Bill O’Brien left Penn State for the Houston Texans for a number of reasons. The first is likely because it has been a long time dream and ultimate goal of O’Brien to be a head coach in the NFL. After that may be the unstable state of the leadership in place at Penn State and the broken promises left behind after two years on the job.
John U. Bacon, author of Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, outlined what he believed to be the logic that helped lead O’Brien to accepting an offer made by the Texans earlier this month. His thoughts are mapped out in a column on The Post Game. As a number of Penn State fans may tell you, the assumptions are not all that surprising. Bacon blames the failed leadership at Penn State almost as much as the inviting nature of the sales pitch made by Houston.
From the infighting Penn State Board of Trustees and the handling and response to the somewhat infamous Freeh Report to the apparent lack of concern for O’Brien’s résumé, Bacon suggests there were a number of reasons O’Brien may have been concerned about the job. Many who read Bacon’s book will recognize some of the points illustrated in his column outlining the O’Brien departure. Much of the criticism is aimed at athletics director David Joyner. It didn’t stop there though. Bacon says O’Brien was made promises that simply were not kept by Joyner, including increased pay for assistant coaches and facilities and more. Those promises were not kept, according to Bacon. Perhaps having to pay off a $60 million fine and decreased attendance figures had something to do with that.
“I want to be clear: I love the Penn State fans and always will,” O’Brien told Bacon. “They were incredibly supportive, and the players were great. I love those guys. I just felt that this was the best move for me and my family.”
O’Brien was never a long-term solution for Penn State. He was always going to be more of a transition piece for Penn State from the downfall of the Joe Paterno era to the next face of the program (James Franklin?). O’Brien thrived under the pressure of the situation but always had the NFL on his to-do list. While he did some great things, miraculous even to some extent considering the circumstances, Penn State never should have believed O’Brien would be there for too long.
That said, that does not mean Penn State should not have done their part to hold up their end of the deal.