Head football coach Bill O’Brien is a human being, not an object. He has two sons and a wife — a family living in Boalsburg he needs to think about. He has said time and time again that his family is his first priority. As O’Brien said on Monday during a press conference, coaching is only his profession.
In his profession, the pinnacle of a coach’s career is in the National Football League, he said.
So when teams within the NFL contacted O’Brien’s agent last week, it should not have come as a surprise that he would at least consider a head football position within the NFL, which meant having conversations with representatives on the teams. When a person from the NFL calls, a coach can’t just hit the ignore button on his phone — he would get more money to provide for his family. The NFL pays more than a college football program can, and anyone would think of it as an honor to be considered for the position.
But when word got out that O’Brien was in talks with a few NFL teams, the response from the Penn State community was hysteria — and it was out of line.
Between tweets, Facebook statuses and talk on campus, the consensus to the rumors was that O’Brien was the traitor of Penn State. Students and alumni wondered how he could possibly do this to us? Why would he abandon his commitment to Happy Valley?
The Penn State community should not have been so hard on him. It’s as if football team fans were saying that their rooting interest was more important than his life — they treated him like he was an object because of rumors that had little substance.
O’Brien is not the first Penn State coach to consider other jobs elsewhere, and he certainly won’t be the last. Weighing all of your options is just how the business works. Even longtime head football coach Joe Paterno once accepted a job coaching the New England Patriots before eventually turning it down.
O’Brien is only committed for the 2013 season, but he has proven that he wants to be here. If he wanted to stay in the NFL, he could have easily continued to work as the offensive coordinator for the Patriots.
O’Brien has a vision for what he want the Penn State football program to be and will continue laying the groundwork for future teams.
Yes, it would have been devastating to the program if O’Brien had left. Recruits would probably transfer immediately, because they are allowed to until training camp starts. It would not be fair to high school students who began classes at Penn State on Monday, but O’Brien has said all along that he sold recruits on the university, not his abilities as a coach.