- Tania Ganguli, ESPN Staff Writer
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Family considerations are sometimes an underrated aspect of coaches' career moves.
Bill O'Brien's might be more significant than most.
From a piece by Emily Kaplan of TheMMQB.com:
O’Brien and his wife, Colleen, have two sons: Michael, 8, and Jack, 11, who has a rare neurological disorder called Lissencephaly. Jack cannot walk or talk. He has seizures nearly every day.
“We all knew about his hardships at home,” says Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, a senior safety. “But he rarely brings it up, that’s not him.”
It is true that O’Brien has amended his Penn State contract several times. It was widely reported over the summer that he had received a $1 million raise and also reduced the buyout for NFL teams from $19.33 million to $6.48 million. But O’Brien’s contract also includes several other benefits, including a guaranteed van to accommodate a special needs passenger. Plenty of cities have good children’s hospitals, but the Hershey Medical Center, a highly regarded hospital affiliated with Penn State, is only 90 minutes away. As O’Leary notes, familiarity with doctors and having a sense of continuity is important. Besides medical care, the O’Brien’s have found an elementary school they like for Jack in State College. Bill can end practice early enough to be home for dinner. If he can’t make it? Colleen, Michael and Jack are frequent visitors at his office, anyway.
She notes later, that's not to say the O'Briens can't settle elsewhere. There's also the matter of a buyout that is significantly lower for NFL teams than for college programs, and about one-third of what it was last season when O'Brien, then the reigning Big Ten coach of the year, drew NFL interest.
More about the rising coaching star:
Former player? Defensive end and linebacker at Brown
Coaching debut: 1993, as Brown's tight ends coach
NFL coaching debut: 2007, as New England Patriots offensive assistant.
Significant stop: O'Brien rose steadily under Patriots coach Bill Belichick until he became the team's offensive coordinator in 2011. Even prior to having that title, O'Brien called plays for the Patriots' offense. In December 2011, he and Tom Brady had to be separated when O'Brien yelled at Brady after an interception.
Head-coaching experience: O'Brien was given permission to interview for the Jaguars' head-coaching job after the 2011 season, but instead became Penn State's head coach. He took over at Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. He was tasked with rebuilding a program hit with heavy NCAA sanctions, and he did it quickly. Penn State went 8-4 in his first season and O'Brien was named the 2012 Big Ten coach of the year.
How did it end? Not yet.