Rumors that Penn State's Bill O'Brien will be the target of NFL teams with head coaching openings won't go away, and, according to ESPN reports on Sunday, the Nittany Lions' first-year coach might be inclined to listen.
"Sources say that teams that have gauged his interest have been informed that when O'Brien accepted the task of being the late Joe Paterno's successor, he was told by school officials that the Jerry Sandusky scandal was a criminal matter, not an NCAA concern," Chris Mortensen said Sunday morning.
A request by the Mirror to Penn State for a response to the ESPN report on Sunday afternoon went unanswered.
Mortensen went on to say that his unnamed sources reported that O'Brien "would consider a very short list of NFL opportunities."
The network reported that the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles would be two teams that would pursue O'Brien if they made coaching changes, as expected, in the offseason.
"He may be on more short lists than Oregon's Chip Kelly, according to league sources," Mortensen said.
The former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, O'Brien was voted the Big Ten coach of the year by both the conference coaches and media after leading the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record despite a tumultuous season that included the transfers of leading rusher Silas Redd and leading receiver Justin Brown after the NCAA announced its sanctions in July. O'Brien also was a finalist for several national coach of the year awards.
ESPN spoke to blue-chip quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg, who is in Florida this week for the Under Armour All-America Game, concerning the O'Brien rumors. It described Hackenberg as "confident" O'Brien would stay at Penn State.
"I mean, I'm hoping I've got my fingers crossed," Hackenberg said, going on to add that he had discussed NFL openings with O'Brien within the last couple of months. "He [said he's] not worried about it. He's worried about coaching Penn State."