What Eagles Fans Should Know about Bill OBriens Availability

What Eagles Fans Should Know about Bill OBriens Availability

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Two head coaches at major Division I football programs are
said to be high on the Eagles’ wish list. After weeks of speculation, we can
finally confirm Oregon’s Chip Kelly has an interview. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien
on the other hand remains almost entirely speculative.

Multiple reports claim O’Brien has been thinking about interviewing
for an NFL job. Among those building the hype is the Harrisburg Patriot-News’
David Jones, who wrote on Tuesday that the Eagles, Browns, and Cardinals all
planned to speak to the PSU coach.

The real question is whether or not O’Brien plans on
speaking to any of those teams, and even if he eventually does, would he
seriously consider taking a new job?

This is of great concern to legions of Nittany Lion fans who
witnessed the unthinkable this season. O’Brien did and said all the right
things while guiding a reeling program to an 8-4 record, modernizing their
offense in the process and restoring a hope for the future that the NCAA more
or less attempted to destroy through crippling sanctions.

Of course, Penn Staters who double as Birds fans are
probably a little more conflicted, given that O’Brien’s credentials would seemingly
make him a tremendous candidate to follow Andy Reid.

However, there is actually reason to believe O’Brien is not
all that interested in another job. For starters, he’s dragging his feet on setting
up an interview, with none formally scheduled that we’re aware of – and he
doesn’t share the same excuse as Kelly, who is coaching in a BCS bowl game this
week. And for what it’s worth, O’Brien has always come across as highly
dedicated to turning around the culture at Happy Valley.

But perhaps the biggest red flag comes from a story Jones
wrote this past weekend suggesting O’Brien’s interest in the NFL could easily
boil down to nothing more than a negotiating ploy with the university. Here’s
more:

I believe the objective for O'Brien
and his agent Joe Linta is to free him of a paralyzing buyout that I've been
assured by two different pro agents amounts not just to $9.2 million but $18.4
million – the full life of eight years remaining on the Penn State deal. That's
four years (at $2.3 million per) for the original pact signed in January and
four more seasons for the re-up added last summer for the number of years of
NCAA sanctions.

So, I don't think the objective for
O'Brien is money. I think it's future freedom. Unless the buyout clause is
nullified in some way, no NFL club can reasonably be expected to shell out that
kind of cash simply for the rights to negotiate a deal with a man who's only
been a head coach at any level for 11 months. I've been assured by people close
to the Philadelphia Eagles, for instance, that there is absolutely no way owner
Jeffrey Lurie would pay even $9.2M up front, let alone $18.4M.

No, I think it's about freedom.
O'Brien wants to have his options open, to be able to go to the NFL in the future
should he so desire. If he and his agent can get the buyout clause removed,
then he can pursue his NFL dream after next season or some subsequent one.

Eye-opening. The buyout always made him an unlikely prospect
this year, but regardless it makes sense O’Brien would attempt to capitalize on
his success in any way possible – especially if he can accomplish something
without so much as walking out his front door.

None of which is to rule O’Brien out here or anywhere else.
Until he sets up a real, physical interview with an NFL team though, maybe we
somebody should start pumping the brakes on some of these rumblings. Even if
one or two meetings should come to pass, it doesn’t guarantee movement.

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Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).