Patriots say O'Brien good fit for Penn State coach
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker and his teammates praised their outgoing offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, with Welker predicting O'Brien will be an instant hit as Penn State's new head coach.
"Billy's a great coach, and obviously, he's done a lot of great things here," Welker told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today. "He brings a great attitude and a lot of fire in different things.
"I think he'll do a super job at Penn State."
O'Brien, 42, was hired as the Nittany Lions' coach this past Saturday, but he will remain with New England through the NFL playoffs.
Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer said he will miss O'Brien, who received a five-year deal from Penn State worth a guaranteed $2.3 million per season to succeed Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno.
Paterno was fired Nov. 9 amid a child sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
"I love Billy O'Brien," Hoyer said. "I wouldn't be where I am without him. I think he'll do a great job at Penn State."
The Patriots (13-3) will play host to the Denver Broncos (9-8) Saturday night in an AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium.
The Broncos ousted the Steelers, 29-23, from the playoffs Sunday in Denver as quarterback Tim Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime.
O'Brien rejoined the Patriots Sunday night after meeting with his Penn State players for the first time at the Lasch Football Building in University Park, Pa.
That was the same day New England coach Bill Belichick rehired former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels as an assistant. He is currently working with O'Brien and will replace him as offensive coordinator next season, a job McDaniels previously held with the Patriots.
This is O'Brien's first season in charge of the New England offense, but his fifth season overall as a member of Belichick's staff. O'Brien also has 14 years of college coaching experience as an assistant.
The Patriots scored an AFC-high 513 points in the regular season en route to earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They ranked second in the NFL in total offense (428.0 yards per game) and passing (317.8 ypg).
Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady, who had a heated sideline spat with O'Brien last month, passed for 5,235 yards, second-best in the NFL, and 39 touchdowns as the Patriots won their final eight regular-season games.
Welker led the NFL with 122 receptions and his 1,569 receiving yards were second in the league. Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, from Woodland Hills High School, had 90 catches for 1,327 yards and an NFL-high 17 touchdowns.
Left tackle Matt Light, a three-time Pro Bowl performer, said O'Brien's contributions to the Patriots' playoff run should not be overlooked.
"I think coach O'Brien's done just a phenomenal job of handling the rules and responsibilities that come with being a coordinator and really jumping into it from Day 1," Light said. "He does a great job of getting us prepared week-to-week.
"He really understands the game. He really understands our entire offense. It's going to be tough to lose him, but we still got some battles to play out."
First Published January 11, 2012 1:44 pm