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Reports: Penn State coach O'Brien could go to NFL as soon as Tuesday

| Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, 10:03 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien walks the sideline in the fourth quarter against Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, in University Park.

Since the NFL regular season ended Sunday, five teams joined the Houston Texans in the market for a new coach.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien remains most tightly connected to the Texans.

Citing unnamed sources, ESPN reported Monday that O'Brien and the Texans were working to finalize a deal to make him the team's new coach by Tuesday afternoon.

O'Brien and his agent, Neil Cornrich, did not respond to email or phone messages seeking comment. Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner also did not return a phone message.

O'Brien interviewed last week with the Texans, who fired coach Gary Kubiak earlier this month. Coming off a 12-4 season and entering 2013 considered a Super Bowl contender, Houston lost its final 14 games to finish 2-14. The Texans will have the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Teams that created additional vacancies by firing coaches Monday were the Minnesota Vikings (Leslie Frazier), Washington Redskins (Mike Shanahan), Detroit Lions (Jim Schwartz) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Greg Schiano). Rob Chudzinski was fired by the Cleveland Browns late Sunday.

Of that group, Schiano is a potential target for Penn State should it need to replace O'Brien, who coached the Nittany Lions the past two seasons. Schiano was a graduate assistant under Joe Paterno in 1990 and spent the next five seasons as Penn State's defensive backs coach.

Schiano was the coach at Rutgers for 11 seasons before going 11-21 with the Buccaneers the past two years.

O'Brien, via unnamed sources in ESPN and CBS reports in recent weeks, has been linked to the Vikings opening.

Despite having interviewed with the Browns last offseason, O'Brien is not a candidate for that franchise this offseason, Browns CEO Joe Banner told the NFL Network.

O'Brien has led Penn State to a 15-9 record and has secured several highly regarded recruits during his time at the school despite dealing with crippling NCAA sanctions put into place in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

O'Brien's pedigree as an offensive assistant with the New England Patriots — he coached in two Super Bowls over five seasons there — helped cement his reputation as NFL head coach material.

His status in the industry has grown in keeping Penn State afloat — and winning — while playing with about three-quarters of the scholarship players as its opponents. O'Brien kept the vast majority of the team together despite NCAA sanctions allowing open transferring from July 2012 until the start of this past training camp.

Still, O'Brien never has shied away from speaking for his admiration for the NFL, saying earlier this year, “I have a lot of respect for that league. I love that league. … This is my profession. I'm a coach … and that's the highest level.”

Mike Munchak said at his season-ending press conference Monday that he will meet with the Tennessee Titans' general manager and president later this week to discuss whether he will be retained as the team's coach.

A Scranton native, Munchak has been with the organization since being drafted No. 8 overall in 1982 out of Penn State.

Like he did prior to O'Brien being hired two years ago, Munchak last week denied interest in a potential coaching vacancy at Penn State despite a recent Harrisburg Patriot-News report to the contrary.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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