Penn State Football: Early Success Proves Nittany Lions Must Keep Bill O'Brien

Jonathan IrwinContributor IINovember 13, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 27: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Penn State Nittany Lions leads his team onto the field before playing the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium on October 27, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

If Bill O'Brien leaves the Penn State program, it's going to cause irreversible damage.

At first glance, you might read that sentence and think the damage has already been done. For that line of thought, I say look at Penn State's season so far.

6-4 on the season and 4-2 in conference play.

After dropping their first two games of the season, the Nittany Lions won their next five, including a huge win over Northwestern.

To say Penn State has exceeded expectations is an understatement. And to say Bill O'Brien hasn't been the cause is a bold-faced lie.

The first year coach has done a tremendous job.

O'Brien spent the whole season wading through a PR nightmare. Not to mention he kicked off the summer with an exodus of recruits and seniors. All of this due to the Sandusky fallout, none of which rides on the shoulders of O'Brien (who wasn't associated with the program until this year).

To leave now would put an absolute linchpin in Penn State's fall from grace.

The next logical thought is: After one season, is it really a possibility?

NFL execs seem to think so, with a report coming out this week that O'Brien is expected to be heavily pursued by the NFL.

The former New England Patriot's offensive coordinator had a possible offer with the Jacksonville Jaguars before this season. Instead, he opted for Penn State—which based on records appears the better choice.

O'Brien has been a savior for this program.

He has coached these players through hell, and despite a four-year postseason ban, he has kept this team relevant.

But now there's a chance that he could jump ship, leaving a fragmented team further damaged and without a leader.

Not only will that effect this group of players, but the next.

The upcoming recruiting season is huge for Penn State. Ideally, their next batch of players will be seniors the year the ban is lifted.

Without O'Brien—who must have the gift of gab to keep as many players as he did—it's going to be hard to convince players to come to the program.

Unlike Urban Meyer and Ohio State, or Lane Kiffin and USC, there's not a high profile coach out there who could take over in O'Brien's stead.

Not to mention none of those teams had as harsh of penalties, or as heinous of offenses, as Penn State.

The biggest pitch Penn State has is the chance to work under a high profile coach who brought this team back from the brink after coming from one of the most successful NFL teams around.

So if losing O'Brien doesn't cripple the program in the short-run, it could certainly do so in the long-run.

I'm not a Penn State fan, and I in no way condone what happened at that University or the actions of any involved (including Joe Paterno).

But as a fan of sport, and college football, I am rooting for this program and O'Brien.

So even though he could have every reason to go, I hope O'Brien stays.