Bill O'Brien has done just about everything right so far, but how long will he be able to have Penn State fans, alums and players feeling the good vibes as a new era in Penn State football gets underway? The answer, of course, lies in how many wins he will lead the Nittany Lions to.
There may be a bit of a grace period for O'Brien to put together some legitimate results. This should generally be the case for a new head coach, except under certain circumstances. Will O'Brien's head coaching career pan out the way Ray Perkins did following Paul "Bear" Bryant or will O'Brien follow a similar course as his own predecessor Joe Paterno and become a long-time fixture on the sidelines inside Beaver Stadium?
O'Brien has already said that there will be no way he remains a head coach for as long as Paterno, but to rule out a possible extended stay beyond his current contract should certainly not be out of the realm of possibility. To see a coach stick around for as long as Bobby Bowden did at Florida State and for as long as Frank Beamer has been at Virginia Tech is the exception to the rule. Head coaches generally do not stick around for too long.
Michigan is on their fourth head coach since Penn State joined the Big Ten (Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, Brady Hoke). So is Nebraska (Tom Osborne, Frank Solich, Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini). The Ohio State Buckeyes are technically on their fourth coach, although Luke Fickell was serving as an interim coach last season. Michigan State is on their fifth head coach since 1993.
The only program inside the Big Ten to maintain some form of stability at head coach has been Wisconsin (Barry Alvarez, Bret Bielema) and Iowa (Hayden Fry, Kirk Ferentz).
The point here is that even the biggest names in the Big Ten struggle to find a head coach that will last more than an average of five or six years. Should that be the time line for expecting big results from O'Brien?
Over the next five to six years, O'Brien will have more than enough time to put together his own roster of players that should be the best possible fits for everything he would like to do on offense and defense. Within that same time frame Penn State fans should have every expectation that the Nittany Lions make at least one serious run at a Big Ten championship, if not two or three.
After all, that is what the goal here is, right? Nine and eight win seasons should not be the standard, nor should they be acceptable. Not when Penn State is one of the top revenue-producing and profitable athletics programs in the country, rivaling the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, USC and LSU. Not when the Big Ten is recording record revenue sharing—depositing an extra $24 million in the banks at Penn State.
Penn State does use much of this money for academic purposes, but in order to stay in the game, investments must be made for the football program.
We are not talking about another stadium expansion or new fancy scoreboards. We're talking about improving the football facilities, which has already been done with changing the weight rooms. At a time when other programs are implementing the latest technology to their advantages, perhaps O'Brien should take a moment to think about what Penn State can do with their program.
But maybe we are getting a bit off track.
What it all comes down to is winning football games. That means doing whatever it takes to bring in the best players and have them buy in to the offensive and defensive philosophies. Then it goes back to executing in games and picking up wins.
So how long are you willing to give O'Brien to win games? Does he get a slight pass in 2012, or is it already Rose Bowl or bust for O'Brien?
Share your thoughts in the comments down below.