Penn State Football: Life Won't Be Easy For Bill O'Brien If He Stays At Penn State
Let's say for a second that all of the reports are simply wrong.
Let's assume that Bill O'Brien has interviewed with the Houston Texans but he isn't really going to take the job.
It's all a move to convince Penn State to do X, Y, or Z for him and the program.
And that's entirely possible. It wouldn't be unreasonable to find out that O'Brien was playing hardball with Penn State's administration for the second straight season as he retools the football program. But if last offseason was a power-grab with two NFL interviews and a new contract, this offseason is a power-lunge. If O'Brien isn't going to the NFL he's seemingly taking the charade to the very edge. Perhaps waiting for the other end of the equation to respond.
And that's where O'Brien's problems will lie if he does in fact return to Penn State.
O'Brien has never been a warm and fuzzy coach. He has done better and better with the public relations aspect of the job, but aside from the occasional joke there is a certain facade that lies over most of what O'Brien does. It's not that he isn't genuine, but rather that it's not hard to tell that most of the time he'd rather be doing more coaching-related items. He's built for seclusion of the NFL more than the pep-rally mindset of most college coaches.
As O'Brien said himself "I'm not a pep-rally coach."
So as this process plays out fans will continue to get more and more frustrated that O'Brien has preached the message of Penn State football while seemingly only coming back when he gets what he wants. Possibly with an easier and easier out each time. With the NFL calling louder and louder, some may see O'Brien's return as half hearted. For a program and university desperate for stability and leadership that isn't a good thing.
In the most basic sense O'Brien doesn't owe fans anything aside from doing what he's paid to do. There is never going to be a moment where the internet is so concerned and upset that O'Brien is going to stop what he's doing and release a statement explaining what is going on. O'Brien is a brand and a business all on his own, or as rapper Jay-Z says "I'm not a businessman I'm a business, man" and O'Brien will never show his cards just to please a restless fan base. And he shouldn't. Especially when he's dealing with his own future. In a lot of ways the collective confusion and anger has much more to do with Penn State's swift transition into modern day coaching than anything O'Brien has done.
None of the above will matter if he leaves for the NFL.
But if O'Brien returns, he's going to have to face the music. Fans will only get yanked around for so long, recruits will only trust the song and dance for so long, and no matter how much his players like him not even they are surprised that O'Brien is tempted by the NFL. The general distrust and annoyance among fans is palpable already and will continue to grow the longer O'Brien's silence continues.
The simple fact of the matter is that even if O'Brien doesn't really owe anyone anything in the this coaching business, if he does return to Penn State he's coming home to an angry house. Essentially saving the program from destruction only buys so much goodwill, fair or not.
And at some point O'Brien won't be able to pretend that a press conference and a few stops on a caravan tour will make that all go away. Bill O'Brien might be the most powerful man in town, but if fans weren't part of the equation they wouldn't have room for 110,000 in Beaver Stadium.