Eagles fortunate they didn't hire O'Brien

Eagles fortunate they didn't hire O'Brien
January 7, 2013, 5:26 pm
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Everyone can exhale. Bill OBrien will not be the Eagles next head coach. Thats a good thing for all concerned.

Because it would have been a disaster.

On Monday, OBrien gathered the media and explained how and why everything unfolded. He thought it was important.

I want to make sure that everybody leaves here with an understanding of what happened," OBrien said in the press conference dutifully recorded by statecollege.com.

This isnt about football. It might have worked out on that front for OBrien and the Eagles. By all accounts, OBrien has a bright football mind. Two years ago, when he was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots, New England was second in the NFL in total offense. This year, after taking over an embattled Penn State program that was rocked by the heinous Jerry Sandusky sex scandal as well as significant NCAA sanctions, OBrien led the Nittany Lions to a surprising 8-4 record. He was also named Big Ten coach of the year.

He might have been a good hire if it was only about football. But it wouldnt have been. Professional pigskin isnt just about what happens on the field. If high-level football is entertainment, then the old showbiz axiom holds true for sports: Timing matters. And the timing in this case would have been dreadful.

The Eagles just finished a wretched 4-12 season, stumbling to the organizations worst record in well over a decade. The locker room is an ugly environment (see story) currently populated by name callers and finger pointers. As general manager Howie Roseman admitted, the franchise has a real chemistry problem (see story). That hardly comes as a surprise to area fans. Many of them showed their distaste for the team by leaving games early or not bothering to show at all.

And now imagine this scenario: The Eagles, who have obvious image issues at the moment (see story), go out and poach OBrien from beleaguered Penn State. That would not go over well. Not at all. Not for anyone involved.

The Eagles would have been seen as vultures, an uncaring, opportunistic organization that picked at Penn States carcass. That would have been unfair, of course. It takes two sides to enter into that sort of agreement, and OBrien would have been vilified too. But the Eagles likely would have taken most of the heat.

In a never-ending tempest that has hovered over Happy Valley for a while now, OBrien has served as football coach and human refuge, a man capable of shielding the community and the program from the wicked winds of unthinkable events. In a dark time for Penn State, OBrien represents hope. Had he decamped for Philadelphia, he and the Eagles would have been accused of stomping on State College and making a bad situation that much worse.

Again, that sort of portrayal would have been unjust. But it almost certainly would have been cast that way.

OBrien seemed to sense as much. After being interviewed by the Eagles and Browns, OBrien announced that he would stay in State College and insisted that no job was ever offered. He also said that he didnt really make a decision to stay because nothing ever happened.

"I didn't do anything, OBrien said. I had a conversation for the best interest of my family."

There was speculation that OBrien used those conversations as leverage against Penn State. A few days ago, there was a report that Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula an influential Nittany Lions booster gave OBrien a 1.3 million gift to stay put. OBrien swore that wasnt the case.

If it was about money, OBrien said, more than likely, I probably wouldn't be sitting here now.

Dont let him fool you. It is always about money. But it is also about opportunity the right one at, more importantly, the right time. OBrien didnt deny that he harbors NFL aspirations. When he was asked if he might consider jumping to the professional ranks one day, he responded by saying that he loves coaching and that the NFL is the highest level.

Thats fine. Its also understandable. OBrien is a talented coach with natural ambition. Theres nothing wrong with that. But hes also smart enough to know that taking the Eagles job would have been a mistake. It might have been a good spot for him to land, but it would have been a bad moment to take the leap.

After making his decision to remain at Penn State, OBrien told the Harrisburg Patriot News that hes not a one and done guy. Thats a good thing for him, for Penn State, for the Eagles, for the fans, for everyone between South Philly and State College.Sometimes the best move is not making any move at all.

E-mail John Gonzalez at jgonzalez@comcastsportsnet.com

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