A great divide among the Penn State community, one first created in the dark days of November 2011, remains to this day, and continues to be a sticking point for head football coach Bill O'Brien. O'Brien seems to handle everything affecting the program beyond his control with as much class and dignity as anyone could expect, if not more. Still, he continues to try and find ways to unify a fan base that has clearly different visions of how to heal as a program and a community. It is, perhaps, an unenviable task that O'Brien attempts to manage. But he continues to call for all Penn Staters to come together and unify instead of fighting and bickering over various issues.
O'Brien has a point in that it could do more good for the future of the university and community if the sides come together and hit a reset button. Of course there are those who feel there are still plenty of answers to be found in the handling of the Sandusky news by high ranking university officials as well as the university's leadership up to this day. In fairness, there are still some missing pieces of information from the various reports that have come out from all sides, and the pieces of the expanding puzzle may never truly fit together.
David Jones, one of my favorites to share a room in the press box with on Saturdays in the fall recently shared his take on how this could all play out for O'Brien and Penn State. In his column, Jones serves up a new term to describe Penn State loyalists who remain convinced there is no way Joe Paterno could have done anything wrong. They also fight for a continued search for truth and justice in the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Jones calls these people "Joebots," a suggestion that these fans have become programmed to the idea that Paterno did everything right and could do no wrong in the face of adversity.
I am not here to argue one way or the other over whether or not Paterno was perfect in his moral authorities or not. Jones does have a good point though, and one that has been sticking in the back of my mind for a while. Will there be a point when those who believe the Paterno ways should trump any other alternative eventually become too much for O'Brien to handle? Could it be these Joebots who eventually force O'Brien to pursue other opportunities, perhaps in the NFL in the event a franchise in need of a coach comes calling in the offseason?
I could see it having at least some sort of impact, but I am not convinced it would be the largest factor in any decision that could be made regarding O'Brien's coaching future. Having covered O'Brien for almost a year and a half now, I get the sense O'Brien is not the kind of guy who will back down form a challenge, and coaching at Penn State during these times remains one of the toughest challenges in the sport of football right now.
I do believe O'Brien will one day leave Penn State for a shot at the NFL, but I do not think it will be because the Joebots blew a fuse and were unable to be shutdown. Who knows. If O'Brien continues to make the fans proud of his accomplishments as he has done to this point, perhaps someday the next Penn State coach will be battling the voices of the roBOBots.