Sources around the NFL are reporting that Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has agreed to become the next head coach of Penn State. The Nittany Lions will make the official announcement Saturday. O’Brien will become the first new head coach of the Nittany Lions in 61 years, so he has the large shoes of Joe Paterno to fill. O’Brien will continue to work as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator throughout the playoffs, however long the Pats remain in the postseason. The Patriots faced a similar situation in 2004 when they went all the way to winning Super Bowl XXXIX. Charlie Weiss was named Notre Dame’s new head coach and he continued to serve as the Pats’ coordinator throughout the posteason.
Obviously, the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl, so Weiss’ appointment didn’t negatively affect the team. What did it look like behind the scenes?
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen spoke with Tedy Bruschi about how it worked behind the scenes:
“That was the Patriots’ last Super Bowl championship, that run was done after Weis was named the Notre Dame coach and he continued to do his job as [Patriots] offensive coordinator,” Mortensen said. “I talked with Tedy Bruschi, who was on those teams, about that today and he said Charlie did his job like he normally did and maybe on his lunch break, or if he got a break here and there, he’d be making recruiting calls [for Notre Dame]. I’m sure some similar arrangement will be made for O’Brien. …
“I’m assuming the Charlie Weis model from 2004 works because it did work. They won a Super Bowl even though he had the double duties.”
Can it work again? We’ll have to wait and see, but you know if the offense struggles and the Patriots lose their first playoff game, the question will be asked as to whether O’Brien’s interview and hiring affected the team.
Who’s next in line to take over the offensive coordinator duties? As I mentioned earlier in the week, the return of Josh McDaniels would bring in the most experienced coach who knows the system, minimizing any disruption or transition time in an offensive system that doesn’t need to be changed. If McDaniels is unavailable or isn’t brought back for some strange reason, Bill Belichick would likely again look internally. The offensive staff consists of Brian Ferentz (tight ends), Chad O’Shea (receivers), Dante Scarnecchia (offensive line), and Ivan Fears (running backs).