Bill O’Brien, who quit his job as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator to become the head coach at Penn State this year, is a strong candidate for the national coach of the year award in college football. The Penn State team, which could have fallen apart in the wake of NCAA sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, has actually played impressive football and compiled a 7-4 record.
Unfortunately for Penn State fans, that impressive season has people talking about the possibility that NFL teams could offer head-coaching positions to O’Brien. And even more unfortunately for Penn State fans, O’Brien is refusing to rule that possibility out.
After Penn State beat Indiana today, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that O’Brien will not commit to being at Penn State in 2013. Instead, O’Brien is simply saying that all of his focus is on Penn State’s season-ending game against Wisconsin.
“That’s not something that I even think about,” O’Brien said when asked if he’ll return in 2013. “I think about that I’m the head football coach at Penn State. And I’m looking forward to getting this team ready for Wisconsin. I mean, we give legs to a story that’s not even there.”
When Jason La Canfora of CBS reported this week that O’Brien is expected to be pursued by NFL teams, what Penn State fans hoped to hear was a direct answer along the lines of, “I will remain at Penn State next year and will not consider any other job offers.” That’s not what he said, and that has people in Pennsylvania wondering if O’Brien wants to leave.
But the reality is that even if O’Brien had answered directly and clearly and said he will absolutely, positively coach Penn State next year, that still wouldn’t put to rest any speculation about his future. Everyone in the coaching business can thank Alabama coach Nick Saban, who famously said “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach” shortly before he took the job, for the fact that no one believes anything any coach says about his future anymore.
What we know for sure about O’Brien is that he’s been the offensive coordinator of an excellent offensive team that got to the Super Bowl, and he’s been a college head coach who pulled his team together and got them playing well under tough circumstances. That’s the kind of resume NFL owners will love. So no one should be surprised to see him back in the NFL.