Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien has been the topic of many conversations lately when it comes to NFL head coaching positions. However, fans in Happy Valley don't have anything to worry about just yet.
For starters, many of these reports seem based on nothing more than speculation. Jason La Canfora of CBS got the ball rolling last week when he wrote an article titled "Ready for NFL Return, Bill O'Brien draws interest from Vikings, Texans." Strangely enough, the article offered no evidence that O'Brien is indeed "ready for NFL return."
Instead, La Canfora backs his statement up with with evidence that doesn't chronologically fit:
O'Brien struggled with the decision last year and ultimately felt he owed it to his players to stay at Happy Valley for a second season, but relations between him and the school frayed some when the school was subjected to more post-Sandusky sanctions than expected...
The sanctions, handed down six months before O'Brien decided not to leave last year, have since been dramatically reduced, with even further reductions expected.
Over the weekend, ESPN's Adam Schefter revealed that O'Brien had his NFL buyout reduced, per his Penn State contract.
Bill O'Brien's amended contract shows he reduced the price of an NFL buyout from $19.33 million last year to $6.48 million for this year.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 22, 2013
While that nugget came as news to some, those who follow Penn State football closely know that O'Brien's contract underwent some major changes over the last year, including his potential buyouts being changed over the summer.
ESPN just had another report on Bill O'Brien, citing 11-month-old quote, 6-month-old contract &revelation that he is attractive to NFL teams— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) December 23, 2013
According to the legal jargon in O'Brien's amended contract, he received a raise and a lower buyout if he were to leave for the NFL in exchange for a higher buyout if he leaves for another college coaching job.
That buyout is based on the money he is still owed from the school and will be less in each year than the last. With a lesser buyout, the odds of O'Brien leaving will grow each year, at least from a financial perspective.
Will talk about Penn St coach Bill O’Brien later. 1 NFL team has reached out to him so far. Execs view him as a legit candidate this year— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 22, 2013
O'Brien leaving now would involve a pretty hefty price tag for any prospective NFL franchise. Along with his $6.48 million buyout, O'Brien is set to make right around $4 million in 2014 from his Penn State contract, meaning any new offer would likely have to top that. Essentially, an NFL team would be looking at a contract totaling about $27 million dollars over the next four years to get O'Brien away from Penn State.
While NFL owners are certainly capable of that financially, is it a cost-effective move to hire a head coach with a 15-9 career record and no head coaching experience in the NFL?
Aside from that is O'Brien's commitment to his players.
Following the NCAA sanctions against Penn State, O'Brien hosted several of his committed recruits at the time, including Brendan Mahon, Garrett Sickels, Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenberg.
He discussed the upcoming challenges to the program and what their commitment to Penn State meant. In the end, the core group of guys all re-affirmed their pledges to Penn State and are currently on the Nittany Lions roster.
Would O'Brien be able to look those same kids in the eye and tell them he's now leaving Penn State?
Friend of mine played with hackenberg in high school and he said O'brien promised him he would be there all 4 years.— Buckeyes (@BuckeyeFever65) December 19, 2013
In fairness, it's not like O'Brien has released a statement refuting the claims floating around in the media. He has the ability to squash the rumors, to a point, by speaking out on the matter.
Or it's quite possible that O'Brien is going through his daily routine of coaching and recruiting while letting his agent do his job. There have been no reported interviews or trips on O'Brien's part. In fact, he just spent the last few weeks flying all over the country, recruiting players to play for him at Penn State.
It's quite possible that one day Bill O'Brien will be lured back to the NFL; however, there is very little pointing to that being the case currently. In fact, the odds appear to be in Penn State's favor right now. They're the ones who have him under contract.