The NFL side thinks he's going. The Penn State side thinks he's staying. It's another Bill O'Brien tug o' war, and it's anyone's guess when it will end.

ESPN reported Saturday that O'Brien was the “overwhelming favorite” to take over the Houston Texans vacant head coaching job and that the two sides would work to finalize a deal in the coming week.

Penn State recruits, however, are hearing a different story.

Thomas Holley, arguably the Nittany Lions' highest-rated verbal commitment for the upcoming signing class, told multiple recruiting services on Saturday night that he had spoken to O'Brien after the ESPN report came out and the coach said he was not leaving Penn State.

O'Brien himself has not made any public comments about his future, so the speculation will surely continue in the meantime. NFL coaching talk will reach a boiling point with the regular season just coming to an end and a score of coaches expected to be fired over the next few days.

A year ago, O'Brien interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns during the offseason. But when word of those talks leaked out, O'Brien slammed the door shut on the ensuing panic by reaffirming his commitment to Penn State before the night was out.

That, however, was a slightly different situation. At the time, Penn State players were still free to transfer without penalty and any lingering uncertainty about O'Brien's status could have cost him some never-more-valuable scholarship players.


Ultimately, O'Brien received a renegotiated contract as a result of it, getting a bump in salary, the original five-year term restored and a decreased buyout if he were to leave for the NFL.

Under O'Brien the Lions have managed to tread water despite severe handicaps from NCAA sanctions, playing on par with programs like Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska despite playing with nearly two dozen fewer scholarship players at times.

Those performances, along with his stint as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator on his resume, put him on the NFL's radar once again this year.

Since the end of the Lions' season, numerous NFL outlets had reported O'Brien was drawing interest from NFL teams, even a handful that had yet to fire their current coach. The Texans were at the forefront early in part because they had already ousted coach Gary Kubiak.

The commotion intensified after reports on Thursday said O'Brien was scheduled for an interview with Houston before boiling over on Saturday.

But Texans owner Bob McNair turned down the heat a bit Saturday evening.

“The process has been underway, and it continues,” McNair told the Houston Chronicle. “The process isn't over. We have other candidates to interview next week.”

In other words, closure on the situation may not be imminent.

Adding another twist to a surreal day — and Penn State has certainly had plenty of those in recent years — the Lions actually added to their upcoming recruiting class right in the middle of the chaos.

Offensive lineman Chasz Wright, a former UConn recruit who spent this past season at prep school to boost his grades, told multiple recruiting services he has committed to the Lions.

All that's left now is to wait and see if O'Brien will follow suit.