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Bill O'Brien Didn't Get It

Coach O'Brien played me like a fool.


Bill O’Brien certainly had his work cut out for him when he got to Penn State in 2012.  In the last couple of days, I’ve realized that he wasn’t cut out for the job.  He did a lot of good for Penn State, and gave us all something to rally around in the hardest of times.  But his off-season games (talking with NFL teams while promising players he was staying) made me question his intentions.  I’m disappointed to find that the university hired someone who was only interested in using Penn State as a stepping stone to something "better."

O’Brien talked a big game, and I’ll admit that I fell for it.  All of the preaching he did prior to the 2012 season about being loyal and sticking around fooled me.  At the 2012 Rally in the Valley, when he pleaded with students to fill the stands for the players who stayed, I thought, "he gets it."

My father, like many others, was skeptical about O'Brien from the start.  I spent a lot of time trying to convince my dad that O’Brien was the real deal.  My dad was spoiled, though, and his standards were, and still are, the highest.  Vince Lombardi could have risen from the dead to become Joe Paterno’s successor and he wouldn’t have been good enough.  We were all spoiled by JVP, and we will always hold our coaches to a higher standard because he set the bar so incredibly high.

I think David Jones got it right: Bill O’Brien was an outsider, and maybe he never really got inside.  Maybe he never really understood what it meant to be a Penn Stater.  If it’s true that he told players and recruits that he was staying, did not reach out to players and recruits when he reached a deal with the Texans, and did not return phone calls from players and recruits after the news broke, then I have to believe that he is not the man of integrity I once believed he was.

O’Brien came to Happy Valley to coach football, period.  Jones reported that O’Brien was uncomfortable with the leadership role that came along with being the football coach.  In Jones’ words, "His frustrations revolved around...his desire simply to fulfill his job description as the football coach, not university figurehead."  I take issue with the fact that O’Brien did not realize that being the football coach means more than simply coaching football, but fine.  If that’s the case, he was never meant for the job.  

I also take issue with the fact that O’Brien did not "give a ---- what the ‘Paterno people’ think" about what he did with the program.  O’Brien didn’t have to coach according to JVP’s playbook, but he should have some respect for the fact that everything that the Penn State football program means is because of Paterno.  Joe Paterno is the reason that Beaver Stadium holds 110,000 fans.  Joe Paterno is also the reason the stadium was nearly full for almost every game.  Season ticket holders bought season tickets because of what Joe Paterno did with the program.  And if anyone thinks that there aren’t those who aren’t in the stands anymore because of the way the University ultimately treated Paterno, they are flat out wrong.

O’Brien had exactly the wrong attitude that the Penn State football coach should have.  The next Penn State football coach should realize that he is in Happy Valley to do more than just coach the team.  The football coach should mold boys into men of integrity.  The football coach should be an example of Penn State’s values.  The football coach should display the same loyalty that players and fans have for Penn State.  And the football coach should respect the rich history of Penn State football - and the fact that it would be nothing without Joe Paterno.

I guess I’m one of those "Paterno people" that Jones implied O’Brien didn’t care about.  So Coach, go ahead: put your fist through that windshield.  At one point, we were all Paterno people.  If you don’t care what JVP’s supporters think of the program, then you never got what Penn State is about.