Well, Penn State fans, this was inevitable: Coaching rumors are starting to swirl around Bill O'Brien.
O'Brien, who earned widespread praise for his work this past season in State College, is apparently being looked at by the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles, both of which expect to fire their current coaches at the end of the season. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported the interest on Sunday.
O'Brien's Nittany Lions went 8-4 this season, his first in Happy Valley, and while such a mark would hardly seem remarkable for a program of the stature of Penn State, there was of course much more to the Nittany Lions' story this year; O'Brien arrived in State College shortly after the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal rocked Penn State to the core, then was dealt a massive (and unexpected) blow when the NCAA handed out crushing and historic sanctions a few months later.
Remarkably, though, O'Brien not only held his team together--his players could have transferred anywhere in the country, immediately, but in the end, only a few left--but proved his tactical chops and delivered the wins on the field as well, converting the usually staid Penn State offense into one of the most exciting units in the Big Ten while helping Matt McGloin develop into perhaps the league's best passer. That O'Brien was able to do this despite losing starting tailback Silas Redd and star wideout Justin Brown before the season is a testament to his ingenuity.
Not surprisingly, NFL teams have taken notice, and though O'Brien seems a good fit in Happy Valley, one has to wonder how he would react if he were given the chance to return to the NFL--this time, as the man in charge. - Tim Hyland
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