Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien has been faced with questions about a potential move to the NFL almost from the start of his head coaching career at Penn State it seems, but one current NFL coach seems pretty sure the Nittany Lions head coach is not leaving for a return to the NFL any time soon.
Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone, former head coach at Syracuse, said in a conference call Wednesday he expects O’Brien to stick with Penn State, according to a report by USA Today. Marrone and O’Brien were both assistant coaches at Georgia Tech under current Central Florida head coach George O’Leary and have been friends ever since. If any coach had an inclination of what O’Brien had planned for the future, O’Leary and Marrone might be the best bets. Of course, this does not mean it is a given O’Brien sticks at Penn State.
With the NCAA cutting back on the scholarship portion of the sanctions levied against the program starting with the next recruiting class and the possibility of a reduction in the postseason ban at some point in the future, the job as head coach at Penn State is starting to get easier, for lack of a better word. What was once deemed a toxic position by some has started to clean up each of the past two years as Penn State paces toward the end of the NCAA sanction period. O’Brien has been admired by many of his peers in the college coaching game and continues to impress those who follow the NFL. As pointed out by Pro Football Talk over the summer, the contract situation for O’Brien is beginning to make it more affordable for potential suitors with NFL coffers. O’Brien has a pretty good job where he is at Penn State and he has said all of the right things about the position since he was introduced as the head coach. He speaks highly of the program, the university and has won over a split community and fan base through difficult times with grace and determination. He has worked hard to make Penn State football what it currently is today by leaving his own stamp on a program with a deep and rich, as well as recently tainted, history. He has the attitude of a coach looking to continue building a program in to a championship contender, which could be likely once Penn State gets back to full strength with scholarships.
I have been asked this many times over the last year and a half. It is my belief that O’Brien will one day coach in the NFL, and I will not be surprised if that day comes before his current contract at Penn State expires. O’Brien has been held in high regard by NFL media and apparently NFL franchises. If he continues to lead Penn State to winning football games in spite of NCAA sanctions, his profile will continue to improve and NFL franchises in need of a coach will continue to keep tabs on the former Patriots assistant coach.