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December 31, 2013

O'Brien set for NFL coaching return

ESPN reporters Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter are reporting that an agreement has been reached between Bill O'Brien and the NFL's Houston Texans.

The move ends an extremely eventful two-year tenure for O'Brien - checking in at just 726 days.

Taking over for interim coach Tom Bradley on Jan. 7, 2012, O'Brien succeeded the five-decade tenure of 85-year old head coach Joe Paterno, only to find himself engulfed in a whirlwind of events in the coming months that would shape his two years on the job.

Still the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, O'Brien finished his obligations through a Super Bowl run while juggling his initial responsibilities at Penn State. In the meantime, the passing of Paterno due to complications from cancer further intensified O'Brien's responsibilities upon his full-time arrival in February 2012.

Immediately implementing staff changes that included all but two of Penn State's assistants and its entire strength and conditioning staff, O'Brien and the Nittany Lions prepared for the 2012 season with a renewed vigor.

Meanwhile, the sideshow of the Jerry Sandusky trial in June and the release of Louis Freeh's findings in July created turmoil that culminated with NCAA president Mark Emmert's announcement that Penn State would be subjected to a four-year postseason ban, severe scholarship restrictions, recruiting limitations and massive fines. All of this, of course, not mentioning a "free transfer" rule allowing current Nittany Lions to seek out playing opportunities at other programs without needing to sit out a year under traditional NCAA rules.

Attempting to hold together Penn State's football program, O'Brien and multiple seniors managed to largely keep the team in tact, save for the notable departures of a starting running back, wide receiver and place kicker, along with a host of backups.

Regaining their footing, O'Brien and the Nittany Lions recovered from a disappointing 0-2 start to finish the season 8-4 overall (6-2 Big Ten), including a captivating season-ending win against a ranked Wisconsin team.

For his efforts, O'Brien earned multiple national coach of the year honors as well as the Big Ten Coach of the Year nod from both the conference media and coaches.

Seemingly as quickly as the season had ended, O'Brien's name started earning mentions with high-profile NFL coaching opportunities following the 2012 campaign. Linked to an opening with the Philadelphia Eagles, among others, O'Brien ended the speculation when he announced that he would return to Penn State to coach another season while leaving open the possibility that his future would not necessarily always include coaching the Nittany Lions.

"Why I'm here today is to tell you a few things. Number one is, I'm a coach. I'm a coach, and the National Football League and coaching is my profession," O'Brien said. "Coaching is something that I love. I love to coach. I love coaching these kids here at Penn State. I enjoy coming into the office every day and strategizing and thinking about how we can get this team ready for the 2013 season. I enjoy the week to week preparation. I enjoy the practice planning, the camaraderie with our staff -- one of the best staffs in the country. We have a fantastic staff of guys, and I am a coach.

"That's my profession. Your profession is you guys are journalists, you guys are TV people, you men and women are at the top of your profession, whether it's here in Pennsylvania or in the country. But that's your profession.

"Respect my profession. My profession is coaching, and in my profession, the National Football League is the highest level of coaching. You don't get any higher in coaching than the National Football League."

Following Penn State's 2013 season - a year in which the Nittany Lions struggled to overcome significant limitations directly and indirectly related to the NCAA's sanctions - O'Brien's name once again immediately emerged as a viable NFL head coaching candidate. With two wins against ranked opponents, even the disappointing aspects of the Nittany Lions' 7-5 season didn't overshadow O'Brien's relative success in the face of debilitating circumstances.

With the announcement, O'Brien ends his career at Penn State with a 15-9 overall record.




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