Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien is one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel waiting line. He's popular for good reason.
O'Brien inherited a scandal-plagued disaster at Penn State and guided it to immediate success. In his two years with the Nittany Lions, he took a very difficult situation and made it positive.
Since losing his first two games, O'Brien has won 15 and lost just seven. That is in spite of NCAA sanctions and on the heels of one of the biggest public relations disasters in sports history.
O'Brien has been the calm to the storm. He's thoroughly prepared and almost preternaturally calm on the sidelines. His teams are fundamentally sound and disciplined, which sounds like sweet music to Detroit fans' weary ears.
Before heading to Happy Valley, O'Brien worked in the NFL for five years with the New England Patriots. While there he served as wide receivers coach, quarterback coach and eventually offensive coordinator.
Of course those Patriots had Tom Brady, and O'Brien helped Brady achieve amazing heights. In his one season as offensive coordinator (2011), the Patriots led the league in scoring and secured the top seed in the AFC, advancing to the Super Bowl.
His ability to push Brady to being even better is mighty appealing with Matthew Stafford already on the roster. At Penn State he molded Matt McGloin into a NFL starter as a rookie in Oakland and quickly developed true freshman Christian Hackenberg into an accomplished passer.
As SI's Michael Rosenberg notes, the Lions are not his only suitor. From his excellent piece:
Mostly, Detroit has a still-young quarterback, Matthew Stafford, who could be an All-Pro if he gets some better coaching. O'Brien is the guy to do it. He is both a quarterback guru and a proven head coach, and very few men in the NFL are both.
He makes a compelling case for a compelling candidate, though it's questionable whether the Ford family would care to get involved in a bidding war for a coach for their Lions.