Jan 3, 2013, 3:19 AM EDT
Two head coaches at major Division I football programs are
said to be high on the Eagles’ wish list. After weeks of speculation, we can
finally confirm Oregon’s Chip Kelly has an interview. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien
on the other hand remains almost entirely speculative.
Multiple reports claim O’Brien has been thinking about interviewing
for an NFL job. Among those building the hype is the Harrisburg Patriot-News’
David Jones, who wrote on Tuesday that the Eagles, Browns, and Cardinals all
planned to speak to the PSU coach.
The real question is whether or not O’Brien plans on
speaking to any of those teams, and even if he eventually does, would he
seriously consider taking a new job?
This is of great concern to legions of Nittany Lion fans who
witnessed the unthinkable this season. O’Brien did and said all the right
things while guiding a reeling program to an 8-4 record, modernizing their
offense in the process and restoring a hope for the future that the NCAA more
or less attempted to destroy through crippling sanctions.
Of course, Penn Staters who double as Birds fans are
probably a little more conflicted, given that O’Brien’s credentials would seemingly
make him a tremendous candidate to follow Andy Reid.
However, there is actually reason to believe O’Brien is not
all that interested in another job. For starters, he’s dragging his feet on setting
up an interview, with none formally scheduled that we’re aware of – and he
doesn’t share the same excuse as Kelly, who is coaching in a BCS bowl game this
week. And for what it’s worth, O’Brien has always come across as highly
dedicated to turning around the culture at Happy Valley.
But perhaps the biggest red flag comes from a story Jones
wrote this past weekend suggesting O’Brien’s interest in the NFL could easily
boil down to nothing more than a negotiating ploy with the university. Here’s
I believe the objective for O’Brien
and his agent Joe Linta is to free him of a paralyzing buyout that I’ve been
assured by two different pro agents amounts not just to $9.2 million but $18.4
million – the full life of eight years remaining on the Penn State deal. That’s
four years (at $2.3 million per) for the original pact signed in January and
four more seasons for the re-up added last summer for the number of years of
So, I don’t think the objective for
O’Brien is money. I think it’s future freedom. Unless the buyout clause is
nullified in some way, no NFL club can reasonably be expected to shell out that
kind of cash simply for the rights to negotiate a deal with a man who’s only
been a head coach at any level for 11 months. I’ve been assured by people close
to the Philadelphia Eagles, for instance, that there is absolutely no way owner
Jeffrey Lurie would pay even $9.2M up front, let alone $18.4M.
No, I think it’s about freedom.
O’Brien wants to have his options open, to be able to go to the NFL in the future
should he so desire. If he and his agent can get the buyout clause removed,
then he can pursue his NFL dream after next season or some subsequent one.
Eye-opening. The buyout always made him an unlikely prospect
this year, but regardless it makes sense O’Brien would attempt to capitalize on
his success in any way possible – especially if he can accomplish something
without so much as walking out his front door.
None of which is to rule O’Brien out here or anywhere else.
Until he sets up a real, physical interview with an NFL team though, maybe we
somebody should start pumping the brakes on some of these rumblings. Even if
one or two meetings should come to pass, it doesn’t guarantee movement.
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