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Bill O'Brien could leave Penn State for return to NFL

It's hard to imagine Bill O'Brien leaving Penn State after only one season. But it sure sounds like he's open to it.

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ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that O'Brien could be on more "short lists" for NFL head-coaching jobs than Oregon's Chip Kelly. The Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns are reported to be interested in O'Brien.

NFL.com's Ian Rapoport pointed out that the Jacksonville Jaguars also could be interested if they hire Arizona Cardinals executive Jason Licht as general manager. Licht brought O'Brien into the NFL with the New England Patriots. O'Brien passed on an interview for the Jaguars' head-coaching job last year, and the team hired Mike Mularkey.

So, is O'Brien really open to leaving Penn State so soon?

Mortensen reported O'Brien would consider some options and even gave the reasoning. O'Brien was told by Penn State when he took the job that the Jerry Sandusky investigation was a criminal concern, not a worry for huge NCAA violations. Obviously, that turned out to be bad information.

The appearance of this report is interesting, no matter what happens. This finger-pointer at Penn State from O'Brien's camp wouldn't come to light unless there was genuine desire from the coach to possibly leave. Then again, it could be very difficult for him to leave.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer "hears" that the buyout in O'Brien's contract is in the $10 million range (Mortensen reported it was "in the neighborhood of $9 million"). That would make O'Brien far too expensive to go after. McLane also reported that "big-time" PSU donors are committed to keeping O'Brien in State College.

O'Brien is going to get a raise. It's more likely to be from Penn State than an NFL team. That might give us the answer for why these reports now are surfacing. It's all about leverage.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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