It sure was nice of Penn State University to pad head football coach Bill O’Brien’s bank account with a raise, not to mention throw in some additional perks such as additional access to a private jet. Based on the job he did of leading the program to an 8-4 record last year, he earned all of it.
However, the extra cash and prizes most of the news reports focused on sort of buried the lede here. What O’Brien’s “amended contract” really does is make his eventual jump to the NFL all the easier.
You may recall several pro teams, including the Eagles, interviewing O’Brien for their head coaching vacancies over the winter. Based on his time with the New England Patriots and what he was able to do with the Lions in the face of almost crippling NCAA sanctions, O’Brien is likely to remain one of the top candidates in the NFL for years to come.
Ultimately he decided to stay in Happy Valley, and he may have no matter what out of loyalty – he’s only been at Penn State for one season. However, breaking his contract also would have required an enormous buyout, at the time rumored to be as much as $18 million.
That figure was never nailed down. Whatever it was, it’s certainly far less now. Michael David Smith breaks down the numbers at ProFootballTalk.
In 2013, O’Brien’s buyout for an NFL job would be $7.73 million. That’s expensive, although it’s something that any NFL owner could afford if he believes O’Brien is the coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl. In 2014, O’Brien’s buyout would drop to $3.41 million. That’s very affordable for an NFL owner. And the buyout gets down to $3.30 million in 2015 and $1.73 million in 2016, assuming O’Brien is still working on the same contract by then.
Calling those numbers affordable is an understatement. $8 million might give some owners pause, but $3 million? That’s nothing.
So basically what this amended contract really does is pave the way for O’Brien to leave PSU for the NFL. That doesn’t mean he’s going to pack his bags the first chance he gets – which presumably will come next year. If you think O’Brien doesn’t have such aspirations though, think again. Bob Flounder for the Harrisburg Patriot-News reminds us of this:
"My profession is coaching, and in my profession, the National Football League is the highest level of coaching,'' O'Brien said shortly after he announced he was staying at PSU earlier this year.
>> Bill O’Brien’s buyout would be affordable for an NFL owner [PFT]
>> Breaking down Bill O’Brien’s new contract [Penn-Live]