The Joe Paterno's and Bobby Bowden's of the world are nearly an extinct breed in college coaching these days, and on Thursday, we got a reminder that the era of JoePa likely won't repeat itself in State College anytime soon.
Word of the NFL sniffing around Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien is nothing new, but O'Brien having an interview with an NFL team is.
Perhaps the first clues as just how serious O'Brien could be about a return to the NFL came when two staffers left the program following the season-ending win over Wisconsin.
It's hard to blame the NFL for wanting one of the brightest stars in the coaching fraternity in its grasp. O'Brien has guided the Penn State program to two straight winning seasons and a 15-9 overall record to date.
All of that while being blindsided by crippling NCAA sanctions and a fractured fanbase too. It impressed former Minnesota head coach and current BTN analyst Glenn Mason enough to declare the program on solid ground for the future, according to Joe Juliano of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
What Bill O'Brien and Penn State have been able to accomplish the last two years is nothing short of miraculous. I thought what he did in Year 1 was unbelievable but was outdone by what they did this year. I thought the first year would be their best production, and then it would probably downward spiral to some degree for a variety of reasons - emotions of the players wearing off from the standpoint of an us-against-the-world mentality, the lasting down effect of not being able to compete for a championship or go to a bowl. After seeing the way they performed against Wisconsin, that has changed my opinion about them. I would say they're in good shape and going in the right direction.
That will attract the attention of just about anyone with a pulse in NFL circles. Yet, this is the furthest confirmation we've gotten that O'Brien is serious about the NFL at this time.
He's managed to say and do all the right things to help heal and move Penn State forward over the last two years, and many thought O'Brien would see that reclamation project to its conclusion at a bare minimum.
Should O'Brien leave, it throws the program back into limbo when it least needs it. Sure, the new coach will have more scholarships available, but Penn State will still be years away from having a full 85-man roster (eligible for that in 2020).
Not to mention the impending decision of star wide receiver Allen Robinson. O'Brien leaving could have major implications for that choice, and with it, a lot of the immediate future of Penn State's offense.
The relationship Robinson developed with freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg was one of the more lethal in the Big Ten, and another year together could be very tempting for any coach to want to stick around.
O'Brien's decision can't be an easy one, as the Penn State football program and the kids in it have gone through a lot in the past two years and leaving them behind after just two years on the job would feel like yet another punch to the gut to those who've stuck around.
Then again, being a head coach in the NFL is the pinnacle of his chosen profession and how often will the NFL come calling?
The constant rumors and innuendo associated with O'Brien and the NFL haven't gone away, and those situations won't until O'Brien makes a definitive statement one way or the other.
So far, he's been mum on his future plans since his season-ending press conference, so clues as to his future intentions have not been easy to come by.
No matter if O'Brien stays at Penn State or leaves, the fact that he is taking NFL interviews seriously should serve as a reminder to everyone involved—Bill O'Brien is not going to stay at Penn State for very long.
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.
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