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JOHN STEIGERWALD: Did O'Brien lie to players?

by on January 04, 2014 10:59 AM

The Houston Texans gave Bill O’Brien the red carpet treatment. Literally.

There was actually a red carpet laid out in front of the Texans’ headquarters Friday morning awaiting O’Brien’s appearance at his introductory press conference. I didn’t catch who he was wearing.

O’Brien said all the things that you would expect an NFL coach to say on his first day on the job and before he said them, Texans owner Bob McNair and GM Rick Smith said all the things you would expect NFL management types to say about their new coach.

“Perfect fit, great guy, man of character, blah, blah blah ...”

And the media asked all the questions you would expect in their first press conference with the new NFL head coach.

Except this one: “Bill, when did you decide to pursue an NFL job for next season, and when did you tell your players and recruits at Penn State that you were planning to leave or seriously considering leaving?”

O’Brien was asked one question about what he had said to Penn State players two years ago when he convinced them to stay even though the football program was riding in the NCAA’s handbasket headed to hell.

O’Brien said, “That’s an interesting question…” and then went on to say that it was between him and the Penn State players.

The Penn State players aren’t allowed to talk to the media, but they have been tweeting, and most of them have been understanding and positive.

But it would be interesting to hear just what O’Brien had promised those players who passed on an opportunity to transfer two years ago, and what he was telling current players and potential recruit’s the last few weeks.

Back on Dec. 4, O’Brien told Harrisburg Patriot-News columnist David Jones that the Joe Paterno loyalists made him “wanna put my fist through this windshield right now.”

O’Brien also told Jones, “That’s why they’re gonna be ——ing looking for a new football coach a month from now.”

O’Brien told Jones he was on a recruiting trip.

That was 30 days before he was sitting in front of the world as the Houston Texans head coach. Jones didn’t publish the quotes until after it was announced that O’Brien was leaving.

What had O’Brien told recruits that night if he was asked about his commitment to the program?

Did he get them to commit based on assurances that he was going to be their coach for the long haul? I’m guessing he probably didn’t say, “You should forget about those other offers you’re getting and come to Penn State. Right now I plan to be the head coach, but, that could change in a hurry if the right NFL team calls with an offer I can’t refuse.”

We don’t know what O’Brien said to his players or recruits, but if he gave them the impression that he was in it for the long haul when he knew he wasn’t, O’Brien is a liar and a rat.

He became a hot commodity because of his willingness to accept a job that came with so many challenges and because he was able to go 15-9 in two seasons.

The question that needs to be answered is, did he do it with players who would not have stayed or would not have enrolled if he had told them the truth?

Because, without those players and without spectacular freshman QB? Christian Hackenberg, he doesn’t go 15-9 and there’s no red carpet waiting for him in Houston.

Seems like a legitimate question for a guy who’s on the verge of canonization for the miraculous job he did keeping Happy Valley happy.

The media dropped the ball by not pressing him on the issue.

Hackenberg, by the way, at this writing, hadn’t decided if he was going to stay at Penn State or transfer.

If he does transfer, of course, the NCAA will make him sit out a season.

• I see that 44 percent of the Baseball Hall of Fame voters had Barry Bonds on their ballot this year. He needs 75 percent to get in and seems to be getting more support every year.

My sources tell me that a large percentage of voters are waiting for his head to shrink back to its original size. Otherwise, somebody might impolitely ask him about it at his induction ceremony.

• TV blackouts were avoided in three NFL cities this weekend, by sponsors buying tickets and giving them away to military and by local TV stations buying up thousands of unsold tickets.

Local TV stations might want to include buying up unsold NFL tickets in their long-term budgets.

No-shows are just beginning.

• If the Harrisburg column quoting O’Brien had appeared on Dec. 5 instead of Jan. 2, the red carpet would have been laid out for O’Brien in Houston no later than Dec. 6.



John Steigerwald's blog can be found at www.justwatchthegame.com, and he is the author of "Just Watch The Game." His column appears each Saturday.
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