Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner found his replacement for the legend of Joe Paterno, who was fired in light of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal. Joyner made the official announcement Friday that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien will be the 15th head coach in school history.
O’Brien, 42, was introduced Saturday in a press conference. O’Brien will continue to coach the Patriots while they’re in the playoffs, and will put together his staff in the next couple of days; however, Larry Johnson will be back as defensive line coach.
According to Ben Jones, his contract is for five years and he’ll earn $950,000 per year with a five percent annual increase built-in. He’ll also receive regular executive benefits from the University, and additional compensation from radio and television as well as Nike. Performance incentives are not to exceed $200,000 for each year.
As expected, Penn State decided to go outside of the University to replace Paterno, and outside of the candidates who either played under or coached with Paterno such as Miami’s Al Golden and Rutgers’ Greg Schiano.
But is O’Brien the right coach for the Nittany Lions?
O’Brien, who played defensive end and linebacker for Brown University from 1990-92, has been an assistant in New England for the last five seasons, with 2011 being his first as offensive coordinator.
His coaching resume goes all the way back to 1993, when he coached tight ends at Brown then inside linebackers in 1994 before heading to Georgia Tech, where he coached running backs from 1998-2000. O’Brien served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2001-02.
In 2001, his team averaged 31 points with a 9-4 record then 21.5 points with a 7-6 record in 2002. He then left to coach running backs at Maryland for two seasons before heading to Duke to be their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2005-07.
After two seasons with the Blue Devils, the Patriots hired him as an offensive assistant. He was then promoted to wide receivers coach after one year, and then quarterbacks coach for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Bill Belichick promoted O’Brien to offensive coordinator in Feb. 2011, which was a position unfilled in 2010.
In his first and only season as the offensive coordinator for the Pats, O’Brien’s offense put up huge numbers. The Patriots were second in the NFL in yards per game (428.0), third in the league in points per game (32.1), second in first downs per game (24.9) and third in yards per play (6.3).
New England’s quarterback Tom Brady became one of three quarterbacks in the league to throw for 5,000 yards or more, and Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez became unstoppable forces against opposing defenses.
O’Brien will take over a Penn State football team whose best known for its ability to produce NFL linebackers and stellar defenses, but a program that hasn’t had a top-level starting quarterback in years.
In fact, the last quarterback who enjoyed any kind of success was Michael Robinson from 2002-05. Robinson led the Nittany Lions to an Orange Bowl victory against Florida State in his senior season, where he finished fifth in the Heisman voting.
Since Robinson left, Penn State has started Anthony Morelli, Daryll Clark, Pat Devlin, Rob Bolden and Matthew McGloin. O’Brien will inherit McGloin and Bolden, two quarterbacks who shared time this season.
Penn State received an oral commitment from St. Joseph Prep’s quarterback, Skyler Mornhinweg, son of Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, but Mornhinweg hasn’t made a final decision yet.
However, sources tell Phil Anastasia and Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer that Mornhinweg will make an announcement whether he’ll continue to go on visits or stay committed to Penn State in the next week.
O’Brien will be daunted with the task of coaching McGloin, Bolden, Paul Jones and potentially Mornhinweg during spring practice, and deciding from there who will be his starting quarterback for his first game Sept. 3 against Indiana State.
McGloin looks like the front-runner, as he appears to be a good fit in O’Brien’s system should he install something similar to what the Patriots have been running.
But is O’Brien the right guy for the job?
McGloin tends to think so, as he told ESPN that he thinks “Coach O’Brien will lead us in the right direction and [he’s] looking forward to working with someone who as a lot of experience with quarterbacks.”
Working with a future NFL Hall of Famer Tom Brady for the last five years, O’Brien has a good reputation coaching quarterbacks, and that’s a great sign for Penn State football fans because the last couple years have been a whirlwind in terms of quarterbacks.
The Paterno era is over, and Penn State now has a new head coach. For the first time since 1966, someone other than Joe Pa will be walking the sidelines with the label as head coach.
O’Brien’s success will be scrutinized, but it looks like he’ll bring some credibility to Penn State’s quarterbacks.
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