Bill O’Brien’s Non-Committal Commitment to Penn State

Following Penn State’s game against the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday, David Jones of the Patriot News asked head coach Bill O’Brien to address the situation that has been on the minds of fans for a couple weeks.

Jones: I hear from a lot of Penn State fans and they want to know the answer to this question and that’s why I’m asking. Are you gonna be back next season to coach Penn State?

O’Brien: You guys gave legs to a story last week that -there’s no story there. I’m focused on one game at a time. I’m focused on this football team. That’s not something that I even think about. I think about I’m the head coach at Penn State and I’m looking forward to getting this team ready for Wisconsin. I mean we give legs to a story that’s not even there, just because somebody wrote an article.

Jones: It’s a yes or no question.

O’Brien: It’s not a yes or no question-it might be for you. For me it’s Wisconsin, and this football team and this senior class. That’s where I think the question should be directed: Indiana, this senior class, getting ready for Wisconsin.

Jones: That’s going to sound to them, like you’re non-committal-to those fans.

O’Brien: I’m the head football coach at Penn State, I love coaching here and I can’t wait to get back to work on Monday and get ready for Wisconsin.


I’m glad Jones asked the question. I’m not surprised that O’Brien didn’t answer it.

Separate yourself from the situation for a moment and ask yourself, what is Bill O’Brien supposed to say? Should he say “I’m planning on shopping around after the season-no bowl game gives me a ton of free time!” Obviously not. What you want to hear is “I am going to be the head coach at Penn State forever and ever no matter what.” Well, that’s not happening either

Essentially, what Bill O’Brien is telling you is this: “Never say never.” I fully expect O’Brien to be the head coach at Penn State next year and for years to come. I imagine he expects the same thing. However, the NFL is an unpredictable animal. There is generational money and there are constantly openings-sometimes good ones. Let’s say that O’Brien had answered David directly, stating that, with no exception, he will be back next year. But then, Patriots head coach Bill Belichek decides this January to hang it up. Subsequently, Pats owner Robert Kraft decides that there’s only one man for the job and it’s his ex-offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien. Kraft has the money to pay for O’Brien’s buyout and triple his Penn State salary. Oh, and that’s probably Bill O’Brien’s dream job. O’Brien takes the job and has his name dragged through the mud as a liar and a snake because he didn’t accurately predict the future before answering a question at a post-game press conference.

O’Brien didn’t answer the question because he doesn’t know the answer. In this business, you never know what could happen.Welcome to life post-Paterno.

Do I think that an NFL team is going to come knocking with bags of money and entice the beloved coach out of his new home? No, I don’t. Despite the love for O’Brien in and around Happy Valley, we’re talking about a 7-4 coach with no marquee wins and some issues making half-time adjustments. Sure he has handled the turmoil at Penn State with outstanding grace, but that is a unique situation that doesn’t really translate to the Kansas City Chiefs locker room. I think he’s a good coach and he’s going to get better, but he probably hasn’t earned the kind of offer that it would take to pull him from Penn State.

So, while Bill O’Brien won’t come out and say it, you’re going to get your head coach back next year. And probably the year after that, too. Don’t assume his non-answer means no. Assume it means never say never.

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