UPDATE: Thursday, January 3 at 9:45 p.m. ET by Rob Goldberg
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Bill O'Brien is not going anywhere after all:
Bill O'Brien is staying at Penn State after NFL pursuit— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 4, 2013
There were a few NFL teams after the talented coach after an impressive first season with Penn State, but it seems like he will stay in Happy Valley.
This is big news for a program looking to remain competitive despite numerous sanctions by the NCAA.
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UPDATE: Thursday, January 3 at 8:55 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant
Hold on just one minute, State College.
It appears Penn State officials recognize the importance of O'Brien to this program's resurrection, and are doing everything in their power to keep him around to see the fruits of his labor. According to Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel, it's not a foregone conclusion that O'Brien is headed to where Chip Kelly is not.
The source said that the university is tugging at O'Brien's heartstrings and attachment to the school that gave him his break to be a head coach. The emotional tie O'Brien has to the school is a looming factor in any decision on his future.
After an 8-4 record during a season that saw top talent bolt for USC, Texas and Oklahoma during the midst of the NCAA sanctions following the Jerry Sandusky incident, O'Brien has breathed life into a program that wasn't expected to compete until the four-year bowl ban was over, if that.
It appears O'Brien is in the midst of the toughest decision of his coaching career. We'll keep you posted on his choice as soon as more information becomes available.
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UPDATE: Thursday, January 3 at 6:53 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant
It looks like Bill O'Brien is inching closer toward the door in State College.
According to Browns Insider Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, O'Brien has already interviewed with the Browns recently as they prepare to interview the rest of their head-coaching candidates later this week.
Breaking: The #Browns interviewed Penn State coach Bill O'Brien this week, a source told the Plain Dealer today.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) January 3, 2013
The move has to be somewhat of a shock to Penn State faithful, a group that has had a tumultuous year or so with the football program. We'll continue to monitor O'Brien's status as an NFL candidate, but this doesn't look good for his prospects to stay as a college head coach.
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The fear that has kept Penn State football fans up at night this season is about to come true, according to Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports (via David Jones of the Patriot-News):
"Whoever doesn't get Chip Kelly will certainly be high on Bill O'Brien in the case of the Browns and the Eagles," LaCanfora said when he was a guest on the Bull & Fox talk show in Cleveland on Wednesday night.
O'Brien walked into an untenable situation, with Penn State reeling from the unprecedented sanctions handed down by the NCAA due to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the dismissal and death of legendary coach Joe Paterno, and the loss of more than a dozen starters. But O'Brien did what nobody thought possible: He succeeded.
Named the Big Ten and Maxwell Coach of the Year, O'Brien took the reins of a Penn State football program that was in disarray and led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record (6-2 in Big Ten play).
Looked at as a savior of sorts in Western Pennsylvania, it makes sense that both the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns would have interest in bringing him on board.
Aside from his college success, O'Brien spent five years as a member of the New England Patriots coaching staff, most recently serving as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2011.
Losing O'Brien would be devastating for the Nittany Lions—who are bowl ineligible for another three years—in more ways than one.
It would bring into serious doubt the school's ability to keep the recruits who have already committed—none more important than Christian Hackenberg, one of the nation's top-ranked high school quarterbacks—not to mention throw a serious monkey wrench into current recruiting efforts.
No college football program, no matter how storied it may be, can succeed on the recruiting trail when its had three head coaches in three seasons.
O'Brien has made believers out of the Nittany Lion faithful.
Losing him would deal a crushing blow to the spirit of Happy Valley, one that the program wouldn't soon recover from.