Could Bill O'Brien leave Penn State for the NFL?

Posted: January 01, 2013

With at least seven NFL coaching vacancies needing to be filled after Monday's rash of firings, the name of Penn State coach Bill O'Brien has come up for most, if not all, of them.

O'Brien, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator, could have his choice of any job after earning national honors for leading the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 mark in his first season.

As for whether he has been contacted, O'Brien's agent, Joe Linta, has not responded to a request for comment.

But is that what O'Brien wants?

The common thought is no. After allowing speculation to grow over whether he would be back in Happy Valley in 2013, O'Brien said on Nov. 27 that he would return next season.

"That's my plan and that's what I intend to do," O'Brien told Atlanta radio station 790 AM The Zone.

A bigger obstacle to leaving is the buyout O'Brien would have to pay the university to get out of his contract, which went from five years after his official hiring on Jan. 6 to nine years after the assessment of NCAA sanctions against the program in July following the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Under O'Brien's original contract, the first year totaled $2.3 million - a $950,000 base salary augmented by a $1 million radio and television contract and a $350,000 stipend from Nike for apparel and shoes. The base number rises by 5 percent beginning July 1, 2013, and every July 1 through 2016.

So the buyout for the original five-year deal would be more than $9 million should O'Brien accept an NFL job in the coming weeks. But if the additional four years are in play - with the annual salary each year matching his pay for 2016, projected to be more than $2.5 million - the buyout would increase in excess of $10 million.

It doesn't seem likely that the most deep-pocketed of NFL owners would cover the entire buyout.

ESPN reported Sunday that O'Brien received incorrect information from Penn State during contract negotiations, with officials reportedly telling him that the Sandusky matter was a criminal one and not something in which the NCAA would be involved.

The sanctions punished Penn State with a four-year postseason ban, a reduction in scholarships plus a $60 million fine. 


Contact Joe Juliano at  jjuliano@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.

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