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about 4 months ago

Another Offseason Means More Bill O’Brien NFL Coaching Rumors

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Another Penn State football offseason is upon us and that only means one thing: The rumor mill has once again taken aim at Bill O’Brien as professional coaching vacancies loom near. According to a report from CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, Bill O’Brien is interested in a return to the National Football League and has drawn interest from two professional teams.

Sources on both the professional and college level have told La Canfora that the Houston Texans — who fired Gary Kubiak this season — and the Minnesota Vikings — who are not expected to retain head coach Leslie Frazier when the season comes to a close — have both reached out to O’Brien.

Here’s how La Confora phrased it:

“Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, who came close to taking the Eagles job a year ago and was approached by several other teams, is ready to return to professional football, according to pro and college sources, and has already been approached by the Texans and Vikings.”

La Canfora reported that relations between O’Brien and the university “frayed some when the school was subjected to more post-Sandusky sanctions than expected,” although that was nearly two years ago and two football seasons have passed since the NCAA sanctions came down.

Furthermore, the report says that O’Brien’s contract buyout is not as restrictive as it was last season when he received interest from the Philadelphia Eagles. La Canfora added that there is the potential for litigation over that buyout as well because of the unexpected sanctions.

Although La Canfora is a respected NFL insider, there are a multitude of reasons to question to likelihood of O’Brien being interested in leaving Happy Valley.

Just one offseason ago, O’Brien appeared to be a frontrunner along with then Oregon head coach Chip Kelly for the Eagles job and also interviewed with the Cleveland Browns. Instead of bolting southeast to Philly — a fairly lucrative coaching job — O’Brien decided to stay put in State College. That doesn’t sound like a coach that would entertain NFL jobs just one year later, especially with two teams that are soon to be finishing disappointing 2013 campaigns.

“I made the decision to be here at Penn State, just like I did a year ago, and I can’t think of a better place to be,” O’Brien said last year. “This is a top ten football program. It is one of the best academic institutions in the world, and I am very proud to be the head football coach here.”

Even if O’Brien were to be interested in making a move to the pros and isn’t as committed as that quote would lead you to believe, his buyout makes that a bit of a grey area. His contract was amended last offseason, giving O’Brien a big raise while making his buyout a bit more affordable for NFL teams. Still, his current $7.7 million buyout fee decreases quite a bit after next season, and is no small change in any case.

The most noteworthy sticking point might be the current state of the football program, though. O’Brien has proven to be a great recruiter and has a lot of young talent, making for a bright future in Happy Valley. Christian Hackenberg is only going to get better, Adam Breneman shows a lot of potential, and looking down the road, O’Brien has promising players on the way like four-star quarterback recruit Michael O’Connor.

There is also the strong possibility of the bowl ban being lifted next season as the NCAA is reportedly open to further reevaluation of the sanctions in the future. There is certainly light at the end of the tunnel, in any case.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for comment from the team or O’Brien on the rumors, though. He is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to anything happening off the field, but there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical about La Canfora’s report.

And, if it means anything at all, O’Brien ended his speech at this afternoon’s senior Quarterback Club football banquet, with a hint of amusement, “See you next year.”

Football - The Penn State Nittany Lions football program currently resides in the Big Ten conference and has won two National Championships. Known for tradition, Beaver Stadium, and Joe Paterno, the program is a point of pride and solidarity in the community. Read more