Penn State Football: 8 Replacements for Bill O'Brien If He Bolts for the NFL
To say that Bill O'Brien has done a phenomenal job at Penn State this year is an absolute understatement.
While many (including me) doubted his hiring in the first place, O'Brien has done everything he's been asked and then some on and off the field.
On the gridiron, it's astonishing what he's done with a Nittany Lions offense that's been stagnant and predictable for the past decade or so.
Taking a former walk-on quarterback in Matthew McGloin under his wing, O'Brien has engineered and coached up arguably the Big Ten's best offense.
In conference games this year, the Lions led the Big Ten in total offense (437 ypg) and were second in scoring (32.6 ppg) and pass offense (283.1 ypg).
Off the field, it's remarkable how he sold current players to stay with the team and how he successfully conducts recruiting upper-echelon high school players such as Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman.
And even after losing proven performers like Silas Redd and Justin Brown to sanction-prompted transfers, O'Brien was still able to lead the Lions to an impressive 8-4 record.
With all that he's done, of course the thought of him potentially leaving for an NFL job is at the forefront of this offseason.
Even though in my opinion (for what it's worth) I think O'Brien stays in Happy Valley, let's have some fun and pick some coaches around the country who may be considered if O'Brien were to bolt to the NFL.
Disclaimer: This slideshow is based purely on my opinion and not any confirmed rumors.
Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers (Offensive Coordinator)
According to his agent, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman was a finalist for the Penn State head coaching job in January.
Obviously he wasn't the Lions choice, but Roman is well qualified for a collegiate head coaching job.
Roman, who was an offensive coach at Stanford from 2009-10 under Jim Harbaugh, has also coached with the Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens throughout his coaching career.
Most notably, Roman was credited with developing 2012 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, along with helping to engineer a Stanford offense that led the club to a 12-1 record in 2010.
That offense also heavily implemented the tight end position (see: the success of Coby Fleener at Stanford).
On the NFL level, Roman has made the 49ers offense a more efficient one, limiting turnovers and playing effectively.
Roman is also a New Jersey native so recruiting ties should be strong in one of Penn State's pipeline states.
Tom Clements, Green Bay Packers (Offensive Coordinator)
Tom Clements, the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, is another guy who garnered attention in January in regards to the Penn State coaching position.
Clements, who reportedly wanted the job last year, is similar to Bill O'Brien offensively considering they both implement a high-powered, pass-first offensive scheme.
While Clements doesn't use the tight end like O'Brien, the Packers offensive coordinator has effectively utilized quarterbacks Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn since taking over in Green Bay in 2006.
It isn't crazy to think that the success on offense is a product of talented players, but Clements is the guy, like O'Brien in New England, who calls the game and puts those playmakers in position to do damage.
And because he's dealt with quarterbacks who like to roam the pocket (Favre and Rodgers), it would be interesting to see what Clements would do with a quarterback like Christian Hackenberg scheme-wise.
Mario Cristobal, Florida International Golden Panthers (Head Coach)
Despite posting a 3-9 record this year at Florida International, head coach Mario Cristobal will continue to be one of the most sought after coaches around the country for the next few years.
Cristobal, the first Cuban-American head coach in Division I history, has revived a football program that has never really gained any national recognition.
Taking over after an 0-12 season in 2006, Cristobal has posted winning seasons in 2010 (7-6) and 2011 (8-5).
The coach was an assistant at Rutgers during its resurgence from 2001-03 and applied the same type of transformation to the program at FIU.
Cristobal has been heralded as one of the nation's best recruiters, pulling great talent out of the state of Florida—an area of the country that has eluded Penn State for quite some time.
Also, during the time of looking for a head coach, CBS analyst Bruce Feldman said on the Paul Finebaum radio show that Cristobal would be make "a good fit" for Penn State.
Tim Beckman, Illinois Illini (Head Coach)
But how ironic would that be considering what happened over the offseason...
Mike London, Virginia Cavaliers (Head Coach)
While his clock management has been called into question recently, Virginia Cavaliers head coach Mike London would be a solid snag as the next coach at Penn State should O'Brien leave for the NFL.
London, who was reached out to before the Penn State Board of Trustees fired Joe Paterno, has put together a successful career at Virginia, and it seems like he's always being rumored about a coaching job every offseason.
After coaching University of Richmond to a Division I-AA National Championship in 2008, London didn't have to move very far to take the job as the Cavaliers head coach in 2010.
Following a 4-8 first year at UVA, London led the Cavaliers to an 8-5 record last year and earned the ACC Coach of Year honors for his efforts.
Not only is London a good schematic head coach, but he also does extremely well recruiting on the East Coast, especially in the Virginia region—an area that has been good to Penn State over the years.
Frank Solich, Ohio Bobcats (Head Coach)
As Penn State knows very well, Ohio University (No, not Ohio State) got off to a scorching hot start this year (seven straight wins landed it in the Top 25), due in part to the coaching of Frank Solich.
Solich, who has coached the Bobcats for eight seasons, immediately caught the interest of Ohio fans when he took over in 2005 with an opening win against Pittsburgh.
And while Solich is known currently for his restructuring of the Ohio program, his name is a recognizable one during the late 1990s and early 2000s as the head coach of Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers went 58-19 during his tenure, and despite three top-10 finishes from 1999-2001, Solich was fired in 2003 following a 9-3 season.
Solich also grew up 15 miles from Johnstown, Pa. (about an hour-and-a-half away from State College), so he knows the area.
Despite troubles in the past, Solich would seem like a good fit in terms of X's and O's, but how he would deal with players, the Penn State situation, etc., would still be questionable at best.
Darrell Hazell, Kent State Golden Flashes (Head Coach)
Kent State has had quite the season and it's mainly because of the job Darrell Hazell coaching the Golden Flashes.
Hazell, who has experience coaching at Ohio State, West Virginia and Rutgers, has led Kent State to an 11-1 record in his second season as a head coach at the collegiate level.
Despite losing to Kentucky in the second game of the season, the Golden Flashes have won 10 straight games, including a road win against a Rutgers team that was ranked No. 15 at the time.
Hazell's coaching job has Kent State ranked in the AP Poll (currently No. 18) for the first time since 1973.
With all this considered, Hazell will most likely be a hot name on the coaching carousel this offseason, and don't be surprised if Penn State makes a run at him if O'Brien leaves and he's available.
Also, Hazell grew up just 20 minutes outside Philadelphia so his in-state (specifically inner city) recruiting should be top of the line.
Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois Huskies (Head Coach)
Just like Hazell, head coach Dave Doeren has done a phenomenal job over the past two years coaching Northern Illinois in the up-and-coming MAC conference.
Although the Huskies have been playing against less-than-stellar opponents, Doeren has led his teams to a combined 22-4 record since he took over prior to the 2011 season.
Doeren, who has already been rumored about the recent Purdue opening, has experience coaching in the Big Ten as defensive coordinator for Wisconsin from 2008-11.
Not only has the defensive-minded coach succeeded stopping opponents this year (15th ranked scoring defense), but Doeren has also led the Huskies to a balanced offensive attack—both of which fit Penn State's overall scheme.
And while he has no ties to Penn State or any of the Lions pipeline states, Doeren is familiar with the Big Ten and could be an underrated and less costly, but solid hire for the program.
Al Golden, Miami Hurricanes (Head Coach)
While I don't think Al Golden would leave his situation in Miami, he's worth mentioning because the former Penn Stater will probably be the first name to come up.
Golden, who's coached Miami through NCAA investigations, has led the Hurricanes to a 6-6 record in 2011 and a 7-5 record in 2012.
Despite a winning record this year, Miami withdrew itself from bowl consideration, so it hopefully wouldn't risk future banning.
Golden, who was a three-year letter winner at tight end for Penn State (1989-91), would most likely be an ideal signing for longtime Nittany Lion faithful because of his history with the university and ties to former coach Joe Paterno.
Also, seeing how he turned around a previously horrendous football program at Temple was an impressive feat.
Finally, Golden, a south New Jersey native, would an effective recruiter within Penn State's pipeline states.