I’ve tried to stay away from speculation regarding the Penn State coaching search. The lack of information and misinformation swirling for the past six weeks has been astounding, making knowledgeable speculation nearly impossible. Professional journalists are throwing noodle after noodle against the wall to see if anything sticks (Mullen, Dungy, Gruden, Stoops, Saban, etc.), so it’s highly unlikely that an amateur writer like myself is going to say anything profound, let alone accurate.
But the latest piece of news—on the eve of the week that PSU fans expect to settle the uncertainty about our team’s future—is enough to make me chime in.
Joe Schad—ESPN’s official rumor monger—reported that Munchak is still torn about the PSU job and that PSU hasn’t backed off of him. Concurrently, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that Clements and Bradley are interviewing again this week.
Munchak has been my top choice since I first heard his name surface in late-November, so these latest revelations have me giddy enough to speculate whole-heartedly. Consider this coaching staff.
Head Coach – Mike Munchak
First off, NFL-first and anti-PSU folks are already criticizing the mere rumor of Munchak moving to the Penn State job. But, as the Schad source quoted, the desire to help and restore his alma mater is a strong one for any alumnus. Equally important though is the security he could have at Penn State. The shelf life for a head coach in the NFL is very, very short, and the competition is very, very stiff. At PSU, not only is there the value of loyalty (both Engle and Paterno had lengthy careers, through thick and thin) but if Munchak can make the move from Tennessee to State College at this awful crossroads for Penn State, the administration and fan base would be extremely grateful. That could mean enormous job security, even if Munchak doesn’t create an immediate national championship contender out of the Nittany Lions.
The reasons Munchak would be a good fit for PSU are obvious. Despite some hesitation over his lack of college experience, Munchak’s long success as a player and coach in the NFL would be magnetic for recruits (especially as he wouldn’t be an NFL retread like so many former pro guys who move down to college coaching). Munchak has the character that Penn State fans expect from a head coach. He’s a “Penn State guy” and you can ask Michigan how important it is to get a guy who understands your values (cough, cough, Rich Rod). And lastly, Munchak is one of football’s greatest offensive line minds. We could use that from a top man (understatement of the year), especially if you consider my coordinator hopefuls.
Defensive Coordinator – Tom Bradley
Tom Bradley has handled the Sandusky scandal and the Paterno legacy marvelously. He has pledged unwavering devotion to Penn State, even though a bitterness could be perfectly justified as this search has played out and Bradley hasn’t been endorsed. Bradley deserves our love and respect. However, considering the public relations mess we are in, Bradley cannot be the head coach. What then does that mean for him? Does he move on to a different college head coaching gig? Does he seek to be an NFL assistant? Does he go into early retirement?
Bradley, since taking the reins from Sandusky in 2000, hasn’t seemed like a “head coach or bust” type of guy to me. He could have that dream, but I think his affection for Penn State outweighs it. Is it possible that Bradley would remain in his role as DC, continuing to do the job he loves at the place he’s loved his whole life? Is that impossible to believe?
Penn State fans should be thrilled at this possibility, not only because of his heroic handling of the past two months’ difficulties but because of what he’s done for PSU football. His defenses carried poor offenses for much of his career as DC, sometimes even being the sole bright spot during losing seasons. He carried the staff’s recruiting efforts (particularly when three coaches—Joe Paterno, Galen Hall, and Dick Anderson—weren’t recruiting at all) and has great ties in the WPIAL, a crucial recruiting battleground against Ohio State, Michigan, and Notre Dame. Retaining Bradley as DC would be a huge boon for Penn State, adding more stability through this transition period.
He’s interviewing again this week, after spending a lifetime at Penn State. Seems like a curious development.
Offensive Coordinator – Tom Clements
Lastly, Tom Clements’s name has been associated with the head coaching position since November as well. Clements is certainly a strong candidate, and one that Penn State fans shouldn’t lament if he is tapped as the heir. However, Clements’ resume isn’t as sturdy as many of the other names mentioned for a major head coaching position. Is it possible that Clements would like to take control of a legendary college program’s offense?
While PSU defensive coaches Bradley, Larry Johnson Sr., and Ron Vanderlinden all would be welcome back under a new coach, the offensive staff seems to be mostly unneeded. Clements, who has had a career of experience coaching NFL quarterbacks (and very well, at that), also had two years as an offensive coordinator in Buffalo (2004-2005). If he has a resume strong enough to be our head coach, he’s plenty qualified to be our OC.
A Dream Scenario
Again, I recognize that rumors have come and gone the past few weeks, and my “dream staff” is probably no more than a New Year’s fantasy. But hiring Clements to coach our offense (and particularly our quarterbacks) should make Nittany Lion fans salivate. Our Achilles’ Heel has been at that very position. Top-caliber QB recruits wouldn’t need to worry about getting creamed in the pocket, as Coach Munchak would have the offensive line sturdier than any front five in the country. And skill position players would line up to play for a staff of successful NFL coaches.
The tandem of Munchak and Clements would do wonders for our offense, and we already know what Bradley and his staff can do on defense. Retaining his experience and expertise would be a dream situation. I’m still of the belief that Penn State will do well with their new hires, so whether it’s my “dream” or not matters little. I simply can’t imagine a better scenario (and one with a tiny hint of actual legitimacy) unfolding than the one I’ve laid out above.