Penn State May Turn to Patriots Assistant O’Brien as Paterno’s Successor

Penn State University’s search committee wants to hire New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien as the successor to football coach Joe Paterno, ESPN reported.

The two sides are expected to meet this week to try to work out a deal, ESPN said yesterday, citing unidentified people close to the situation. The Patriots are off during the first week of the National Football League playoffs after earning the No. 1 seed in the American Football Conference.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told reporters when asked about O’Brien’s status after yesterday’s regular-season finale against Buffalo. “I hope he’s here for a long time and I told him that too.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Penn State spokesman Jeff Nelson declined to comment yesterday.

Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley said at a news conference yesterday that school officials haven’t told him anything about the coaching search. Bradley has met with the school’s search committee about taking the full-time job.

“I was able to talk to them about the way I would do things. That’s all that I can ask,” said Bradley, whose team plays the University of Houston today in the TicketCity Bowl. “As far as rumors, I don’t pay much attention to them.”

Paterno Fired

Penn State has been searching for a replacement for the 85- year-old Paterno, who was fired in November following his handling of child sex-abuse allegations against former Nittany Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky.

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, a former offensive lineman at Penn State, was the top choice of the search committee, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said on Dec. 28. Munchak told reporters the next day he has no interest in leaving the NFL, though ESPN said on Dec. 31 that he was reconsidering. The Titans were eliminated from postseason contention yesterday.

Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, a former All-American at the University of Notre Dame, was also on the committee’s list of candidates, according to the Post-Gazette.

O’Brien, 42, is in the final year of his contract with the Patriots. He took over as New England’s offensive coordinator this season after two seasons as quarterbacks coach and one year as wide receivers coach. Before entering the NFL, O’Brien was a college assistant at Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.

O’Brien was a linebacker and defensive end at Brown University from 1990-92.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at

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