With or Without You

The Penn State community had a lot of time to think about the situation as the news of O’Brien’s deal with the Texans slowly evolved. Personally, thoughts were racing through my head since early last week of all the possibilities.  Who would replace him? What would the team think?  When would it happen and most importantly, what are the chances this is all one big rumor? Until New Year’s Eve, nothing was certain. Everyone seemed to be reading different tea leaves, hearing rumored information from different “credible sources,” and overall just making the situation more stressful than it needed to be.

Upon logging on to Facebook on the first day of 2014 and seeing Adam Schefter’s initial tweet, I came to discover that O’Brien had officially reached an agreement to be the new head coach for the Houston Texans.

Now there is a lot to be said regarding this whole situation. Everyone has their own opinion and they are entitled to an opinion, so I am not trying to bash anyone. As people have begun to attack O’Brien’s credibility and character on social media, a few points should be made clear. One should understand the facts.

O’Brien made his aspiration to be an NFL coach clear from the beginning. It was almost inevitable that he would not become the next Joe Paterno.  O’Brien had different aspirations and he had a plan for how to get to where he wanted to be: the NFL. Coaching the Houston Texans is a once in a lifetime job and it would be tough for anyone to refuse their dream job.

Another thing that O’Brien did from the beginning was lead us. When he was given the job as head coach in one of the darkest times in Penn State football history, it was tough to tell what would happen. But O’Brien did a tremendous job in the face of the NCAA sanctions. He turned this football program around and set us on our feet. While he did have a few errors here and there, he did a lot more good than bad.

I think Bill O’Brien is a good man. It seemed like over the course of his five year contract, O’Brien would slowly but surely build the football program back to what it was, something I had only seen on television or read about in the newspaper. And that is just what he started to do with these past two seasons.

He led the Nittany Lions to a 15-9 overall record and a 10-6 record in the Big Ten in his time here at Penn State. Last season he helped complete the transformation of Matt McGloin from a walk-on quarterback to a top QB in the Big Ten and most recently a NFL starting quarterback. This season he began the transformation of Christian Hackenberg from a true freshman quarterback to an award winning freshman quarterback in the Big Ten.

After this season ended, I felt like we still had plenty of room for improvement, but we were on the right track, a path that O’Brien had helped pave for us. With his retiring from Penn State, a lot of people think that we have been stopped in our track, or that O’Brien was leading us down a path that was best for him and not for the team.

To this, I say that O’Brien lead us in the right direction the entire time. Not once while he was at Penn State did he think only of himself, not even upon accepting the offer from the Texans. He has trained our team well and set them out to do what they know how to do best: play football. He earned the respect he deserved from his players, many of whom wished him nothing but the best in his new endeavors through social media.

Penn State was not a stepping stone job for O’Brien either. Happy Valley was another place for O’Brien to shed his wisdom, an overall success story thanks to his help.

As someone who has always believed in being the best you can possibly be, I respect O’Brien for following his dreams and being the best he can be. It takes a lot of guts to make a decision like the one he made (in either direction).  For that, I respect his character and both his determination and persistence towards his ultimate goal.

When the day is over, remember that there’s nothing we can do to change his mind, it has already been made. All we can do now is respect O’Brien’s decision and thank him for all he has done. He jumped into the fire and helped dig us out. He was there when others gave up on us in the darkest of times. Life has a way of working itself out, so the best thing we can do is to not give up on our team, our community, and ourselves.

O’Brien was an excellent choice as a transitional coach from Joe Paterno to the next coach that will hopefully have the same innovativeness as O’Brien, dedication as Paterno, and leadership as they both did.

We are still Penn State, with or without Coach O’Brien, and we will stay on the path that O’Brien has already begun to create, with or without him. A coach can make a team what it is, but it takes more than just a great coach to push a team to what it can truly be.

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