The 42-year-old issued a statement, then took questions from the media before posing for pictures. He reiterated his intention to remain offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots for the duration of their playoff run. New England has a bye this weekend.
O'Brien replaces Hall of Famer Joe Paterno, fired Nov. 9 in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Not only is O'Brien replacing Division I’s winningest coach, but he must also guide a program shrouded in uncertainty. Besides the criminal investigation into Sandusky, the NCAA has launched its own inquiry.
O'Brien said he will compile his staff over the next two or three days, and get the assistants on the recruiting trail immediately while he works with New England. He will retain assistant coach Larry Johnson from Paterno’s offense.
“I’m going to surround myself with good people,” O'Brien said, “and I’m excited to do that.”
The Patriots are third in the NFL overall in scoring (32.1 points per game), and second in total offense (428 yards) and passing (317.8 yards).
Penn State finished a 9-4 campaign with a 30-14 loss in the TicketCity Bowl to Houston on Jan. 2. The Nittany Lions relied on defense much of the year after the offense struggled with a two-quarterback system.
In a statement, President Rodney Erickson commended O'Brien as someone who would “maintain the school’s commitment to excellence on the field and in the classroom. We have that leader in Coach O'Brien.”
O'Brien has no previous ties to Penn State and a proud program tarnished by a scandal that also led to the departure of President Graham Spanier.
“I’m the leader of this family now,” O'Brien said. “I can’t wait to get going on this, get everyone headed in the right direction.”
O'Brien recently was in the spotlight when he and Brady got into a heated argument, shown on national television, after Brady threw an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter of the Patriots‘ 34-27 win over the Washington Redskins on Dec. 11.
He was asked about the incident and his relationship with Brady. He spoke of the Pro Bowl quarterback in glowing terms, before addressing the scene on the sideline.
“Football is an emotional game,” he said.
New England closed the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, and scored 513 points, the most in the AFC. Brady threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns, with just 12 interceptions.