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Giger: O'Brien to base QB decision on winning now, not on eligibility remaining or potential

Commentary

April 29, 2012
By Cory Giger, cgiger@altoonamirror.com , The Altoona Mirror

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Bill O'Brien plans to play the quarterback who gives Penn State the best chance to win every game, and he called it a "ridiculous notion" to think the decision will be based on years of eligibility remaining or potential down the road.

There's a theory among some PSU followers that goes like this: Since Paul Jones has three years of eligibility and Matt McGloin only one, O'Brien would be better off starting Jones and letting him develop in the new offensive system, even if he's not quite as good as McGloin this season.

It's silly to think like that -- major college football isn't minor league baseball, where development supersedes winning -- and O'Brien made it clear his goal is to win every week, not to worry about two or three years from now.

"In two or three years down the road, if I'm sitting here at 2-20 or 2-30, I'm not going to be employed," O'Brien said Friday. "So that's a ridiculous notion.

"My job as the head football coach is to put the best team out there, the best lineup out there and try to win every single game that we go into."

The 2012 season has a chance to be a good but not great one for the Nittany Lions, who are probably looking at 9-3 or 8-4. Given that, fans in the play-for-the-future camp argue that it's better to go 8-4 or 7-5 as long as Jones gets the kind of experience that can make the team better in 2013 or 2014.

"As a head football coach, my job is to win right now, not two or three years down the road," O'Brien said. "I don't think Penn State fans want to go through anything like that, so we're going to do the best thing for the football team, and we're going to try to win every single game that we play."

Based on last week's Blue-White Game, McGloin is still far and away the best quarterback on the team and the one who gives the Lions the best chance to win every week. That could change four months from now if Jones makes big strides learning under O'Brien, or if the disappointing Rob Bolden makes incredible strides from what we've seen so far in two seasons.

McGloin may not be the popular choice, and there's no doubt Jones has more potential. But potential doesn't win games, and if O'Brien believes McGloin gives the team its best opportunity to do that on any given Saturday, then he will be the starter.

If Jones continues to improve, however, it's feasible he can catch up to and surpass McGloin.

"Paul was a guy that improved every single day [this spring] and really took the coaching pretty well," O'Brien said. "He's got a long way to go, he knows that, but he's a guy that's got a knack for making plays out on the field. He's a fun guy to coach and a great kid, and we're looking forward to working with him."

As for Jones' academic issues -- which forced him to miss the 2011 season -- O'Brien said, "That guy has worked very hard to turn it around in the classroom."

O'Brien initially said he'd like to get the race down to two quarterbacks by the end of the spring, but Friday he noted that probably won't happen until the coaches get back from recruiting in late May.

"We have a fairly good idea of where we're at," he said.

O'Brien is getting ready to go out on the PSU Coaches Caravan for the next few weeks, and this past week he conducted exit interviews with players at the end of the semester. One of his goals was "making sure they know exactly where they stand on the football team," and he also used the interviews as an opportunity to build a better personal relationship with each player.

"I spent a lot of time getting to know these guys -- talking about their families and where they came from and why they chose Penn State and what they study academically," O'Brien said. "Because in the first three months, it was kind of a whirlwind for everybody, and now I had a chance to take a breath this week and really get to know these guys better as people.

"To me, that's what coaching is all about. It's about relationships and how to drive these guys to be the best that they can be in all facets of their careers here at Penn State."

Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.

 
 
 

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