. At one time he was athletic director, but he stepped down from that post when he got Tim Curley (presently awaiting trial on perjury charges) hired. It is well known that Paterno continued to run the program as a CEO with little or no oversight from so-called higher ups. Hail Caesar! Aside from running the organization, a significant amount of his time was spent rubbing elbows with deep pocketed supporters — not only football boosters but also individuals and corporations who were potential donors to the University’s endowment and to other pots wanting to be filled. He was as successful at fund raising as he was on the football field. Finding a replacement who can immediately step into Joe’s shoes is about as likely as this Turkey kicking a 65-yard field goal into a 45 mph head wind.
In contrast with major college football coaches, NFL coaches don’t have to worry about raising funds. The front office handles all that. NFL coaches don’t have to worry about running the organization. The front office handles that. An NFL coach spends most of his time coaching the team, which is why he wanted to coach in the NFL in the first place.
Thus, it followed that when former Nittany Lion and current NFL Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak declared that he did not want the head coaching job at Penn State after spending all of his post-PSU life with Oilers/Titans organization and finally being promoted to head coach this year, it was completely understandable to me. Not only was he part of his current organization for thirty years, but also did he know anything at all about running a major college football operation? How could he? It would have been a drastic change from coaching in the NFL. No, the Penn State job is not a fit for Munchak. He played at PSU, but that was for four years a generation ago. His head coaching experience was nil up to this year; this year he is coaching in the NFL, which as I’ve said is an animal of a different stripe. Forget Munchak. Good guy, bad fit.
The other name mentioned by various wonks of late is Tom Clements, a native of da Burgh, and the current Green Bay Packers quarterback coach. Woo hoo, he coached Aaron Rogers, a guy who came to the Packers with considerable talent to begin with. He also coached Kordell Stewart and Elvis Grbac, and neither turned out to be an Aaron Rogers. Choosing him as Penn State’s head coach for that reason alone would be absolute folly. A McKees Rocks native? Yeah, so he’d be closer to his old family homestead. How does that help Penn State? On the other hand, Clements is a lawyer who practiced and taught law. This could come in handy, given Penn State’s recent difficulties, but seriously, at the very least it means he can communicate well and has no problems in dealing with corporate types and rich folks. Unfortunately, he has no head coaching experience. His life has been spent either being a quarterback, a quarterback coach, or a lawyer. Is he a viable candidate for the Penn State CEO job?
Those were the only two names I’ve heard mentioned at this stage. One is not interested and the other has spartan qualifications (no Moo U. pun intended). What’s Joyner and his committee of six got up its collective sleeve?
Penn State is the only remaining high profile NCAA FBS Division coaching job as yet unfilled and there don’t seem to be any candidates left. Are we back to “Hire Bradley and Buy a Couple Years”?
It might make sense to do just that. The job is too hot to handle right now, owing to the Great Sandusky Scandal. Who the hell wants to ride into State College on his white horse to save our ass when he has to gallop through such huge puddles of excrement everywhere he goes, turning the proud white stallion into an old chestnut gelding in a flash? He can look forward to shit flying from the NCAA, from the Pennsylvania Attorney General, from the alleged victims and their families, from the U.S. Department of Justice, and, of course, from the so-called haters who pollute Internet message boards with their quasi-literate anti-Penn State epithets. Who needs that?
One thing I think we all know is that Tom Bradley would take the job if it were offered to him.
PSU is looking for a needle in a haystack, and that needle probably doesn’t exist. They want someone who:
- Has a pure, squeaky clean background without a single black mark, either legal or moral
- Can run a $50 million dollar annual college football operation
- Has experience as a head coach in the NCAA FBS Division
- Is a cool enough customer to handle the constant harangue about the Sandusky affair
Does such a person exist, or will they have to make some compromises? I submit that they damn well will, as there seem to be no NCAA FBS Division current or former head coaches available, unless you count the ageless Lou Holtz (actual age: 75), who seems to be safely ensconced in the broadcast studios of ESPN. (Furthermore, Lou had been fingered as being on the advisory council for The Second Mile, but he says he was duped. But I digress.) They’ll be looking for someone without the requisite experience, thus requiring on-the-job training, a someone who would step into a mess with administration officials under indictment for perjury and a football program that prime recruits are leaving like rats off a sinking ship. Who be dat? Where he be? Who’s da man who would risk his neck for brotha man?
Shaft! (Can ya dig it?)
Is it any wonder why Penn State President Rod Erickson recently uttered a controversial statement about wanting to de-emphasize football at the University? Of course, that foot-in-mouth statement was met by the expected uproar, but Erickson might have been saying that we’ll never find anyone qualified to run this damn thing the way it had been run up until the firing of Paterno, so we have no choice but to reduce our expectations for the program and its yet to be named leader.
Munchak and Clements being the two big names bandied about lately means either of two things to this Turkey: Joyner’s committee is desperately flailing about trying to get someone, anyone willing, with some kind of credentials or at least a minimal tie-in to the program or the area, or there is a secret deal waiting for “the appropriate time” to be announced. In due course (or eventually, whichever comes later), this suspense will end. We might wind up with someone none of us had ever heard of, and then the questions will start. It will be a field day for writers. I’m oiling my arthritic turkey joints in advance of the big occasion.
I think that the name that emerges will be a complete surprise to the vast majority of us.
What do you think?