On Sunday's edition of ESPN's NFL Countdown pregame program, veteran ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen was asked about certain job openings and potential candidates for those openings. And one very interesting name popped up: Bill O'Brien of Penn State.
This is particularly newsworthy because unlike names such as Oregon's Chip Kelly and Alabama's Nick Saban, O'Brien's name hasn't been thrown out for an NFL job with any regularity.
O'Brien, 43, won the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award for 2012, as he guided the sanction-riddled Nittany Lions to an impressive eight-win season. Previously, O'Brien was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots.
Here is what Mortensen relayed from his sources who have talked with O'Brien about openings.
ESPN's @mortreport "Penn State's Bill O'Brien told by PSU officials that Sandusky deal was 'criminal matter, not an NCAA concern'"— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) December 30, 2012
@mortreport's sources: "O'Brien would consider a very short list of NFL opportunities"— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) December 30, 2012
The statement from Penn State to O'Brien when he accepted the job could not have been more incorrect, as Penn State was placed under the heaviest of NCAA sanctions in a quarter century.
O'Brien's stock is probably as high as it is going to get at Penn State, at least for the foreseeable future, as the Nittany Lions' talent level will likely continue to decline until the penalty has run its course in 2017, the first year in which Penn State will have its full allotment of scholarships.
Mortensen said that the list of opportunities O'Brien would consider is "very short," and judging from that, it doesn't sound as if O'Brien is looking to leave Penn State.
From a recruiting perspective, that's a very good thing.
Penn State currently has a consensus top-40 recruiting class, which is better than many experts, including myself, thought it could do. That's a credit to O'Brien's work on the recruiting trail and the impressive season on the field. O'Brien and his staff have effectively sold the "us against the world" and "family" pitches, and top recruits like tight end Adam Breneman and QB Christian Hackenberg have bought in -- both by sticking with their commitments to the Nittany Lions and recruiting for PSU in a very public way.
If O'Brien were to leave for the NFL, it's hard to see Penn State's class not falling to pieces, because of the timing, the current state of the program (which was apparently not known by O'Brien when he accepted the position) and the image O'Brien bolting would send.
Luckily for the Nittany Lions, O'Brien doesn't seem willing to listen to just any NFL opportunity that comes along, at least according to Mortensen's sources.