I guess Bill O’Brien read my post and made the decision to leave. I wish him the best of luck in Houston (not too much though, if the Texans play the Steelers, I will be rooting for him to fail). I also thank him for the two years he gave to the school.
Now we begin the fun part: who should PSU hire to be his replacement. There are two groups of people out there: the ones who want a PSU guy because they feel that BOB betrayed them when he left and the people who want the best possible coach and realize that college coaches come and go in this era. I am sure you can figure out where I fit.
He is the coach at the University of Miami. He used to be the coach at Temple. He is a Penn State guy. He played there as a tight end and at one point was part of the coaching staff under Joe Paterno. I actually do not hate him as a choice, he seems to be doing good work at Miami.
Another PSU guy. He was on offensive lineman and most recently was fired by the Tennessee Titans. One of the things people like about him is that he stays. He was the O-line coach for the Titans for 14 seasons, then became the head coach. Unfortunately, he has no college coaching experience. How would he do as a recruiter?
The problem I have with both of these guys is that when the scandal happened and Penn State was looking for a coach, their names were mentioned. They also seemed like they did not want the job two years ago. I could be wrong about that, but if Al Golden really wanted to come save his Alma Mater, he would have. You mean to tell me if these guys called Joyner back then and said “look, I want this job, I will turn it around, we have to rally together.” They would have had the job. Now it looks like a great job again and they are interested? Screw you guys.
Larry Johnson Sr.
He has been at the university since 1996. One of the few guys from the Paterno era that stayed with Bill O’Brien. He is an excellent recruiter. He was offered the defensive coordinator position at Illinois a few years ago. I do not know if he is head coach material (have smaller schools ever spoken to him about being a head coach?), but whoever is hired should keep him on as defensive coordinator. I wonder if he was named coach, would he try to get his son a job as a running back coach? Could Larry Jr. eventually become an offensive coordinator? I am just speculating on that one.
The head coach at Vanderbilt. This guy is the sexy pick that has been named as a frontrunner for just about every job. He was linked to Texas for awhile. He has helped turn Vanderbilt around, which is a tough task considering that every school in the SEC is a powerhouse. I feel like he would be an interesting choice since he is young and is from Pennsylvania. I do not think he has any Penn State ties, so some alumni may hate him as a pick.
Of these guys, I would probably go with James Franklin. I realize that there is a risk with him. He could leave if he does well and go to the NFL or take a bigger SEC job. Who knows nowadays. As long as coaches feel like the SEC is the end-all-be-all of jobs, he will probably be attached whenever a SEC job opens up.
Here are a few crazy wildcard picks that I would consider if I had a say.
He has coached all over the place. He was most recently the head coach of Texas. He is a bit older, so who knows how many years he would coach for. In fact, I almost expect him to take a job as an analyst. Maybe he will replace Lou Holtz (that would make me happy). I like him because there would be less pressure on him than at Texas. Penn State fans would not have to worry about him leaving until he was ready to retire. And yes, I realize that he turned down Army, but that does not mean he is absolutely done coaching. I feel like some university will get him and then we will hear about him making some small school into a national contender. Wait and see.
The offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos. I have heard his name mentioned for a few of the NFL jobs, but something tells me he will be turned down for them because he has very little head coaching experience.
If I were hiring for Penn State, I would consider becoming a NFL coaching mill. Say to a guy like Gase: “hey, look at O’Brien. He came here for two years and was able to turn that into a good NFL job. You could do that. Give use 2-4 years. Use a pro style offense, help recruit the top quarterbacks in the nation.” You then have the coaches tell recruits the same thing “hey, I may leave in a few years, but my replacement will be someone similar to me, a head coach who wants to go to the NFL. And if I leave for the NFL, there is a good chance that if I can draft a QB, it would be you.” Or something like that.
It would be a risky way of going about hiring a coach, but at some point a university is going to have to acknowledge that coaches come and go. Recruits need to know that going in. If you can at least show that each new coach will be similar to the last, at least they will see some kind of continuity.
Oh well, that is just my crazy way of thinking. Maybe I should be hired as the athletic director for some small school and allowed to try my theory out. Any takers?