Well, here we are--Penn State has its new coach, and I think it is a pretty safe bet that no one saw this coming two months ago; hell, I don't think anyone saw this coming even two weeks ago. I don't really know anything about Bill O'Brien as a coach or a person. I know a lot of my fellow BSDers already don't like him, and that a lot of people have said that he ultimately wants a job in the NFL. I get the negativity, I really do, but for better or for worse, Bill O'Brien is the new head coach at Penn State. As he goes, so goes Penn State football, and if there is no other reason, that should be enough for you to want him to succeed. If he leaves in a few years for the NFL, I won't begrudge him that. Not everyone is made to be a college coach for their entire career. I'd rather have someone decent who leaves in a few years (as long as he leaves responsibly, not like Graham or Petrino) than someone who wants to stay forever but sucks. I don't know if BOB will end up being good or bad, but I'm willing to wait and see. I will say this: he needs to start this job immediately, not after the playoffs. If he waits, he's gonna have a pretty deep whole to dig himself out of as far as I'm concerned.
But ultimately, this post isn't about BOB, it is about trying to understand how we ended up with someone who was clearly pretty far down on the list of candidates. Throughout this process we mentioned names like Petersen, Munchak, Bradley, Golden, Schiano, Mullen, Richt, Franklin, Murphy, even Miles and Saban. Maybe BOB ends up being a better coach than all them, but to get to him, a lot of other guys had to have been passed over or said no. Guys like Petersen and Munchak would have been long shots no matter what. Sometimes, when a guy is happy where he is no one can pry him away. But why not some of the other names on that list?
The first possibility I see is that the committee decided that guys like Bradley, Golden, and Schiano were too close to Sandusky to hire. We here at BSD have already lamented this apparent reality and I'm not going to do so again here. All I will say is that when people see Penn State running around with its tail between its legs, it doesn't make them want to forgive and forget, it makes them think they are right.
The second possibility is that this job really is as toxic as everyone said it was. I had always refused to believe this. When the news about Sandusky first broke, it seemed like everyone and everything associated with Penn State was being drug through the mud, but I always though that this was a temporary reaction. I told myself that after a few weeks or months, most people would move on to the next big story and that cooler heads would prevail. I expected most people to realize that the scandal was really about a small number of individuals and not an entire football program or university. I looked at BP, Fukishima, Kobe Bryant, and Ben Roethlisberger--organizations or individuals that were subjected to overwhelming public scorn, in some cases as recently as a year ago. But Bryant and Roethlisberger have repaired their image with most people, and BP and Fukishima are hardly in the public consciousness any more. I expected the same thing to happen to Penn State, and I expected that anyone smart enough to be a candidate for head coach would be smart enough to realize this, too.
Now, I face the very really possibility that a lot of smart people actually do think the job is toxic. Are they right? Is Success with Honor really dead? Will we ever recover from this? I honestly don't know anymore. It's chilling.
There is a third possibility that I thought of last night, though. It centers around these reports that Russ Rose went on vacation sometime recently. I have no idea if it is true but a lot of BSDers seemed to think so, and if it is true, I can only see three explanations. The first is that Rose basically said "Sorry, this is taking too long, see you all next year." I have a real hard time believing that. The second is that the guys running the search, Joyner and Lubert, were shutting the other members of the committee out, so Rose said something like "Fuck you guys, I'm going to Europe. You're on your own." This is slightly less hard to believe, but it still seems unlikely. The third is that all those rumors of a home run hire were correct. The committee really did have its guy and was just waiting to announce it. Rose, thinking that his job was done, left the country. But then this home run hire got cold feet and backed out. The committee was left to scramble. Joyner and Lubert called back some of their previous candidates but were rebuked, so they had to go to their back-up back-up candidates. BOB interviews on Thursday, seems better than the alternatives, and is hired shortly after. I've tried to avoid the complicated conspiracy theories throughout all this, but this actually seems like a plausible scenario for me. We'll probably never know for sure if we really were close to getting Petersen or Munchak, or maybe even Miles or Saban, but it is a slightly more comforting possibility that the first two because it at leasts gives me an external target for my angst, even if it is little more than a shadow.
In the end, it really doesn't matter. Like I said, here we are with BOB as our coach, and all we can do is give him a fair shake and hope for the best. Yet we still find ourselves in a place I never thought we'd be, and I still can't help but wonder how we got here. More shit piled on shit. Happy New Year, indeed.