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Is Penn State About to Lose Bill O'Brien to an NFL Team?

For weeks, perhaps months now, we have heard time and time again that Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien is widely considered one of the hot names in NFL coaching rumor mills.

A day after Black Monday around the league, seeing the removal of ten head coaches, it appears as though O'Brien may be weighing his options, which is surely not the news you want to hear as we begin a new year with optimism building.

From veteran NFL scribe and one of the best, Sports Illustrated's Peter King:

Happy Valley alert: I hear Bill O'Brien is strongly considering interviewing with an NFL team.

— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 1, 2013

King is as plugged in to the NFL as anyone there is, but this news should not be considered a shock. O'Brien has an NFL pedigree and he has never come out and said with 100 percent certainty that he will be coaching at Penn State and not consider any other options since the close of the 2012 regular season. A hefty buyout price may still be enough to keep O'Brien's attractiveness down somewhat, but there is plenty of money in the NFL to keep it from being a total deal breaker.

Keep in mind that O'Brien interviewing does not necessarily mean he is leaving Penn State, but it most certainly would be a difficult turn of events to come back from after so much good will has been done under his leadership with the program in a short period of time.

Penn State should be proactive, something we have learned can be difficult for the university, and something that is not typically done within the athletic department. To keep O'Brien's eye from potentially wandering elsewhere, a new contract needs to be written now. Having job security with an extended nine-year deal is a luxury no coach will have anywhere else, but O'Brien is still making peanuts compared to some of the top coaches around the country [For comparison, O'Brien makes roughly $2.3 million per year and Urban Meyer makes rpughly $4.4 million per year at Ohio State]. While Penn State should not get carried away with eight wins in year one under O'Brien, showing a commitment to O'Brien with a financial boost would certainly at least help their cause.

If O'Brien is this highly regarded by the NFL, then the time has come for Penn State to show just how much they value O'Brien. This is something the school has never had to deal with, but it is the situation top college programs have to deal with on a regular basis, whether it is LSU, Oregon, Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio State or Notre Dame. NCAA sanctions will hold down Penn State from a number of things, but paying O'Brien the kind of money top coaches receive should not ne one of them, entirely.

Penn State fans should also keep an eye on Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone, who is scheduled to interview with the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills this week for their coaching vacancies. Marrone and O'Brien are good friends. If Marrone happens to take an NFL job, it would not be a shock if he gave his old pal in State College a call to be a member of his coaching staff.

I must be a total sap. A rube. A sucker for happy endings. I really want O'Brien to stay at Penn State.

— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 1, 2013

We'll see what happens of course.

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