Penn State Football

Tom Bradley and Penn State Coaches Have Been Held Back Way Too Long

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Assistant coach Tom Bradley of the Penn State Nittany Lions calls a play during the 95th Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi against the USC Trojans on January 1, 2009 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Mike MuellerContributor IIJanuary 7, 2011

There’s a fine line between being faithful and complacent. It’s toed every day by Joe Paterno’s longtime assistant coaches at Penn State.

Take Tom Bradley, for instance.

Bradley has been on Paterno’s staff for 32 years. He just wrapped up his 11th season as defensive coordinator and is just now getting some serious head coaching bites at the universities of Pittsburgh and Connecticut.

It’s been a long time coming for Bradley, who some Penn State fans believe should succeed Paterno if and when he ever retires.

Paterno already said he’s coming back for his 46th season as head coach, but his coaching staff could, for once, be entirely different.

If Bradley is hired at Pitt or UConn, the pieces could come crumbling down. It’s very likely Bradley would pickpocket some of Paterno’s coaches, and they should go if offered the job.

I truly feel for all of JoePa’s longtime assistants. Some have spent 30-plus years with the program (Dick Anderson 33, Bradley 32) and really have nothing to show for it.

Bradley’s defenses have routinely been among the best in the country. Before this season, his defenses ranked in the top 15 nationally for six consecutive years. He’s a tremendous recruiter and is right now struggling to find a head coaching job.

Call it loyalty, complacency or whatever you want; being on Penn State’s coaching staff for that long has hurt Bradley and the other talented assistant coaches in Happy Valley.

Truth is, no one hears about these coaches because the media access to Penn State is extremely limited under Paterno’s reign. These coaches don’t become hot commodities because they don’t get the proper exposure like some of the other elite programs do (i.e. Ohio State, Florida, Texas).

Honestly, how many people, outside of Penn State fans, have ever heard of Tom Bradley, Larry Johnson Sr. or Ron Vanderlinden? Now, how many people of heard of Will Muschamp from Texas?

Being loyal to a coaching legend is nice, but all of the assistant coaches owe it to themselves to get moving before it’s too late.

Joe Paterno will not be around coaching much longer, and these coaches will be left scrambling for jobs when Penn State searches nationally for a new head coach. They will all catch on with other programs but will not make nearly the amount of money they could have made if they decided to leave the program sooner.

Bradley wasn’t even considered the first time around at Pittsburgh because he had zero head coaching experience. Now he’s in the mix, but it’s still not a done deal.

The first question I would have asked Bradley is why have you been at the same job for 32 years? Did you have other opportunities? Why did you turn those down? Why do you want this one now after three decades?

Bradley would be a great choice as a head coach; so would Larry Johnson Sr. and Ron Vanderlinden, in my opinion. These guys all need to get their résumés updated and out to as many programs as possible. The end is near for the Joe Paterno era, and I hope his faithful followers don’t get left out in the cold because their loyalty/complacency has gotten in the way.

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