Penn State coach Bill O’Brien may be a candidate for one of the NFL’s seven coaching vacancies.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC reports that O’Brien is strongly considering interviewing with an NFL team.
King doesn’t say whether there’s one specific team that has asked O’Brien to interview, but the Jaguars and Eagles have both been mentioned in previous reports about teams that might be interested in O’Brien. It’s easy to see why NFL teams would take a liking to O’Brien: He was well regarded as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, and he did an outstanding job at Penn State this year, holding his team together amid harsh NCAA sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
It’s also easy to see why O’Brien would want to leave: He didn’t know when he took the Penn State job that he’d be coaching a team that wouldn’t be allowed to play in a bowl game or a Big Ten Championship Game for his first four seasons, and that he’d be coaching a team that would have severe scholarship reductions. O’Brien thought he was taking over a program where he could win a national championship, and that’s not realistic at Penn State any time soon.
There’s been talk that the buyout in O’Brien’s Penn State contract would keep him from leaving, but that’s not necessarily as big an obstacle as has been reported. For starters, there have been conflicting reports about just how much O’Brien would actually have to pay the school if he leaves. And even at the high end of the estimates for O’Brien’s buyout — $18.4 million — the reality is that every owner in the NFL can afford it. If an NFL owner is convinced O’Brien is the coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl, that owner will pay whatever he has to pay to get his man.
So it’s not at all surprising that O’Brien is considering an NFL job interview. And it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he leaves Penn State to take an NFL job.