By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
THEY JUST DON’T make coaches like JoePa anymore. And the world of sports suffers for it.
That was driven home emphatically when Bill O’Brien announced that he was leaving Penn State after only two years to take a head coaching job with the Houston Texans.
O’Brien did a tremendous job with the Nittany Lions against great odds. He took over a program that was heavily penalized for the Sandusky scandal and had lost scholarships and was banned from bowl games.
Needless to say, that makes recruiting tough and competing in the Big Ten Conference even tougher. But he produced a solid winning record in two seasons and was even named national Coach of the Year in 2012.
You would think that he would want to stick out the stay in Happy Valley and finish what he started to make Penn State a national contender. But the lure of the NFL and big money was too much for O’Brien.
On top of that, O’Brien said he was “tired of the Paterno people.” What? What kind of cop out is that?
The one great thing about Paterno that most other coaches don’t have today is loyalty. JoePa had offers to leave Penn State for the pros over his career, but rejected them. He enjoyed his life at Penn State, although he may have stayed too long.
And how much money do you really need to leave a position where you are loved to go to the pros?
Paterno was Penn State! My long-time friend Bob Gavala pointed out that when he was at PSU in the 1960s, he had Paterno as an instructor in health class. JoePa was more than just a coach. As O’Brien showed, they don’t make them like JoePa any more.
ä The Steelers made a great run at the end of the year, but just couldn’t overcome an 0-4 start. While a missed field goal by Kansas City last weekend allowed San Diego to go to the playoffs instead of Pittsburgh, you can’t complain when you dig a hole like the Steelers did prior to that.
The amazing thing is that the Steelers even had a chance for the playoffs because of the bizarre number of things they needed to happen.
Meanwhile the Browns are starting over. While a lot of people feel that firing coach Rob Chudzinski after only one year was wrong, I disagree. It became obvious to me that he was not a very good coach from what I saw on game days. And you never know what was happening behind the scenes between “Chud” and owner Jimmy Haslam.
Haslam was willing to give up $10 million to buy out Chud’s contract and will pay a big chunk for the next coach. But as he pointed out, he wasn’t going to keep a guy as head coach, lose for three years and then get rid of him when he knows he’s not the man for the job.
I respect that view. And when you are a billionaire, you can do whatever you want with your money.
ä Watch for the Bengals and 49ers to win today!