Joe Paterno's most surprising comment from the Big Ten Media Days was not his expressed desire to coach another "four-five years."
He's been saying that for the last 30 so there's really no point in pursuing that subject further.
The university has enabled the situation, and after admirably allowing him to bring the program back from its struggles during the early part of the 2000s, and allowing him to surpass the 400th victory plateau last year, he still wants more.
That apparently will always be the case - even if he's had trouble catching his massive shadow that was a whole lot bigger for the first 30 years of his career than it's been for the last 15.
Whether he'll admit that doesn't matter anymore. He doesn't have to: His record does.
In the first 34 years of the Paterno era, Penn State lost four games or more eight times. And in the last 11 seasons, it's lost four games or more eight times.
In the first 34 years of his tenure, Penn State lost six games or more once (in 1988). In the last 11 years, the Lions have lost six or more five times - including last year's 7-6 bellyflop.
And yet, through it all, Paterno has been quick to deflect the credit to his coaching staff.
He ends almost every season saying if he can just keep his staff together, it will strengthen continuity, and he's usually done that, having lost only one assistant coach, Brian Norwood, since 2007, and precious few over the years.
But on the second day of the Big Ten press conference Friday in Chicago, Paterno didn't sound so patronizing to his staff.
He made it clear he plans to be more active - on the sidelines and in preparation - and said this: "I've told the staff, 'your day in the sun's over.'''
He pledged to call more plays on both sides of the ball.
Now, before you picture him in a headset, consider the Paterno way: He'll realize the attention his quote will get, he'll attempt to blame the last couple of years partly on his lack of engagement, and he'll smooth out whatever ripples are lingering when he meets the media again in a couple of weeks.
Because he knows - he has to know - that without his staff, the Lions would be much worse off. Imagine if Paterno, given his resistance to change, had to replace an assistant or two every year.
As it is, Penn State's line of scrimmage operation is sometimes maddeningly shaky - and it's often because Paterno is trying to stick in his two cents.
Rewind the tape when Paterno tried to jump into a key situation at Iowa last year.
Losing 17-0, Rob Bolden hit Brett Brackett for 49 yards. Brackett was tripped up at the Hawkeye 3 with 6 seconds left in the first half.
Paterno initially could be seen signaling meekly and unsuccessfully for a timeout - as if the officials are supposed to be focused on him. Then the Lion offensive coaches screamed for a spike. The problem was it took 3 seconds.
When play resumed, Penn State somehow found itself scrambling to beat the ticking play clock and was hit with a delay-of-game penalty, resulting in a letdown field goal that cut Iowa's lead to 17-3 and blowing the chance to get back in the game.
With the Lions' complex playcalling shared by Galen Hall and Jay Paterno, and the plays sent down through Mike McQueary, adding JoePa's voice - let alone at Ohio State or Wisconsin - will add to the confusion.
But, as it stands now, the staff has been put on notice that "your day in the sun's over.''
This from an iconic legend but one who clearly has been in the sun too long.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.