With the hiring of Patriots’ offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien as Head Coach of the Nittany Lions, the Paterno Era has officially ended. Gone are most (but not all) of the assistant coaches from Joe’s staff including his son JayPa, who probably wouldn’t have been coaching at a school like PSU if not for his dad.
No one could have imagined the circumstances that led to Joe Paterno’s demise as head coach, and I’m sure that abuse scandal will continue to play out for many years, but the hiring of O’Brien represents the chance at a fresh start. In a very limited amount of time, the Nittany Lions have boosted their coaching staff with top-tier talent, all of whom have NFL and/or high-level NCAA experience behind them. This change is most welcome and should show results on the field.
Penn State has never been known for its offense, let’s face it. Besides Kerry Collins and Todd Blackledge can you really name a stellar PSU QB? Sure, there have been some solid running backs, but this ain’t your daddy’s Big 10 any more. Run it up the middle is no longer an offensive strategy. You have to have an excellent passing game if you’re going to be in the Top 25, plain and simple.
Even with discounting the horrendous performance at the TicketCity Bowl because of what the players on this past year’s team endured, Penn State has not been stellar of late in big matchups. The obliteration it suffered at the hands of Mark Sanchez and USC in the Rose Bowl jumps to mind. With a lackluster or even decent offense, you can no longer be a “big time” program, no matter how good your defense. Additionally, the D gets tired from spending so much time on the field if you can’t mount sustained drives and give them some breathing room. Long story short, PSU needed a change of direction, and by golly, they’ve got it.
No one has denounced the O’Brien pick as a bad decision. Even Paterno loyalists understand that he’s an accomplished coach that can help revitalize the program. In turn, O’Brien has reached out to alumni and has been respectful of the Paterno legacy. JoePa still has many supporters particularly among his former players and some current ones as well. While O’Brien doesn’t need to blow up the program and start from scratch, he will need to breathe some life into it and by powering up an offense to put points on the board, he can do just that. After all, even the most storied institutions can use a breath of fresh air every half century or so.
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Written by Stephanie Geosits