Bill O’Brien, the man who will replace Joe Paterno as coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, has another job today. He will work as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator in the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.
O’Brien’s new job will begin when the Patriots’ playoff run ends, either late this afternoon or late on the night of Feb. 5, and he issued a statement on the death of the school’s legendary former coach, Joe Paterno, this morning:
“It is with great sadness that I am compelled to deliver this message of condolence and tribute to a great man, husband, father and someone who is more than just a coach, Joe Paterno.
“First, on behalf of Penn State Football, we offer our sincerest condolences to the Paterno family for their loss. We also offer our condolences to the Penn State community and, in particular, to those who wore the Penn State colors, our Nittany Lion football players and alumni. Today they lost a great man, coach, mentor and, in many cases, a father figure, and we extend our deepest sympathies.
“The Penn State Football program is one of college football’s iconic programs because it was led by an icon in the coaching profession in Joe Paterno. There are no words to express my respect for him as a man and as a coach. To be following in his footsteps at Penn State is an honor. Our families, our football program, our university and all of college football have suffered a great loss, and we will be eternally grateful for Coach Paterno’s immeasurable contributions.”
Paterno was fired Nov. 9 and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley coached the team through its TicketCity Bowl loss. O’Brien was named Penn State coach Jan. 5, after a process that upset some alumni and former players.
According to an ESPN report, O’Brien will ask the Patriots for permission to attend Paterno’s funeral, a request that would be complicated — but no doubt honored — if the Patriots were to win today and advance to the Feb. 5 Super Bowl. The Patriots have hired their former offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, as an offensive assistant for the playoffs and, presumably, beyond.
MORE on Joe Paterno from the Washington Post
Interview: Speaking with Sally Jenkins
Obituary: The life he lived
Scandal at Penn State: The Jerry Sandusky timeline
MORE on the AFC Championship game
John Feinstein: Lewis, Reed, defy their ages