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Quick Takes on New Penn State Coach Bill O’Brien

Jan 6, 2012, 3:38 PM EDT

Penn State University is expected to announce on Saturday its coaching search has ended with the hiring of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.

Penn State University is expected to announce on Saturday its coaching search has ended with the hiring of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.

A collegiate defensive end and linebacker, O’Brien attended Brown University, so you know he’s a smart dude. He spent two seasons as a position coach there before moving on to a series of ACC programs. He worked his way up as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech to eventual offensive coordinator, spent a couple of seasons at Maryland, than another two years as Duke’s OC.

He joined the Patriots as an assistant in ’07, and finally became an NFL coordinator this season. Now, even though much of New England’s success is predicated on names like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Bill Belichick, O’Brien could be joining the Nittany Lions with a Super Bowl ring.

It’s an impressive resume to be sure, but is he the right man for the job?

1. Who?
Prior to his heated exchange with Tom Brady on the sidelines during their 34-27 win over the Redskins, most people outside of Foxboro probably never even heard of O’Brien — not that the information automatically amounts to anything. Few people knew much about Andy Reid before he joined the Eagles, and that worked out pretty well (for awhile, anyway).

However, due to the complicated nature of PSU’s head coaching vacancy, their inability to land a “name” hire certainly didn’t do the program any favors. True, there weren’t many great options who were making themselves available either, but it’s hard to imagine O’Brien is the guy who can get recruits excited about going to Happy Valley. Yes, he was Brady’s quarterback coach for a few seasons, but that sounds like a job that basically does itself.

2. Belichick’s assistants have accomplished squat
Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, and Josh McDaniels have all tried, and failed, as head coaches on both levels — in some cases, more than once. Weis and Crennel even have three Super Bowl rings to show for their time with Belichick, but they haven’t quite worked out as the man in charge.

What does it mean? Perhaps nothing at all. Lots of coaches wash out, and in many cases it’s not entirely a result of their own undoing. These are bright men who maybe haven’t found the right situation yet. Additionally, it’s an admittedly small sample size. All that being said, it’s a fact that all four have flopped after leaving New England, so it’s a story line that bears mention.

3. Does it matter?
Was there anybody out there who was both willing to take this job, and has any serious chance of turning things around in the next five to ten years? We don’t mean that to pile on, but to many people across the nation, Penn State has been reduced to a punch line, and it will be a long time before this Sandusky business has been wrapped up and forgotten.

It seems like no matter who they brought in, the new head coach was likely to be something of a sacrificial lamb. Sure, O’Brien might get more time than most would to right the ship for a nationally recognized program, but he sure does have his work cut out for him. The idea of Penn State languishing in mediocrity for the next decade must be sad for anybody who grew up watching blue and white, but unless the new guy can work some serious magic, it probably didn’t matter all that much who they hired.

>> Pats’ O’Brien takes PSU coaching job [CSN NE]