O'Brien's Super double-duty: Patriots' OC, future Penn State coach

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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Bill Belichick says O'Brien hasn't skirted his Patriots duties since taking the Penn State job. (US Presswire)  
Bill Belichick says O'Brien hasn't skirted his Patriots duties since taking the Penn State job. (US Presswire)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was 2004 and Charlie Weis sat for a round of Super Bowl media interviews. He denied being tired but looked exhausted.

It was understandable. He'd slept little. The stress of preparing for the most storied game in sports while also planning to coach one of the most storied college teams can do that to a person.

How are you, he was asked? I'm fine, ready to get going, etc., etc. He answered questions about coaching the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl while readying to leave that job after the game to coach Notre Dame. His schedule was, well, absolutely insane.

This is likely the life of Bill O'Brien, the 2012 Weis coaching doppelganger who is now the Patriots' offensive coordinator. O'Brien is also pulling double duty. He's taking over a debilitated Penn State program emerging from an all-time sports scandal while seeking ways to protect Tom Brady from a fierce Giants pass rush.

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This was Weis' life then and might be O'Brien's life now ...

Weis would awake and immediately begin on the New England game plan ... this would go on for the day and into the night ... no sleep ... no rest between. At 8 p.m. he'd make recruiting phone calls for Notre Dame for two to three hours ... a shower, if possible ... then more hours of working on the Super Bowl game plan. Rest would come in the early morning hours on a blow-up bed in the office, two to three hours of sleep then it would all start over again.

O'Brien is likely doing the same thing minus the office blowup bed.

"If there is anyone who can do both things it's coach [O'Brien]," Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker said. "He works his tail off."

That may be true. But even for the superhuman something has to give. It is virtually impossible to do both jobs well. And there's the rub. Which job will suffer? The one on the biggest stage in the world, the Super Bowl. Or the job on maybe the most scrutinized stage in sports, the post-scandal world of Penn State?

This remains one of the greater pieces of uncharted territories of the many geometries of the complex world of coaching. Weis was successful on the professional end as the Patriots won the Super Bowl but then comes the unknown. Did Weis' pedestrian five-year tenure with the Irish (that included a 1-2 bowl record) get its start with trying to do two impossible jobs at once?

When Weis was actually doing both he insisted -- as does O'Brien now -- that neither job would suffer. I remember Weis being absolutely adamant about that. Now, Weis seems to admit to a different side. He was recently asked by the Gloucester Times which would suffer more from the coaching duality: The college job or the Patriots? Weis said the college gig.

"Recruiting is so important in college football, particularly recruiting players you really want," Weis said. "To do it properly you really have to be on the road. When you're not on the road you're fighting a little bit from behind."

Just like Weis did.

When O'Brien was introduced as Penn State coach on Jan. 7, he spoke of honoring commitments.

"There is no way that I can stand up in front of our football team and our recruits and talk about loyalty and commitment," he said, "and then leave the Patriots in the middle of a playoff run."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick says O'Brien is holding up his end on the pro front.

"Since he's been named the head coach of Penn State, he's done everything that he's done this year and last year on a weekly basis," Belichick said. "He's had the same responsibilities. He's just worked very hard to manage the two situations. By far and away, the majority of his time and energy and effort have all been put into the New England Patriots."

One thing that differs (while possibly complicating matters) for O'Brien from Weis is that O'Brien has help from future and past offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. A team official said McDaniels has taken a role in preparing the offense for the Super Bowl, but not a significant one and that O'Brien is still in total control. One source close to the situation describes O'Brien as "exhausted but still pushing hard."

Just like Weis but only worse because of the Penn State scandal.

The extreme insanity of O'Brien's situation could not have been more exemplified than a recent stretch. He was calling plays as offensive coordinator in the AFC title game against Baltimore on a Sunday. On Tuesday, he was in State College, attending the Joe Paterno viewing with Penn State players. Two days after that he was back at Patriots practice.

And now he's in the Super Bowl with dual duty on his mind.

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