The Philadelphia Eagles need a backup plan in case they can’t make Chip Kelly their next head coach. As it turns out, the Eagles may stick to their plan of choosing a college coach, even if Kelly isn’t the one they can get. Penn State Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien might well be Philadelphia’s second choice, or could at least be one of them.
According to Comcast SportsNet on Jan. 2, the Eagles are planning to interview O’Brien, along with the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals. Since O’Brien coaches in the area at Penn State, has turned the Nittany Lions around under even graver circumstances than the Eagles face, and has experience assisting the New England Patriots, it makes his resume perhaps even more impressive than Kelly’s.
However, like Kelly, O’Brien will be wooed by many NFL suitors. Despite how he’s only been a head coach for one year and went 8-4 in that season, it was more than anyone ever expected in Penn State’s first year of the post-Jerry Sandusky/Joe Paterno/NCAA sanctions era. With that in mind, along with O’Brien's $9 million buyout from his Penn State contract, the Eagles would have a lot to do to bring him on board.
Yet Kelly is likely to remain the Eagles top choice, and they can begin pitching to him in earnest after he coaches the Oregon Ducks in the Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl. But if Kelly doesn’t come to Philadelphia, will O’Brien still be a second option by then, whether he joins another NFL team or stays with the Nittany Lions after all?
Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote on Jan. 2 that his “gut instinct” suggests the Eagles will get either Kelly or O’Brien. He uses O’Brien’s old Patriots team as an example, since they lead the league in offensive plays per game and the rest of the NFL is scrambling to catch up.
With Kelly’s offensive expertise and O’Brien’s time in the New England system, these two might make the most sense for Philadelphia in this day and age. Then again, the Eagles have tried and failed to emulate the Patriots for over a decade, especially in the 2005 Super Bowl.
Yet considering how the offense collapsed in the final years under Andy Reid, it needs some new innovation. Kelly could be the ideal man to do that, yet O’Brien is now lurking close behind.