Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno announced that he will be back for the 2011 season today and unless Penn St. officials fire him he will return to the sidelines. The soon-to-be 84-year-old coach is manning the sidelines for his 45th season—next year will be his 46th.
In the early 2000s there was a growing sentiment that Paterno's age was hurting his performance on the job and that he should be fired. He responded in 2005 with an 11-win season and a win in the Orange Bowl. The Nittany Lions have been successful ever since ripping off two more 11-win seasons, but this year youth and injuries have halted Penn St.'s momentum.
They currently hold a 7-4 record and if they don't beat Michigan St. this weekend and win their bowl game they'll finish with their lowest win total since 2007 when the Nittany Lions went 9-4. As Joe Pa continues to get older and Penn St. isn't as successful there will more and more calls for him to retire.
It hasn't bothered Paterno in the past and he very well may coach until they force him out; something nobody wants to see. But instead of feeling they are "stuck" with Paterno, Penn St. fans should embrace the legend and enjoy his final years coaching.
Regardless of who's coaching this team they wouldn't be much better than they are right now because they're young. Sophomore QB Matt McGloin has been terrific since he took over the reins and Robert Bolden still has a bright future.
Freshman running back Silas Redd has shown glimpses of being special and he's only going to get better. There's no wonder why Joe Pa wants to come back for another season. It's also the last year on his contract, which could mean a poor season a year from now would force Paterno out at Penn St.
Hopefully, the two sides come to a mutual agreement that next year will be his last season or agree to an extension. Regardless of how you feel about Paterno still coaching it's amazing to see a man of his age still roaming the sidelines churning out W's.
Penn St. fans: Enjoy the legend while he's still around because the grass isn't always greener on the other side.