Penn State Head Coach Bill O’Brien is near the top of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s list of candidates to replace Andy Reid, and sources tell Taking It To The House that the Eagles would be the only job O’Brien would leave PSU for.
The Eagles may not need to travel very far to find their next Head Coach.
As reports surfaced late Wednesday that Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski were en route to Atlanta to interview Falcons Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan and Special Teams Coach Keith Armstrong, the name of another candidate continues to emerge when speaking with league sources.
That candidate is Penn State Head Coach Bill O’Brien.
Wednesday, Taking It To The House reported O’Brien was among the candidates that piqued Lurie’s interest and that the first year-PSU Head Coach would consider leaving Happy Valley for the NFL. By Thursday, though, it appears that interest is spiking on both sides.
“If the Eagles offer O’Brien the job, he’s gone (from Penn State),” David Jones, Penn State Beat Reporter for the Patriot News told 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. “Any other job opening, and I think he stays.”
That is the strongest indication yet that O’Brien, who’s Nittany Lions finished 8-4 in his first season despite stringent sanctions from the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case and who faces three years of Bowl ineligibility and further scholarship deductions over the next three seasons, would backpedal on his commitment to return to Penn State next season.
An NFL source confirmed Jones’s statement that O’Brien would only leave Penn State for the Eagles job and continued to say that O’Brien is high on Lurie’s list of candidates, and perhaps is his top target to replace Andy Reid who was fired on Dec 31 after a 14-year tenure.
The caveat to this situation is the $9 million buyout clause in O’Brien’s contract with Penn State. It remains to be seen whether or not Lurie will bite the bullet and pay the buyout, on top of paying O’Brien’s salary.
One possible outcome of this situation is O’Brien using the interest from the NFL as leverage against Penn State to either gain more money on his current deal, or to remain committed to Penn State in the short term, while negotiating a more feasible buyout in his contract leaving the door open for him to leave in the long-term.
Either way, it appears that there is strong interest on both sides to at least explore the option of having O’Brien roam the sidelines at Lincoln Financial Field.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are scheduled to interview Oregon Ducks Head Coach Chip Kelly, author of one of the more innovative offenses in recent memory, the spread option that is currently being used in some form by several NFL teams, including the Washington Redskins. Kelly’s Ducks face off with Kansas State Thursday night in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Eagles brass will fly to Arizona on Friday and have an interview scheduled with Kelly at that time.