It is all but official that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien will be the one to succeed Joe Paterno as head coach at Penn State. Based on the success of other former Bill Belichick assistants, though, I'm not sure it was the right choice for the Nittany Lions.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN is reporting that the deal will become official on Saturday, meaning O'Brien will replace interim head coach Tom Bradley, although it's unknown whether Bradley or any of Paterno's former assistants will remain on staff.
You would think that the Belichick coaching tree would be an impressive one based on how much success the Patriots have had over the past decade or so. That simply isn't the case, though. During Belichick's tenure in New England there have been four notable assistants that went on to hold head coaching jobs in the NFL or major college football.
Those assistants were Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennell, Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels. All of them looked promising and seemed like they were rising stars, but none of them had the success that so many expected from them.
Weis took a high-profile job at Notre Dame, and while the first two years resulted in BCS bowl berths, it all went downhill from there as Weis lasted just five seasons and ended with a mediocre 35-27 record. Weis will try to have more success when he takes over as Kansas' head man next season.
Crennell coached the Cleveland Browns for four seasons, and despite a 10-6 year, his tenure was awful, ending with a 24-40 record. Crennell may get a second lease on life as well, though, as he performed well as the Kansas City Chiefs' interim head coach down the stretch.
Of all the Belichick understudies, Mangini has probably been the most successful since he did take the New York Jets to the playoffs once, but he was generally abysmal. In five years with the Jets and the Browns, Mangini had just two winning season and went 33-47.
The most recent Belichick assistant to fail as a head coach was Josh McDaniels. While he is currently the St. Louis Rams' offensive coordinator, McDaniels was the man in charge of the Denver Broncos for parts of two seasons. He was fired three-quarters of the way through his second year with the team, though, as there was major regression.
The point of all that was to show how much promise Belichick's coaches tend to have. Living up to that promise is entirely different. O'Brien has been an offensive assistant for the Pats since 2007 and it's easy to see why a school like Penn State would be impressed with his resume.
New England's offense has been elite during his tenure as a wide receivers coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. The thing is, though, that the Patriots' offensive dominance predates him and has more to do with quarterback Tom Brady than anything.
If anything, I believe O'Brien is the latest beneficiary who has held an authority position under Belichick. All of them have looked promising for one reason or another, but I don't think that it's any coincidence that they have all failed when handed the reins.
O'Brien has a ton of work to do if he wants to install an offense similar to the Patriots' at Penn State. He essentially has no skill position players to work with other than running back Silas Redd. I do expect him to be given ample time to turn things around, though, given the school's situation.
The only tried-and-true method that Penn State can use to get past the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Paterno firing is to win football games. I'm sure one day that will happen, but O'Brien's pedigree suggests he won't be the guy to do it.
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