Today's Name to Know: Bill O'Brien. The Patriots offensive coordinator is going to become the next football coach at Penn State. A few thoughts:
*His career as a college coach -- assistant level only -- was undistinguished. This is a red flag, not the least of which because the leap from OK assistant (with an NFL stop in-between) to head coach of a premier program is a huge one.
*His experience as a Belichick disciple is largely irrelevant. You certainly don't want to use Charlie Weis as your template. And the other folks -- Crennel, Mangini, McDaniels -- became flops in the NFL, not college, so it's apples and oranges.
*I have no problem with Penn State going "outside the program," which seems to have certain alumni players up in arms. These guys are fools. By necessity, they had to go outside the program.
If I had a problem with the hire, it's that he has no big-time college football experience and no head-coaching experience. That's a hell of a combination. (Some folks have mentioned Ron Zook as a comp -- that's a bit harsh, but point taken.)
Here's how this will play out: O'Brien's tenure at Penn State will be less than four years before he is fired. He will have accomplished what the program needs him to do: Wipe away the stench of the Sandusky scandal and Paterno's tainted legacy, setting the program up to hire a successful college head coach to return the program to its Top 20 stature.
It's a start, if not a full-blown re-boot. That is probably the best Penn State could have hoped for.
NFL Playoffs! Let's start with this: I'm picking the Packers to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl in a wild shootout. But let's focus on Wild Card Weekend:
*Bengals-Texans: This isn't the same Texans team that stormed through the first half of the season. (Neither is Cincy, frankly.) Pick: Cincinnati.
*Saints-Lions: It's a shame that the Lions' storybook turnaround season has to end here. They would have beaten the Giants and at least gotten to the quarterfinals. Pick: Saints.
*Giants-Falcons: The Falcons worked so hard last offseason to position their team to do better than last year's playoff run. They won't even make it out of Wild Card Weekend. Pick: Giants.
*Steelers-Broncos: I'm picking Tebow and the Broncos, obviously.... Wait for it... Kidding. Let's be totally clear: If the Broncos lose 55-0, it is still an incredibly successful season for Tebow and Denver. Nothing that happens on Sunday can take away from a shoddy team with expectations of winning maybe 4 games this season (or 2, starting the day Tebow was installed as the starter) riding Tebow enthusiasm and great D to a division title and playoff season. Pick: Steelers.
NBA: Kind of love that the Heat can beat the Hawks even without LeBron and Wade playing. My favorite Chris Bosh -- if there is such a thing -- is when he is forced into the No. 1 role from his usual No. 3 role, with no cushion of superstars around him.
NFL Draft: Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Wisconsin's Montee Ball are both returning to school, which should help set both teams up for Top 5 preseason spots -- and both players on Top 5 Heisman short-lists, along with another draft-spurner, USC QB Matt Barkley.
Varsity Dad, Part 1: I'm taking my 5-year-old to his first-ever Wizards game on Sunday. As a lifelong Bullets/Wizards fan, this feels like a cruel thing to introduce him to. But I'm separating rooting for the team from enjoying the in-arena experience. (Oh, and getting to see Ricky Rubio in person.)
Varsity Dad, Part 2: Gabe and his buddies in kindergarten have formed a basketball team. Practice starts tomorrow. (Games -- against other teams! -- start in a month!) I have volunteered as an assistant coach. This is going to be fun/absurd. I'll keep you updated.
Pop over to Quickish today to catch up on the best of yesterday you might have missed and all the good stuff we're featuring today -- focused a bit this a.m. on Bill O'Brien but really diving into NFL Playoff previews this afternoon. Enjoy the games.