Typically, college head coaches keep their names out of circulation for other jobs until they have taken another job. But there’s nothing typical about the current coaching situation at Penn State.
Other coaches, like Greg Schiano a year ago at Rutgers, keep their courtship with an NFL team tightly under wraps in order to avoid having their recruiting class scatter — and to prevent the development of a perception that it’s a matter of time before the coach leaves. For Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, the possibility that he’ll leave Not-So-Happy Valley is the least of his concerns as he tries to persuade players to attend a school with several more years of ineligibility for bowl games.
And so the worst-kept secret in college football is that O’Brien is considering leaving. Even the Harrisburg Patriot News is in on the act, reporting (via CSNPhilly.com) that O’Brien is coveted by a trio of NFL teams (Eagles, Browns, and Cardinals), and that the powers-that-be at Penn State will try to bump his pay to $3.5 million annually, via a private gift.
According to David Jones of the Patriot News, the Eagles could be the least attractive to O’Brien, given that Philly G.M. Howie Roseman is held in “low regard” by Pats coach Bill Belichick.
If O’Brien goes, he’ll have a Petrino-style reputation in the college ranks, and he’ll potentially be chastised by those players he persuaded to stay during the no-penalty transfer window. O’Brien’s defense likely will be that he was told when he took the job that there would be no NCAA sanctions.
Either way, having a coach with open NFL aspirations is something with which Penn State hasn’t had to contend. Ever. Regardless of Joe Paterno’s final legacy, his pro football flirtations were very limited and extremely early in his tenure.