I don't understand the legion of critics questioning why Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien would take the Penn State job in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal/firing of all-time legend Joe Paterno.
The 42-year-old Andover native was in the final year of his contract with the Pats. Of course, he likely would have re-upped.
Maybe he could have got an NFL head coaching job (reportedly he was on the Jaguars' short list), but there are no guarantees. And if Tom Brady gets injured, all of a sudden you go from budding genius to just another coach. And perhaps soon ex-coach.
Now, literally, by his mid-40s, he'll be set for life. Five years, in the $12-million range, according to published reports. Not bad for a first-time head coach.
Penn State has the second biggest stadium (107,282), perhaps the best fans (loyal and classy) along with Nebraska's, the facilities are among the best in the country, the tradition both longterm and recent (prior to the scandal) are among the best in the country. Not too mention, the Big 10 has the best TV contract in America, better even than the big, bad SEC.
Putting the scandal aside, all things considered I'd rank Penn State the ninth best bigtime football job in the country. Behind, in no particular order, LSU, Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma, USC and just ahead of Florida State, Oregon and Nebraska.
I've never bought into the "never replace a legend" school of thought.
Les Miles replaced national champion coach Nick Saban at LSU. At Miami, Howard Schnellenberger was followed by Jimmy Johnson who was followed by Dennis Erickson. It worked out pretty well for them.
Sandusky isn't there any longer. Paterno isn't there any longer. Teenage football stars are impressed by jam-packed colossal stadiums, power conferences, bowl games, weekly national TV appearances and scores of former All-Americans.
People have short memories and are quick to forgive. And with the obstacles he has to overcome, Penn State will have a patient fan base. That is as rare in bigtime college football as a 170-pound nose guard.
Rising star at 31
While by no means a close friend, I have known O'Brien for nearly 30 years.
It's hard not to come away impressed. He is driven, as smart as they come (a Brown alum with Bill Belichick pedigree), a workaholic and has learned his lessons well from a family of accomplished politicians and businessmen.
Not too many coaches are Division 1 offensive coordinators at age 31, like he was at Georgia Tech.
Altoona (Pa.) Mirror columnist Neil Rudel wrote, "If Bill O'Brien's hiring wasn't the proverbial big-name grand slam for which Nittany Lions fans were hoping, Penn State's new football coach clearly hit the ball way out of the park during an introductory press conference Saturday."
When he famously stood up to Tom Brady on the Patriots sidelines, the football world learned he has the swagger and backbone to take on any challenge. This, of course, is quite a challenge.
He's already a proven top recruiter from his days at Duke and Georgia Tech. It's impossible to win at Duke and Georgia Tech, which is the redheaded stepchild to the beloved Georgia Bulldogs, isn't easy either.
Brady and Gronk
I'd imagine blue-chip quarterbacks wouldn't mind coming to Happy Valley to play for the man who coaches Tom Brady. Or tight ends who want to be the next Gronk.
A lot of Penn State alums and former players were crowing for someone with Penn State ties to get the job. Well, I had a better chance of getting the job than anyone who coached with Sandusky or Paterno. What, and two months later someone alleges the new coach knew about Sandusky harming young boys?
Gene Chizik was vilified when he was hired at Auburn. Then Cam Newton came aboard and the Tigers won a national title and Chizik is a beloved genius.
I'm sure it won't be all smooth sailing, and it may take a couple years, but there is no doubt they'll soon be a top 20 program and well on the way to a top 10 program. Heck, they were a top-20 program with a coach the administration literally was petrified would die on the sidelines.
All you heard was how impossible it would be to rebuild for the Kentucky basketball program after major probation in the late '80s. Rick Pitino endured two years of probation but in the third year the Wildcats were in the Elite 8 and the fourth year the Final 4.
At this stage of his career, it would be silly to compare O'Brien to a Hall of Famer like Pitino, but he has that certain je ne sais quoi and always has.
Five years from now people will be looking back and saying O'Brien to Penn State was a brilliant move for both parties.
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Michael Muldoon is an Eagle-Tribune sportswriter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.