Two Januarys Later, Another New Name
When Bill O’Brien up and left State College as 2013 turned into its successor, there was mass confusion throughout Nittany Nation regarding how and why the former Penn State head coach exited stage left for the National Football League. Sure, the positive vibes that State fans felt after the season-ending ass whipping in Madison were still in full force and effect well into the eddy of Christmas. But as the conflicting reports began to surface and then disappear, resurface and again disappear, the thinking surrounding the program was basically, “Dub-yah Tea Eff.”
Those three letters quickly transmutated into the next sentiment of, “Dude, Billy – we love ya, but if you don’t want to be here, pack your stuff and get the hell out.”
The man quite obviously did not want to be in the college game for long because his desire to be a boss in the NFL was so strong. O’Brien leaving Penn State was simply inevitable. The good news for State fans is that because this was going to happen at some point, it was better to get through the transition sooner than later. O’Brien’s impact on Penn State Football will be remembered forever despite the fact that he spent less than two full calendar years as its CEO. If you don’t understand why that’s the case, nothing you can nor will ever read will change your mind. You either get it or you don’t.
Yes, the way in which he left smelled like onion-infested body odor; there’s no denying that. Lying directly to the kid from New York about his intentions was distasteful at best. But for every Thomas Holley that PSU fans know about, there have been thousands of prep stars who’ve endured the same deceit – every year, practically – all over the country. It’s part of the business – a part that Penn State fans never dealt with…ever. Literally never once ever; there were no such things as verbal commitments or press conferences on signing day or faxing in LOIs when Coach Paterno took over in 1966. And because there was, of course, never a coaching change during his tenure, this behavior was simply never seen around these parts. That doesn’t make it right. It just brings that “stuff” to the surface for Nittany Lion followers who were never (but are certainly now) aware of it.
During the search to replace O’Brien, many felt, certainly this space included, that Al Golden was the best option. Golden would have provided the longevity that was – and still is – so desperately wanted by this fan base as well as a complete understanding of what Penn State, both the university as a whole and the football program, is, means, and encompasses. Golden is a wonderful recruiter of prep talent and the job he did at Temple alone is evidence of his stellar raw coaching talent.
The counter to that was the negative aspect brought on by Dave Joyner. During the first week of January when he was negotiating with Golden, Joyner also reached out to Dick Anderson to gauge Anderson’s interest in a return to coaching, presumably to be a part of Golden’s staff and mentor him…in whatever…fashion…Dick Anderson…might…mentor anybody. Riiiiiiight.
A staff headed by Golden would have been great, but not if it included the likes of Anderson, even if Joyner and Anderson ended up agreeing on him (Anderson) being a senior advisor to Golden. It would’ve smelled too much like a punch back (too far) to the past after O’Brien had filled the program with such invigoratingly awesome new offensive schemes and concepts. This space spent years on and via other media outlets ripping Anderson for his complete lack of the ability to develop talent that was brought to him (by all of the other coaches and recruiters on Paterno’s staff except him) and he certainly could not have improved since his “retirement.”
One more tidbit that was lost in the shuffle during those hectic couple of weeks. There was tremendous fear during O’Brien’s departure that star quarterback Christian Hackenberg might transfer out of the program. Obviously that fear was gestated because the coach and his prodigy were attached at the hip and because the former’s hire was essentially the reason that the latter chose the Nittany Lions over many other suitors.
Not so much. Not only is Hackenberg of course still the starting quarterback, but this space can confirm that his father told O’Brien to “go f*&k himself” for becoming one of those pretentious coaches that O’Brien swore up and down he wasn’t. The end of that relationship was not stellar.
Stay tuned in the coming days for a full review of new head coach James Franklin, who is the best breath of fresh air that this program could have hoped for after O’Brien’s decision was made. During his first two-plus months in office, Franklin is knocking it out of the park in every possible way. There’ll be an inside look at his antics when the cameras are off, including how he kicked a player off the team during winter conditioning drills. Permanently.
Yes, that happened.
One of the most striking aspects (certainly in a positive way) about Franklin’s hire is that this institution chose an African-American as the leader of its cash cow. Those who have lived in State College and the Commonwealth in general know how right-leaning conservative the citizens and civic leaders in Pennsylvania – outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and their immediate metro areas – are known to be. This move was certainly a breath of fresh air in that regard.