It's intriguing, and perhaps telling, how fewer and fewer people mention Tom Bradley's name anymore as a likely successor to Joe Paterno.
This season isn't helping Bradley's cause.
Penn State gave up 314 yards rushing in Saturday night's 38-14 loss at Ohio State, and its defense has been a big disappointment this year.
Key injuries -- to defensive ends Eric Latimore and Jack Crawford, safety Nick Sukay and now to linebacker Michael Mauti -- have hurt. But poor tackling, a disappointing line and virtually no pass rush have been the biggest culprits.
The Nittany Lions have surrendered massive rushing totals in recent weeks, even when they've known exactly what the opponent would be trying to do. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa would run -- a lot. Yet Robinson gained 191 yards on the ground and Persa 109.
Ohio State dropped the "Boom" on Bradley's defense Saturday as Dan Herron gained 190 yards on 21 carries. Herron looked like an all-world performer, but he's only averaging 82 yards rushing per game, just 70 before Saturday.
"Everything started with missed tackles," Bradley said. "We did a good job of wrapping our guys in the first half, but we missed quite a few in the second."
Bradley is in his 11th season as Penn State's defensive coordinator, and for much of that time he has been considered the logical choice from within the staff to someday take over for Paterno.
Bradley's defense traditionally has been strong, although in many cases stats have been built up playing weaker offensive teams from the Big Ten that don't have quality quarterbacks.
The defense and Bradley's soft coverage schemes have been badly exposed at times when the Lions have played top-flight competition, such as USC in the 2009 Rose Bowl, Notre Dame with Brady Quinn in 2006 and Ohio State in 2007. There's also the blown nine-point fourth-quarter lead at Iowa in 2008 that cost PSU an undefeated regular season, as well as Michigan marching downfield in the final seconds in 2005 to hand the Lions their lone loss.
The loyalty factor -- he played for PSU and has been on the staff for 32 years -- has always been the rallying cry for people who want Bradley to get the job. Plus, he's a likable, charismatic guy who is easy to root for.
Still, there's a growing belief that Bradley's longevity in the program may actually hurt his chances of succeeding Paterno.
BlueWhite Illustrated recently ran an in-depth story looking at potential successors and exploring criteria the university may use in the search. One component the piece suggested could be considered is minimal connection to Paterno.
The decision will be made by president Graham Spanier, who will be looking to leave his own legacy on the university with the hire. He can't do that by giving the job to Bradley.
Also, a large percentage of fans seem more willing than ever to make a complete break from the current coaching staff whenever JoePa decides to retire and bring in a head coach who has enjoyed success elsewhere.
Many people also would like to see Penn State adopt a more aggressive defensive philosophy instead of always playing things safe. That would not happen if Bradley becomes the next head coach.
One thing that's fascinating about Bradley is that, despite PSU's good national statistical rankings every year and him being well respected, he's rarely been a candidate for other head coaching jobs -- and never for a major job.
Temple was interested in him a few years ago, but that's Temple. You'd think, if Bradley were in high demand, some big school would look at his defensive track record and give him an opportunity, or at least an interview.
Of course, Bradley has been biding his time thinking he may succeed Paterno at some point, so the Johnstown native may not have had much interest in leaving his alma mater or home region. That makes sense.
But the wait-it-out strategy didn't work for Fran Ganter or Jerry Sandusky. And with names like Chris Petersen, Jim Harbaugh, Pat Fitzgerald, Dan Mullen, Greg Schiano and Al Golden out there, it's starting to look like it won't work for Bradley, either.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.