STATE COLLEGE - Penn State's season has been over for a month, but a potential loss has fans on the edge of their seats.
Bill O'Brien has been in talks to become the Houston Texans head coach, and was reported to be the "overwhelming favorite" for the job, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. It is the second straight year rumors of the Nittany Lions head coach bouncing to the NFL have surfaced, as he had discussions with the Cleveland Browns and the Eagles at this time a year ago.
O'Brien has not said anything publicly since Penn State's last game - a win at Wisconsin on Nov. 30 - and when the ESPN report surfaced on Saturday afternoon, it sent the Penn State fan base into a frenzy. And there has been a lot for followers of the situation to digest.
NFL.com reported yesterday morning that O'Brien told members of his coaching staff to be ready for the move to Houston and that the university and athletic director Dave Joyner would try to push for Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach and former Penn State grad assistant Greg Schiano if O'Brien does leave. The Lions picked up a commitment from junior college transfer Chasz Wright on Saturday, and five-star recruit Thomas Holley - who committed to Penn State earlier this month - told 247sports that he spoke with O'Brien, who told him he would be back in Happy Valley.
While there has been plenty of speculation in the last 48 hours, O'Brien has made one thing clear in the past: He wants to be an NFL head coach at some point in his career, and it's just a matter of the right situation.
O'Brien has plenty of credentials for the next level. At 44, he's regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football, and he spent five seasons working with the New England Patriots before landing at Penn State, including some time as the offensive coordinator of Bill Belichick's team.
The Texans capped off a disappointing 2013 slate with a 2-14 record and will have the first pick in May's draft. Houston fired longtime coach Gary Kubiak earlier this month, as it was not able to come close to a third straight playoff appearance. But it still could be an intriguing landing place for O'Brien, as the Texans - who are expected to name a head coach in the coming days - have a good amount of talent, and will likely spend their high draft pick on a quarterback of the future.
O'Brien, however, also has a unique situation with Penn State.
The coach was the man who was first labeled as Joe Paterno's replacement, but in the 2 years since, it's more accurate to give him the title of program-saver. With the sex-abuse scandal surrounding the school, and with NCAA sanctions handed out to his team before he coached a game, O'Brien navigated the Lions to a 15-9 record in two seasons and was the 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year.