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O’Brien goes yard in Penn State presser

New England Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach O'Brien looks on during the first quarter of their NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Foxborough Reuters

Prior to the start of Bill O’Brien‘s introductory press conference, Big Ten Network analyst Gerry Dinardo said, in not so many words, that it’s not normally important to win a press conference but that this was not one of those times.

If it was important for O’Brien to come away from the dais with a win — here’s a hint: it was — consider it mission accomplished.  Will that “W” earned on a podium, though, translate into on-field success?  That remains to be seen.

Regardless, if words and how they were presented won the BcS trophy, O’Brien would’ve hoisted the coaches’ crystal at the end of his 35 minutes in front of the media.  The 15th head coach in Nittany Lions history — and the first new coach since after the 1965 season — hit on several key points, from embracing the man he replaced to his football philosophy both offensively and defensively to recruiting to the making of his first coaching staff.

It was the latter point that was among the most interesting and important facets of his half hour-plus introduction.  O”Brien said he would work quickly to assemble assistants, stating that he would like to have the staff put together within the next 2-3 days.  One assistant is already on board: Larry Johnson Sr., PSU’s defensive line coach, has committed to return to the program.

The magnitude of retaining Johnson cannot be understated.  One, Johnson is a tremendous recruiter and, with O’Brien reiterating that he will remain with the New England Patriots through the playoffs in his role as offensive coordinator, he will play a significant role in keeping PSU’s 2012 recruiting class intact.  And, two, it may help assuage the anguish being felt by some over the fact that someone from “outside the family” was taking over the football program; Johnson has been at the school since 1996, so former players such as LaVar Arrington, who were very publicly critical of the move, may step back a bit from their initial negative reactions with Johnson transitioning to the new regime.

The criticism wasn’t something that O’Brien shied away from, either, reading a letter directed at former players he penned last night.  The move came off as sincere, heartfelt and likely struck a chord with those either on the fence over his hiring or outright against it.  Of course, actions speak louder than any words moving forward, but it was still a start that gets the program moving forward.

“I’m the leader of this family now,” O’Brien said. “I can’t wait to get going on this, get everyone headed in the right direction.”

The university confirmed that O’Brien signed a five-year contract that will be worth $2.3 million annually and will include built-in five-percent raises per year.  In 2011, Joe Paterno was scheduled to earn $1.02 million, so obviously the price of doing business since Penn State’s last hire more than four decades ago.

That cost was due in large part to the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the reticence of some “more qualified” candidates reportedly shying away from a job that just a year ago was considered one of the prime pieces of coaching real estate in the country.  O’Brien acknowledged that he was stepping into a tough situation but that he’s the right man for the job.

“I have a lot of confidence in my ability to lead us through what some say is a tough time…” he said. “I am mentally tough. … I can’t wait to get started.”

So, does saying all the “right” things or spreading the “right” message or “winning” an initial press conference portend great things for the Nittany Lions under O’Brien?  No, not in the least.  There was one certainty that came out of the press conference, though: a sizable portion of the Penn State fan and alumni base likely feels a whole hell of a lot better about the O’Brien hire than they did even 24 hours ago.

And, at this point in time, that’s something the university in general and the football program desperately needed.

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22 Responses to “O’Brien goes yard in Penn State presser”
  1. tonystrong says: Jan 7, 2012 12:49 PM

    This just goes to show how much of a strong hold Paterno had on the program. This was a lose, lose for Penn State. The alumni all wanted a Joe Pa disciple as the head coach and it almost seems anything less then a Joe Pa clone would have satisfied them. Meanwhile, there is no way Penn State could go with anyone even remotely associated with Joe Pa because it would be a nightmare for them in the court of public opinion. With that said, 2 things stick out to me with this presser. First, I think it is important for O’Brien to embrace Joe Pa’s success and career as a COACH ON THE FIELD because at the end of the day, that is Penn State’s legacy in football. Not like they can sell to recruits all of the great things they did prior to 1965. And the second thing that stood out to me in this press conference was O’Brien saying he is the head of the Penn State family. Everyone will forever consider Joe Pa the father of Penn State football but for him to have the guts to say that goes a long way in changing the culture there. Joe Pa got to stay on at Penn State 10 years to long because of this image he portrayed but O’Brien having the guts to make a statement like that shows that he’s going to do things his way and that the outside can no longer dictate how things are run at Penn State! Today was a good day for Penn State if you ask me!

  2. woebegong says: Jan 7, 2012 12:50 PM

    Good luck coach. I wish you success, the biggest part of the equation, will be getting the former family members to recognize and support you. Damn dysfunctional family it would appear right now. PSU needs to unite behind their coach and forget about the past teams and the coach. He is the new sheriff in town and you had better support him or it is going to take a lot longer than you wish, to start recruiting the players you need and start to rebuild your pride and team. The man deserves credit, just taking the job.

  3. 187onsandusky says: Jan 7, 2012 12:53 PM

    Absolutely thrilled that LJ Sr is staying on. Would love to see scrap stay as well, just can’t see it happening.

    Disappointed that Brandon Short and others are planning to ask players to de-commit and transfer. Very shortsighted on their part. Would like to see more support like threw release by Kerry Collins.

    We need to give this guy a chance even though he is not anybody’s real first choice. Just remember nobody was thrilled over Tomlin being hired or McCarthy for the Packers. Not saying he is in that class, but lets give him a season to find out.

  4. twoody50 says: Jan 7, 2012 12:59 PM

    He says “I can’t wait to get going on this”. Well I don’t see him leaving the Patriots yet. Meanwhile PSU will lose valuable recruiting time.

  5. woebegong says: Jan 7, 2012 1:00 PM

    I think you will have to give him more than 1 year to get the team going at full swing. I would say, if there is no improvement or the program isn’t in the upswing in three years, a coaching change might be needed, but hats off anyway for this coach trying to right the ship. He has a big job ahead of him.

  6. hooptie says: Jan 7, 2012 1:05 PM

    There’s a PSU 2012 recruiting class?

  7. 10of14 says: Jan 7, 2012 1:06 PM

    Do me a favor and head to OSU and steal every damn coach there. i am so sick of the punk that is Urban Meyer and his unethical tactics…already.

  8. pastabelly says: Jan 7, 2012 1:07 PM

    He needs to show the same balls as he did when he went at it with Tom Brady on the sidelines.

  9. fatfreddystubbs says: Jan 7, 2012 1:29 PM

    O’Brien then went on to say “i didn’t come here to kiss Lavar Arrington’s rings…..oh wait, he doesn’t have any”.

    Just kidding Lavar, you’re one of my favorite Nits ever. To this day, on my office wall, i have a picture you were nice enough to sign of you at the point of impact on the famous “Lavar Leap”, but you were WAY out of line, in my opinion, with your comments.

    Good luck, Coach O’Brien! I think you’re a realist and know that you weren’t many peoples’ first choice, but you have my one-hundred percent support.

    Also, I agree with 187, keeping LJsr is a great move. Great recruiter, and, despite some of their less than stellar success in the NFL, the guy has produced some great college DLinemen.

  10. bangitfootball says: Jan 7, 2012 1:33 PM

    OBrien vs Meyer for the next 5 or 6 years. This is gonna be fun.

  11. 10kmp says: Jan 7, 2012 1:37 PM

    @100f14

    Do me a favor and head to OSU and steal every damn coach there. i am so sick of the punk that is Urban Meyer and his unethical tactics…already.
    ————————————-

    Wow! An OSU detractor of the highest order I see. What on earth makes you reason that PSU can steal anything from Ohio State & Urban Meyer? Easy there f14. There may be no greater disparity between two coaching resumes than that which exists between Coach O’Brien’s and Coach Meyer’s. Haters gonna hate… isn’t that what the kids say???

  12. acieu says: Jan 7, 2012 1:52 PM

    While I am not a PSU fan and think the school handled the issue around Sandusky terribly I am really rooting for the new coach and the school. I like to post tough things about the school etc but I really hope he succeeds and the university gets through the issue and the kids involved are ok.

  13. hammertoe11 says: Jan 7, 2012 2:29 PM

    I hope Penn State did a back ground check on him.

  14. realitypolice says: Jan 7, 2012 3:17 PM

    I disagree that keeping LJ is a good thing, as much as I respect him.

    I thought the whole point of bringing in an outsider was to show the outside world that no one who could possibly have known what was going on was still there.

    Sorry, but LJ is on my “Had to Know” list. He worked closely for Sandusky and was around the program for over 15 years. Not saying he knew specifically about the locker room incident, but he had to know about the rumors swirling around Sandusky.

    Now it goes from “we got rid of everyone who could have known about this” to “we got rid of everyone who could have known about this, except of course for our top recruiter. We can look the other way with him because we need him.”

  15. murkeljurkel says: Jan 7, 2012 3:59 PM

    @realitypolice

    Larry Johnson was only on staff with Sandusky for 4 years. Sandusky hasn’t been a coach at PSU for over 13 years. It is very likely that no one in the program knew besides Paterno and McQueary.

  16. rwtconservative says: Jan 7, 2012 4:20 PM

    So sorry to see Joe go under the circumstances he did. Now it is time for a new era and I hope that coach O’Brien wil make some big changes and set his own style and not continue with Paterno’s style. it’s time for the uniforms to change and to have Names on them not blanks. It may have worked for Joe but for the fans and the players I never thought it was fair. Every ohter team in college has better uniforms than Penn State and it doesn’t harm their players or make then prideful.

  17. hdmoyer says: Jan 7, 2012 5:48 PM

    Bill Obrien stepped where most would not. He nailed his press conference and interviews. I think he was a great hire considering the circumstances. Shame on former players not even giving the guy a chance.

  18. rwtconservative says: Jan 7, 2012 6:04 PM

    Why Joe and Not McQueary too?

  19. zurnvs says: Jan 7, 2012 8:42 PM

    @10for14

    Don’t hate the player hate the game. I love college football. My drill sgt told me once “if your not cheating, your not trying and it’s cheating if you get caught”. A lot of programs are getting caught. The head pieces change, but everything else stays the same. Good luck to Penn St.

  20. nofunleague says: Jan 7, 2012 9:27 PM

    Who says he was a hit???
    So why are some former Penn State players apoplectic that the school tapped New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to coach the Nittany Lions? It’s not like they are lambasting the decision on purely football terms, which would be a valid reason to squawk: O’Brien has no head coaching experience, and the last time he held a college job, as offensive coordinator at Duke in 2005 and 2006, the Blue Devils went 1-22.

    No, they are mad that O’Brien is not “one of us.” He has no ties to Penn State, nor Paterno, besides their shared alma mater, Brown University. He’s an outsider, and how can you entrust our beloved football program to a man with no Penn State blood?

  21. gershonpsu says: Jan 7, 2012 10:56 PM

    Okay, here’s the yardstick: win at least 75% of your games and graduate 90% of your players. Do it without cheating. And do it for several decades. And, BTW, it wouldn’t hurt if you donated much of your salary back to the University and the community. Good luck and welcome to Penn State.

  22. harleypuppy says: Jan 7, 2012 11:49 PM

    Only time will tell stay tuned stay supportive and don’t forget about the victims it seems that they have gotten lost in all this not that surly would be a shame.

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