EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

January 9, 2012

Critics are misguided, O'Brien making the right move

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.

Outdated cliche

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.

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