Penn State Coaching Search: Tom Bradley

Nov. 12, 2011. Interim head coach Tom Bradley, via (BSD/Mike Pettigano)


As Penn State kicks its search for a head coach into high gear, we're doing the same here at BSD all this week and probably into next week. Each day, we will publish a coaching candidate profile for as many likely contenders for the job as we can squeeze in before a decision is actually made by Dave Joyner and Rodney Erickson. Penn State could have a coach by the end of today for all we know. No, it's not likely. But these things can take weird, sharp turns at any point.

After taking a look at Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, it's on to the guy who actually has experience running the Nittany Lions on gameday: Interim Head Coach Tom Bradley.

Head Coaching Record

2011 Opponent Result
Nov. 12
Nebraska L, 14-17
Nov. 19
at Ohio State
W, 20-14
Nov. 26
at Wisconsin
L, 7-45
Overall W/L: 1-2 Avg. Score: 13.6-25.3

No head coach in the history of the sport has been put in the position Bradley now "rests." (Like that's an accurate description of what he's doing.) There is no need to rehash what has happened to the university and its athletic department, or it's former head coach. Let's just leave it at this... Coming within a field goal of a winning record against this final three-game stretch, under these circumstances, has been borderline brilliant. Bradley has been able to keep this team together through a close loss, a road win, and a blowout road loss to the best team in the conference. What's even scarier to think about that is we all pretty much expected that kind of record for Penn State in November even before the scandal nuked Happy Valley a few weeks ago.

Coaching Experience

Tom "Scrap" Bradley earned his nickname as a player from 1975-78, as part of the "Scrap Pack" special teams unit that was so good in the mid-to-late years of that decade. In 1979 he joined the staff as a GA and never looked back. From 1980 to 1995, Bradley coached the Penn State special teams (OMGPENNSTATEHADASPECIALTEAMSCOACH!) in addition to other positions like wide receivers in the mid-1980s and recruiting coordinator later that decade. He moved exclusively to defensive backfield following the '95 season, then to defensive coordinator in 2000. In his until-recent role in charge of the defense, Bradley has somehow never earned the Broyles Award for best coordinator, even though Penn State has annually fielded defenses among the best in the nation, not just the conference.

In 2006, Bradley served as co-head coach with Galen Hall when Joe Paterno first missed games with the broken leg. The past three games, he has been the interim full-time head coach.

Coaching Philosophy

Being a coordinator or position coach his entire career, we only have that--plus the three games this year--to gauge what kind of style he would bring to the job. But Bradley has shown his cards enough for us to take a crack at this. Bradley's defenses, in the patented "bend but don't suck break" system, have been remarkably consistent in a very good way. (For an explanation of S&P+, please see here.)

Year Total Defense (yds/game) Rank Scoring Defense (pts/game) Rank Defensive S&P+ Rank
2005 304.67 12 17.00 10 146.9 2
2006 284.46 15 14.38 9 130.9 6
2007 308.23 11 17.54 7 115.7 19
2008 280.08 8 14.38 8 120.5 15
2009 274.46 9 12.23 3 130.6 11
2010 346.85 35 23.69 50 111.4 38
2011 300.92 11 15.69 8 135.1 3

The defense would be in good hands, even if Bradley unloaded much of the responsibility to a full-time coordinator. He would still have input on how the defense was run. We know he can do a fantastic job of that. But what about the offense? Well, it's tough to say, since he's spend all of three weeks now sitting in on the offensive coaches meetings. One nice cue we can take from Bradley's handling of the offense this November was the Ohio State performance, during which the offense successfully executed the "wildcat" or single-wing style offense that took the Buckeyes completely by surprise. Penn State ran for 239 yards, 6.1 yards per clip, while jumping on Ohio State for 20 first-half points. Now, the second half shutout of both teams was a bit concerning. But with the defense Penn State has this season, it's not surprising that Bradley was content to sit on the lead and allow the D to hold on for the win.

Fit - Cultural, Personnel, Etc.

Bradley grew up in Johnstown, graduating from the same high school as Jack Ham. He's a "Penn Stater" in every sense of the moniker. There would be no learning curve for Bradley as head coach, both in the program and in the community. He's long been regarded as one of the most likeable, personable people you'll ever meet, especially considering his stature.

As for the team, though Paterno was long known as a disciplinarian, Bradley might actually be tougher on the players when they screw up. Even during his first press conference, Bradley sounded almost like he was giving a job interview by declaring his own "one strike" rule for team discipline. That would sound harsh to most programs, and possibly a turn-off to some recruits or players. But Bradley has earned so much respect from the past players and current team, he doesn't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings by kicking a little ass once in a while.

The elephant in the room, however, is what he may or may not have known about the Sandusky Scandal. Bradley roomed with Mike McQueary for a while, and was obviously in a close working relationship to Sandusky himself. Sure it's possibly Bradley just kept his blinders on and didn't know anything about the unspeakable acts going on; but..................(my point exactly).

Bradley is the polar opposite problem to what Peter discussed yesterday with Mullen, as Scrap is a strictly defensive coach with very, very little experience running an offense of any sort. This would force Bradley to make a dynamite hire for an offensive coordinator. Sorry, as much as Jay Paterno has distinguished himself on a personal level the last few weeks, he's still not a high enough caliber offensive coach (right now, but I do think he's not as terrible as everyone jokes) to have earned the job at Penn State.

We all love Scrap. But is his potential, possibly yet-to-be-discovered baggage too much of a risk for Penn State to take right now? What if it comes out in another six, eight, 12 months that Bradley did in fact know something about Sandusky? That would be like a double-tap nuking of Happy Valley. There would be no Penn State after that. Just a warm glass plain between Philly and Pittsburgh.

My official stance on Bradley is 1,000 percent positive if he's clean, but not worth the risk if he's not. It's a damn shame that he might be sunk by something he has nothing to do with. But, hey, we all know who to blame for that.

What is your thought on Bradley as a candidate?

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Previous Candidate Profiles:

11/27 - Dan Mullen, Mississippi State HC

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