Former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien reportedly had some harsh words for the school’s remaining Joe Paterno loyalists in the weeks before he left the school to pursue a job in the NFL.
In 2012, O’Brien inherited a Penn State football program that had been devastated by the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. The former New England Patriots assistant filled in admirably for Paterno, leading the Nittany Lions to 15 total wins despite severe sanctions. However, O’Brien left the school in December to accept a job as the new head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans, and a report by Pennsylvania’s Patriot News suggests that the move may have been prompted by friction between O’Brien and holdovers from the Paterno regime.
Columnist David Jones reportedly interviewed O’Brien in early December, weeks before he decided to leave for the Texans. During the interview, Jones asked O’Brien about the negative reaction of some Paterno loyalists upon learning that longtime Penn State assistant coach (and former Paterno staffer) Ron Vanderlinden had resigned. O’Brien responded by slamming Paterno supports in an off-the-record tirade.
“You can print this: You can print that I don’t really give a [expletive] what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program,” O’Brien reportedly said. “I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less about what the Paterno faction of people, or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I’m tired of it.”
“I’m trying to field the most competitive football team I can with near-death penalty [expletive] sanctions,” he continued. “Every time I say something like that and somebody prints it, it’s skewed as an excuse. And I’m not an excuse-maker. I’m trying to do the best I can for the kids in that program. That’s all I care about is the kids in that program. As long as I’m the head football coach here.”
It’s unclear why Jones decided to release O’Brien’s off-the-record comments, but they provide a glimpse into O’Brien’s decision to leave a lucrative college contract in favor of the NFL. The rumors of O’Brien’s possible departure intensified after news broke that he had negotiated a substantial reduction of his buyout clause. His initial contract would have forced NFL teams to pay Penn State $19.33 million to acquire his services, but O’Brien negotiated that amount down to $6.48 million.
If O’Brien was indeed facing internal pressure from “Paterno people” as well as external pressure to win football games, a results-based NFL position likely represented a welcome alternative. In Houston, O'Brien inherits several talented players, as well as the first overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
[h/t For The Win]