Bill O’Brien said all of the right things in his first appearance as head coach of Penn State’s football program. He addressed a number of concerns head-on and without hesitation. He understands that he is walking in to a muddy situation, but he has his boots ready.
“As the head football coach of this special football program, it is my responsibility to ensure that this football program represents the highest level of character, respect and integrity in everything we do,” O’Brien said. “That includes my coaching staff, our players, everyone involved in the football program. We will take very seriously our duty to interact in an exemplary fashion with our great alumni, our students, our faculty, our fans, our media and members of the community. There is so much pride in Penn State, and we will never, ever take that for granted, ever.”
Just a day after former Penn State linebacker exploded about the coaching hire and the process, suggesting that he would take down all of his Penn State memorabilia and place it all in storage and abandon supporting Penn State (he later took back some of his comments and admitted emotion got the best of him), O’Brien confronted the negativity within the Penn State family by reciting a letter to the Penn State family he wrote on behalf of his to-be-formed staff.
“In order to get this football family moving in the right direction, and I’m the leader of that, and it’s my job to bring both sides together or all the different sides together, and I understand that there’s some controversy out there right now,” O’Brien said. “I can see it. I understand that. But it’s my job to head it in the right direction.”
O’Brien scored points with fans by commenting on Joe Paterno in a positive way, saying that Paterno was one of the reasons O’Brien was attracted to Penn State as a football fan and as a coach. He scored even more points by announcing that Larry Johnson would stay on as an assistant coach. It remains unknown what the future has in store for the rest of the staff, although there is a decent possibility that linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden will stay on as an assistant after the two have shared some time as assistant coaches at Maryland.
There was little doubt that whoever took over the job as Penn State’s coach would say all of the right things. But O’Brien did so in a confident manner and came off genuinely looking as though he was ready for the job, with his son walking out in a Silas Redd jersey before the press conference, and not being afraid to tackle some hard questions about the job.
But ultimately O’Brien’s impact on the program will be based on how he performs on Saturday. His assistant coaching career has some downward trends, and this will be his first opportunity to be a head coach. He has studied under some good quality head coaches his entire career, and time will tell if he will be able to be a successful head coach.
It is a great unknown right now, but he has certainly passed his first test. The second test comes February 2, national signing day.