From Comcast SportsNetSTATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- After nearly a half-century on the job, Joe Paterno says he is still getting used to the idea of not being Penn State's football coach. So is the rest of the shaken campus, after one of the most tumultuous days in its history. In less than 24 hours Wednesday, the winningest coach in major college football announced his retirement at the end of the season -- then was abruptly fired by the board of trustees. Also ousted was Penn State President Graham Spanier -- one of the longest-serving college presidents in the nation -- as the university's board of trustees tried to limit the damage to the school's reputation from a child sex abuse scandal involving one of Paterno's former assistant coaches. Paterno's firing sent angry students into the streets, where they shouted support for the 84-year-old coach and tipped over a news van. In less than a week since former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period, the scandal has claimed Penn State's storied coach, its president, its athletic director and a vice president. "Right now, I'm not the football coach. And I've got to get used to that. After 61 years, I've got to get used to it," Paterno said outside his house late Wednesday night. "Let me think it through." Paterno had wanted to finish out his 46th season -- Saturday's game against Nebraska is the last at home -- but the board of trustees was clearly fed up with the scandal's fallout. "In our view, we thought change now was necessary," board vice chairman John Surma said at a packed news conference where he announced the unanimous decision to oust Paterno and Spanier. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim coach, and the university scheduled a news conference with him for later Thursday. Provost Rodney Erickson will be the interim school president. As word of the firings spread, thousands of students flocked to the administration building, shouting, "We want Joe back!" and "One more game!" They then headed downtown to Beaver Avenue, where about 100 police wearing helmets and carrying pepper spray were on standby. Witnesses said some rocks and bottles were thrown, a lamppost was toppled and a news van was knocked over, its windows kicked out. State College police said early Thursday they were still gathering information on any possible arrests. Paterno had come under increasing criticism -- including from within the community known as Happy Valley -- for not doing more to stop the alleged abuse by Sandusky. Some of the assaults took place at the Penn State football complex, including a 2002 incident witnessed by then-graduate assistant and current assistant coach Mike McQueary. McQueary went to Paterno and reported seeing Sandusky assaulting a young boy in the Penn State showers. Paterno notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and a vice president, Gary Schultz, who in turn notified Spanier. Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report the incident to authorities. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has not ruled out charges against Spanier. Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, but the state police commissioner called his failure to contact police himself a lapse in "moral responsibility." Paterno said in his statement earlier Wednesday that he was "absolutely devastated" by the abuse case. "This is a tragedy," Paterno said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." The Penn State trustees had already said they would appoint a committee to investigate the "circumstances" that resulted in the indictment of Sandusky, and of Curley and Schultz. The committee will be appointed Friday at the board's regular meeting, which Gov. Tom Corbett said he plans to attend, and will examine "what failures occurred and who is responsible and what measures are necessary to ensure" similar mistakes aren't made in the future. In Washington, the U.S. Department of Education said it has launched an investigation into whether Penn State failed to report incidents of sexual abuse on campus, as required by federal law. Surma said it was "in the best interest of the university to have a change in leadership to deal with the difficult issues that we are facing." "The past several days have been absolutely terrible for the entire Penn State community. But the outrage that we feel is nothing compared to the physical and psychological suffering that allegedly took place," he added. Sandusky, who announced his retirement from Penn State in June 1999, maintained his innocence through his lawyer. Curley has taken a temporary leave and Schultz has decided to step down. They also say they are innocent. Sandusky founded The Second Mile charity in 1977, working with at-risk youths. It now raises and spends several million dollars each year for its programs. Paterno is listed on The Second Mile's website as a member of its honorary board of directors, a group that includes business executives, golfing great Arnold Palmer and several NFL Hall of Famers and coaches, including retired Pittsburgh Steelers stars Jack Ham and Franco Harris. The ouster of the man affectionately known as "JoePa" brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers -- not just in college football but in all of sports. Paterno has 409 victories -- a record for major college football -- won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach. Penn State is 8-1 this year, with its only loss to powerhouse Alabama. The Nittany Lions are No. 12 in The Associated Press poll. After 19th-ranked Nebraska, Penn State plays at Ohio State and at No. 16 Wisconsin, both Big Ten rivals. It has a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line. Paterno has raised millions of dollars for Penn State in his career, and elevated the stature of what was once a sleepy land-grant school. Asked why he was fired over the phone, Surma said, "We were unable to find a way to do that in person without causing further distraction." At Paterno's house, his wife, Sue, was teary-eyed as she blew kisses to the 100 or so students who gathered on the lawn in a show of support. "You're all so sweet. And I guess we have to go beat Nebraska without being there," she said. "We love you all. Go Penn State."
Head coach Matt Nagy conducted his first press conference on Thursday, introducing the coordinators for his three phases (Mark Helfrich, offense; Vic Fangio, defense; Chris Tabor, special teams). The session was predictably short on hard news, given that the hirings were just completed within the last several days, but some takeaways were there to be had, ranging from impressions to firmer indications of some directions the post-John Fox Bears may be trending:
Mitch Trubisky is going to be one seriously coached young quarterback.
Nagy is a former quarterback. Helfrich is a former quarterback. And the Bears are expected to bring back quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, per Brad Biggs over at the Tribune; “Rags,” as his charges have dubbed him, is a former quarterback.
Forgive Trubisky is he develops neck problems nodding at all the advice he might be getting from three guys who by their quarterback training pretty much have had to know everything about their offenses. But it is a whole lotta QB mindset swirling around the young man.
The coaching corps is still sorting out exactly who does what, which will involve the hands-on coaching of Trubisky. “We’re finishing out the staff,” Helfrich said, “and once we have that, then we’ll start to kind of slot in those responsibilities.”
This kind of concentration of coaches from a similar background is actually a little unusual, the current vogue notwithstanding. Carson Wentz did bloom in his year two under a Philadelphia Eagles staff topped by former quarterbacks Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo. And the Los Angeles Rams loosed Jared Goff’s talents with an all-former-quarterback triumvirate in Sean McVay, OC Matt LaFleur and QB coach Greg Olson.
But just for comparison’s sake, back in Kansas City, Nagy mentor Andy Reid was an offensive lineman at BYU. Down in New Orleans, Sean Payton is a former quarterback, but OC Pete Carmichael went through college on a baseball scholarship and QB coach Joe Lombardi was a college tight end, so Drew Brees hasn’t been info-swamped. Bill Belichick was a center and tight end, Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy was a college tight end and Case Keenum has flourished under former offensive lineman Pat Shurmur.
Helfrich has been on the job exactly one week and already has done some advanced evaluation of Trubisky, with an eye toward inevitable comparisons with Marcus Mariota, who starred at Oregon while Helfrich was a member of that staff.
“I see a lot [of similarities],” Helfrich said. “Mitchell has a tight release. He’s an accurate passer. They also have a couple things similar that makes them inaccurate. Their feet take them out of position. I sense from talking to a couple of offensive linemen, and this was unsolicited, when your offensive linemen are talking about how hard your quarterback works, that’s a great sign. So he needs to do that and continue to challenge himself and improve."
Football involves ego but not always to a fault
Keeping Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator may not rank yet with the organization retaining Buddy Ryan in that job when Mike Ditka was hired, but some intangibles make this a very big deal and reflect well on a spectrum of individuals.
GM Ryan Pace interviewed but didn’t elevate Fangio to the head-coaching slot. Yet whatever was said during the interview process didn’t alienate or create awkwardness for Fangio or whomever was hired ultimately. Point for Pace. Players made their feelings abundantly clear that they wanted Fangio back, and Fangio did not let a 20-year age difference between Nagy and himself ruin a good thing. Points to a lot of folks.
“I like our [players],” Fangio said. “I think I said it here during the season at a point that I really like coaching the group that we have. My favorite time during the week was being in front of them like I’m in front of you and going over practice watching the opponents’ tape, installing the plan for the week. I really liked being in front of our guys. They’re a good group collectively and as individuals and that part was appealing to me.”
And while Ditka and Ryan barely spoke, relationships in this administration have a different air.
“I am going to be in Vic’s office a lot,” Helfrich said. “He’s going to be annoyed by me trying to get in his head and know what might help me transition from college to the NFL. I would be an idiot if I didn’t walk 24 feet down and ask a guy like that.”
A “Trubisky factor” may be in the offing
Free agents have taken less money to sign elsewhere, as recently as last season. Alshon Jeffery wanted out of Chicago, not so much for the weather (Philadelphia is less than 2 degrees lower latitude than Chicago and not many degrees warmer on average) as for the Bears never getting quarterback and offensive consistency that could max out his talents.
Trubisky already has started to have a positive impact. “Mitchell is a part of the equation,” Fangio said of his own decision to return as coordinator. “Because I think he has a chance to be a really good player, regardless of who is coaching him. So that part was positive.”
And that’s from a defensive guy.
David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly) and Nick Friedell (ESPN.com) join Kap on the panel. The Bears coordinators meet the media. So how much will a new coaching staff improve the team?
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