Bill O'Brien has agreed to accept the head coaching job at embattled Penn State a source close to the situation tells CSNNE.com.
O'Brien, the Patriots' offensive coordinator since 2009 (he was given the title in 2011 but carried out the responsibilities in 2009 and 2010 after Josh McDaniels left) wades into a difficult situation at Penn State, replacing deposed legend Joe Paterno who was fired in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
O'Brien faces a hard road in Happy Valley. A smart, passionate coach who played at Brown University and coached collegiately at Duke and Georgia Tech before joining the Patriots' staff in 2007, he's a gifted and innovative offensive mind.
The high points of his tenure in New England came in 2010 when he remade the Patriots offense after Randy Moss was traded, turning the Patriots' attack into a more precise and horizontal scheme featuring rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez along with slot receiver Wes Welker. He also cultivated the overlooked talents of running backs Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the Patriots finished with an NFL-best record of 14-2.
In 2011, O'Brien continued to tap the resources he had, utilizing the tight ends in New England in a way unprecedented in the NFL. That he had Tom Brady pulling the levers had an impact, certainly, but O'Brien's demandingand vocal style played well with the Patriots' hard-working offensive group.
Recruiting promises to be tough for O'Brien. The Sandusky scandal casts a pall on a highly-respected program and - rightly or wrongly - the Penn State brand currently has a stain on it.
The continuing fallout from the situation will undoubtedly be something O'Brien has to tactfully deal with over the next few years as Sandusky's case moves through the judicial system and O'Brien - now the public face of the program - will be in a position to answer questions about it.
One thing Bill Belichick's talented assistants who've moved on to head coaching jobs have often lacked is media savvy. O'Brien is being dropped into a cauldron of turmoil both because of the scandal and as the successor to Paterno.
As for the Patriots, it remains to be seen whether O'Brien stays with the team through the playoffs. Odds are he will. After O'Brien leaves, the Patriots can look to their own staff for replacements with either wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea or tight ends coach Brian Ferentz. They could also look outside the program to either former offensive coordinator McDaniels - out with the rest of the staff in St. Louis - or maybe former Patriots assistant Jeff Davidson.