Anytime a team goes one season from being at the bottom of the NFL to a first-round bye in the playoffs the following season, coaching assists are prime candidates to fill vacant head coaching positions. After installing a successful power running game and helping Alex Smith to finally play like a franchise quarterback, offensive coordinator Greg Roman is a finalist for the head coaching job at Penn State. Roman is one of two coaches being considered to replace fired head coach Joe Paterno. If you don’t know about the Penn State and Jerry Sandusky sandal that lead to the firing of Paterno, welcome back to Earth.
The news that Roman was interviewed by Penn State was first reported by Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network. Roman was interviewed a month ago and is still waiting to hear if he will be hired. USA Today has reported that Penn State also interviewed Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien who is considered the leading candidate to be offered the job. Penn State is supposed to make a decision this week.
When I first read that Roman was interviewed for the Penn State head coaching job and he was a finalist, my initial reaction was selfish. I don’t want one of the masterminds behind the 49ers Year of Revival to be plucked from the team, all before their first playoff game in eight years. I want Roman to remain with the 49ers for at least one more season to continue building on however this season ends. If Roman were to accept the Penn State job I think he would still coach the 49ers through the playoffs since he is still under contract. But the details on what Roman can/would do are unclear. When it comes to college football the next season and recruiting starts right after you play your last game of the season. So time is of the essence for Penn State. With the 49ers still alive at least until January 14, Penn State knows if they hire Roman, and he continues coaching the Niners in the playoffs, he will have to juggle both jobs. He also cannot go on recruiting trips himself until the season is over.
Roman is from New Jersey and said he covets the Penn State job. If he gets offered the job, he will take it:
“I’ve spoken with Penn State, had some discussions with them about a month ago and found everybody involved on their end to be extremely intelligent, extremely focused on finding the best person they could under the unique circumstances there at Penn State. A job like Penn State is a lifetime job. That’s a job if I were to become the head coach there, I’d wouldn’t leave there. I’d be back East, setting up camp, I’d be at the (Jersey) Shore in the summer. And that would be my routine,” Greg Roman.
Roman is certainly worthy of a head coaching position whether it be at the NFL or the college level as he brings 13 years of NFL coaching experience and spent two years at Stanford with Jim Harbaugh. Last year Roman was a finalist for the coaching jobs at Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt.
What concerns me is not that Roman might leave for the Penn State job, but that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and his 24 years of coaching experience, could be the next candidate to fill another coaching vacancy. Fangio and his defense has carried the 49ers all season and are a huge reason why the team is playing a meaningful game in January and has a first-round bye in the playoffs. If Roman and Fangio both were to leave the 49ers, the continuity heading into next season would affect the whole team. Hopefully both will stay. However with just Roman potentially leaving, Alex Smith would suffer another setback in his development and would have his eighth offensive coordinator in eight years next season.