The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


January 7, 2014

O'Brien saved PSU program

As I read through the comments and criticisms of Bill O’Brien, I couldn’t help but ask myself why? Why do these people continue to worship the person that ran the program from greatness to mediocrity and yet they scold the man that saved the program left for dead by the NCAA?

Joe Paterno was a great coach, early in his career. He lead the Nittany Lions to great heights, early in his career. The end of his career is marred by mediocrity, lost bowl games, and lost recruits. Let’s look at Penn State by the numbers in the 2000s:

2000: 5-7

2001: 5-6

2002: 9-4 (Capital One Bowl, Lost to Auburn, 13-9)

2003: 3-9

2004: 4-7

2005: 11-1 (Orange Bowl, Beat Florida State, 26-23)

2006: 9-4 (Outback Bowl, Beat Tennessee, 20-10)

2007: 9-4 (Alamo Bowl, Beat Texas A&M, 24-17)

2008: 11-2 (Rose Bowl, Lost to Southern Cal, 38-24)

2009: 11-2 (Capital One Bowl, Beat LSU, 19-17)

2010: 7-6-0 (Outback Bowl, Lost to Florida, 37-24)

Record during that stretch? 84-52. Yes, a winning record, but in college football mediocre at best. If we look at Ohio State (yes, division rival Ohio State), it has 114 wins during that same span.

Bill O’Brien won and won immediately. He won with talent that might have a difficult time winning in the PSAC against Bloomsburg and Shippensburg. He recruited extremely well while still suffering from the sanctions left from Paterno and his staff.

The fact that these fans in the Valley continue to worship this man (Coach Paterno) that had very little to do with strategy, game plan, and game day coaching during the final 10 years of his career is astonishing.

O’Brien not only survived in Happy Valley for two years, he flourished. He recruited the No. 1 quarterback in the nation in Christian Hackenburg, and improved an offense which struggled mightily under the Paterno regime. The person who may have benefited the most from the change? Oakland Raiders quarterback and local high school standout Matt McGloin. He might have enjoyed a stint in the Arena Football league if it wasn’t for O’Brien’s tutelage.

Yes, Coach O’Brien left and it’s easy to be bitter to lose a coach after such a short stint. But, one thing many people are forgetting is the Penn State job was one that no one wanted two years ago and is now drawing interest from top college coaches and NFL coaches alike. Did O’Brien treat this as a stepping stone job? Yes. But, what was the job two years ago? It wasn’t a stepping stone but more like a disappointing end to a once proud tradition. Instead of being bitter, maybe the fans should be thankful that Coach O’Brien saved what “legendary” Coach Paterno tarnished.

Aaron Ettinger,


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