New England coach Bill Belichick, whom O'Brien thanked during the news conference, said in a statement: “This is a great match between a storied program and an old-school football coach. Bill will be up to the task and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who served as interim coach _ winning just one game down a tough, season-ending stretch _ was passed over for the position but wished O'Brien well. The longtime assistant, who interviewed for the job, remained on the staff as of Saturday though his future was uncertain.
“No matter the challenges that the university may face, Penn State will always have my support,” Bradley said. “This is forever my home and forever my family. It is important that we come together to support our players and our university.”
Not everyone, though, was willing to hop aboard the O’Brien bandwagon.
In column Saturday for the Washington Post, ex-NFL linebacker and Penn State standout LaVar Arrington said his initial postings on Twitter on Friday amid rumors of O'Brien’s hiring were too harsh.
At one point, Arrington wrote on the social media site, “I’m done all my PSU stuff will be down before obriens introduction! We are! No more for me!”
“This hiring represents the Board of (Trustees’) feeling toward all that has happened,” he wrote in the column. “In my opinion, the board has concluded that everyone and everything associated with the football team is guilty of a crime that we simply did not commit _ and that’s wrong.”
O'Brien addressed the rumblings in a letter he said he sent to former players.
“We respect the rights to one’s opinions, beliefs and contributions to Penn State,” he said, reading it at the briefing. “We respectfully request the opportunity to earn your trust through communication … In time, we will find we have more common interests and goals than not.”
Designating himself the new leader of the “Penn State football family,” O'Brien said he commended those with passionate loyalties to the school.
“You should love this school. You are why we want to be here,” he said, reading from his letter. “We want you to know that you will always be welcome and be part of the program because we are Penn State.”
In a separate statement Saturday released through the school, Tim Sweeney, president of the official Football Letterman’s Club, said the new coach had the full support and backing of the organization.
“Our highly regarded standard of academic achievement equals that of our on-field performance, and we feel that Coach O'Brien is an excellent choice to continue this tradition that for so long has defined Penn State,” Sweeney wrote. “Welcome to the Penn State Football family, Coach.”