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Penn State makes Bill O’Brien’s departure for Texans official

Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien addresses a news conference before his first spring practice as Penn State's head football coach, in Pennsylvania Reuters

It’s officially official: for the second time in two years, Penn State will be forced to conduct a search for a new head coach, albeit under entirely different circumstances.

Nearly two year’s to the day Bill O’Brien was officially introduced as Joe Paterno‘s successor, Penn State confirmed Thursday morning that the head coach is leaving Happy Valley to take the same job with the NFL’s Houston Texans.  In two seasons with the Nittany Lions, and working under stifling NCAA sanctions, O’Brien posted a 15-9 record.

The announcement comes a handful of days after it was reported that O’Brien and the Texans were closing in on a deal that would send the coach back to the professional ranks, a level at which he had spent the majority of his coaching career prior to coming to the Nittany Lions.

Athletic director Dave Joyner also confirmed that long-time defensive line coach Larry Johnson will serve as interim head coach while the search for a permanent replacement is conducted.

“We need to do everything we can to support the needs of our student-athletes during this period,” Joyner said. “I am very confident in Larry Johnson, the coaches and staff in maintaining continuity and working with the returning players and recruits.

“We intend to move quickly in our search to identify the next great Penn State football coach.”

At a press conference that began shortly after the release was sent out, Joyner stated that the search could be wrapped up “in a matter of days, not weeks.”

Based on recent reports, Greg Schiano appears to be Joyner’s top target.  A candidate for the job the last time it came open, Schiano was fired last month as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  While Schiano’s schtick may have worn thin at the NFL level, he showed during his time at Rutgers that he can run a successful collegiate program, even at a place not known as a traditional football power.

In addition to Schiano, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Tennessee Titans head coach — and former PSU All-American — Mike Munchak have both been prominently connected to the job over the past couple of weeks.  San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman could be an under-the-radar candidate, as could Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden, who was a potential candidate the last time around as well.

While there’s not much buzz around him at the moment, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi would be at or near the top of my to-do list were I standing in Joyner’s shoes.

There’s also the matter of Christian Hackenberg.  The Freshman All-American quarterback is rumored to be considering a move on from the Nittany Lions now that a significant reason for his signing with the school is gone; it will be up to the new head coach and his staff, particularly the position coach, to convince the talented freshman to stay.

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21 Responses to “Penn State makes Bill O’Brien’s departure for Texans official”
  1. woebegong says: Jan 2, 2014 11:41 AM

    I think Lame Kitten is still looking for a job. He is used to turmoil so he should be a good fit there for sure.

  2. 8to80texansblog says: Jan 2, 2014 11:51 AM

    As a Texans fan I’m excited to see what O’Brien brings to the table.

    I’m a bit nervous as none of Belichick’s previous disciples has had much success in the NFL…

    As far as PSU goes…. I think my first call would be to Narduzzi.

    Not only has he earned a HC jobs, he’s already shown that his defense can win the Big10 almost on it’s own.

  3. thefiesty1 says: Jan 2, 2014 12:04 PM

    Mack brown resigned but did not retire and is not very enthusiastic about the special assistant to the president that threw him under the bus to save his own job. PSU could do a lot worse than Mack.

  4. 8to80texansblog says: Jan 2, 2014 12:11 PM


    I could totally see Brown in State College…..

  5. sdiegosteel says: Jan 2, 2014 12:14 PM

    Losing O’Brien – – I can deal with that. Losing Hackenberg – – that would be a crippling blow to the turnaround. If the coach isn’t going to be offensively dynamic, the offensive coordinator better be.

  6. lbijake says: Jan 2, 2014 12:40 PM

    Happy with most of the names except for Schiano and Munchak. Franklin, Roman and Narduzzi would all be great. Roman is only 43 so he could be there 20 years. Important to seal the deal soon as recruits will be signing soon and don’t want to lose Hackenburg.

  7. prostock75 says: Jan 2, 2014 1:13 PM

    There hasn’t been any talk of Hack leaving, not sure where you are getting that.

  8. meatcarroll says: Jan 2, 2014 1:15 PM

    Protect Sandusky University Nittany Stepping Stones, LOL!

  9. ridingwithnohandlebars says: Jan 2, 2014 1:18 PM

    Jim Caldwell could also be a potential candidate.

  10. vegasdestroyer says: Jan 2, 2014 1:33 PM

    Can’t Penn State go a year without liars in high positions?

  11. John Taylor says: Jan 2, 2014 1:34 PM

    There hasn’t been any talk of Hack leaving, not sure where you are getting that.

    “I’m not saying he will or won’t (return) and that sounds bad, but it’s neutral. He’s still enrolled at Penn State, still loves the school but hopefully in the next 7-to-10 days, maybe 14 days we’re able to get all the facts.” — Erick Hackenberg, Wednesday morning.

  12. tommy57 says: Jan 2, 2014 1:36 PM

    Al Golden is an excellent coach who also is experienced in dealing with difficulties not of his making.

  13. tommy57 says: Jan 2, 2014 1:38 PM

    I agree the loss of Christian Hackenberg would be a significant setback, but I would expect him to leave for the NFL as early as 2015 anyway.

  14. canehouse says: Jan 2, 2014 1:49 PM

    I doubt Golden would leave sunny south florida for a team that is still navigating through dark shadows.

  15. tommy57 says: Jan 2, 2014 2:06 PM

    Golden is a PSU alum who thrived in both academics and football during his career. He’d likely be a favorite for the Paterno crowd; yet, those same circumstances that drove BoB out might also keep talented candidates on the sideline.

  16. dhlions says: Jan 2, 2014 2:38 PM

    A PSU coaching search and no Bill Cowher speculation? I want a refund…

  17. @Cereal_22 says: Jan 2, 2014 3:53 PM

    Hoping for Al Golden, James Franklin or Greg Schiano in that order….all three could catapult PSU into being the juggernaut they have the potential to be.

  18. musketmaniac says: Jan 2, 2014 5:06 PM

    I am a little disappointed, where is the hate. only two years removed and the haters have left. the Sandusky jokes were like warm hot chocolate. oh well at least with this coaching change it wont follow with funeral precession and global apologies. things are looking up in happy valley.

  19. mmmpierogi says: Jan 2, 2014 6:57 PM

    Hopefully whomever PSU hires next doesn’t act in two years as though they didn’t know that there would still be Paterno supporters lurking around. If things like that are so disturbing to your self-esteem that you have to gripe about it to the media within hours after leaving, not sure how you can deal with the pressure of being the figurehead of a professional football organization in a large market, but whatever works!

    (As an aside, I actually think O’Brien went above an beyond at PSU and can’t blame him for moving on. Immediately running off the media seems a bit on the classless side, however.)

  20. wmatthew760 says: Jan 2, 2014 8:10 PM

    Even in death people are scared of joe paterno and paterno people.
    Good luck in Houston with less politics in the nfl.

  21. boomgrounder says: Jan 3, 2014 1:04 AM

    Schiano will be the guy. Munchak is still with the Titans. Franklin won’t leave Vanderbilt and the SEC for PSU. Golden won’t leave Miami for PSU. It’s going to be Schiano.

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