Up until he challenged Tom Brady in a sideline shouting match in early
December, very few people ever heard of Bill O'Brien. On Friday,
for better or for worse, the Patriots offensive coordinator was the
lead story on "SportsCenter", sports talk radio, and Googled by
O'Brien is set to become the next head coach at Penn State and the
first one other than Joe Paterno in the last half-century. He's walking
into a Nittany Lions den that is one big mess, thanks to the biggest
scandal in college sports history. Jerry Sandusky and his alleged
child-sex abuse followed by a cover-up of epic proportions has left
the school and football program with a stain that might take a while
to get out, a long while to rinse away. And Bill O'Brien is Mr. Clean?
Is he the best Penn State could do? Really? I realize many coaches
would rather date the OctoMom than try to clean-up the Exxon
Valdez of college football, but it's still Penn State.
Fans in Happy Valley are anything but thrilled with the choice of O'Brien
to succeed Paterno. O'Brien is not big name, has zero head coaching
experience, and no ties to Pennsylvania, a hot bed for recruiting.
Ex-players are upset, as are trustees and the fans. Bill O'Brien? Huh?
Oh, sure, he was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots high-octane
offense and had the stones to stand-up to Tom Brady. But being a
visible assistant with the Pats hardly guarantees success as a head
coach anywhere. Charlie Weis? Failure at Notre Dame. Josh McDaniels?
Not good in Denver or as an assistant in St. Louis. Romeo Crennel?
Oh, Romeo, oh, Romeo, you were not good in Cleveland and you
definitely didn't look cool in brown. Eric Mangini? Good grief. They
all failed. This is a testament to Belichick and his genius. It's all Belichick.
The assistants ride his coat tails and reputation and then sink on their own.
Penn State did little right in handling the scandal, making dumb decisions
and PR blunders. Nobody looks good at the center of a child-sex
abuse scandal, but they dumped a tanker filled with gasoline on the
blaze, making it like a California wildfire: Lengthy and out of control.
O'Brien is not the first guy not to be wanted. Joe Torre was called
"Dumb" Joe after being named Yankees manager in the mid-90's.
He had been fired by three teams already, including the Mets. He
rode the wave of some great talent to win four World Series titles,
earning a ticket to Cooperstown in the process.
However, the cupboard is bare at Penn State. Recruiting are
de-committing or not even bothering to show up for their visits.
Times are going to be lean in State College for awhile. I don't what
Penn State was thinking in hiring O'Brien and I really don't know if
Penn State was thinking, either.