Bill O'Brien: What Decision to Stay at Penn State Means for Coachless NFL Teams

Justin OnslowContributor IIJanuary 4, 2013

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 01: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Penn State Nittany Lions speaks to the media after losing to the Ohio Bobcats at Beaver Stadium on September 1, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. The Bobcats won 24-14. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

On New Year’s Day, seven NFL coaches found themselves without a job, and seven NFL teams began their search for new blood.

Countless names have been bandied about with nearly a fourth of the league looking for a new head coach. Bill O’Brien’s has been one of the hottest names, but his decision to return to Penn State has led some teams to look for other options.

Andy Reid has found a new home in Kansas City, but his departure from Philadelphia has left a hole yet to be filled. Cleveland, Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago and San Diego are also looking to fill their head coaching vacancy after cleaning house this offseason.

O’Brien’s stint in New England as a position coach and eventual offensive coordinator in 2011 made him a prime candidate for a head coaching job. O’Brien eventually landed in State College at the helm of a Penn State team that would be handed NCAA sanctions soon after.

Although O’Brien’s contract runs through 2020, he opted to interview with the Browns and Eagles before eventually deciding to return to Penn State. His decision leaves several NFL teams with fewer options.

The modern NFL is exposed to rumor after rumor, especially in regards to new hires and signings. Oregon’s Chip Kelly has been a topic for multiple NFL head coaching rumors. With O’Brien no longer in the picture, Kelly may be the prize of the 2013 offseason for one lucky team. The Browns, Eagles and Bills are all reportedly interested in the offensive guru, who has not contested any rumors of his NFL interviews (via Fox Sports).

O’Brien’s return to Penn State also adds to the possibility that previously-fired coaches could be back in the NFL fold. Ex-Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who was let go on Jan. 1, is reportedly on the interview list for the Buffalo Bills. Pat Shurmur could reunite with Andy Reid in Kansas City as well.

Given the clamor for O’Brien to return to the NFL, it’s likely that more than a few teams will have to choose a secondary option when all is said and done. It’s not necessarily a huge shake-up, as many teams have a long list of interviews to assess, but the options are now fewer for six teams desperately in need of new direction and a new leader.