Penn State head football coach James Franklin shows a look of determination as he leaves Lincoln Financial Field following the Lions' 27-10 loss to Temple in September of 2015. Since then, PSU has gone 25-10 with a Big Ten divisional title and conference championship, a top-5 ranking and two bowl bids under his watch.
BY THE NUMBERS
James Franklin's record
2011: 6-7 (2-6 SEC), bowl, NR
2012: 9-4 (5-3 SEC), bowl, 23
2013: 9-4 (4-4 SEC), bowl, 24
2014: 7-6 (2-6 B1G), bowl, NR
2015: 7-6 (4-4 B1G), bowl, NR
2016: 11-3 (8-1 B1G), bowl, 7
2017: 7-2 (4-2 B1G)
In Bowls: 3-3
L6 vs. Ranked: 3-3*
*-losses by a combined 7 points
2016 Big Ten Coach of Year
2016 National Coach of Year (Sporting News, Touchdown Club of Columbus)
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Not the biggest fan.
For a multitude of reasons.
Most of them related to his personality, which often has me wondering if the guy, obliviously, comes equipped with no filter or just happens to be an arrogant ass.
Whatever the deal, James Franklin ain’t my favorite dude and never will be.
But, yo, still gotta recognize, acknowledge and even admire his coaching acumen, which go far beyond mere Xs and Os.
So, anyone who questions his legitimacy to lead Penn State’s football program, including those hearts beholden to the Nittany Lions forever stuck on the idea that someone could, or was, better, have a suggestion for you:
Get a clue.
Seriously, to question the validity of Franklin as the head coach in Happy Valley at this point is silly, if not comical.
A fraud? C'mon.
Hell, he arrived on campus as anything but that.
You win 24 games over three seasons, with two bowl victories and a pair of national rankings, prior to taking the Penn State gig, you are a quality coach.
You do so while competing in the Southeastern Conference, you are a special coach.
You do the aforementioned as the man in charge at Vanderbilt, you are a coach who defies description … and certainly one who qualifies for exemption from the type of questioning Franklin seems to endure any time the Lions are not unbeaten.
Reality check: the task put before him at his current gig was more daunting than the one he faced in Nashville.
Sure, Bill O’Brien provided a nice tourniquet with the program hemorrhaging after the Sandusky nightmare, saving whatever “face” remained and even pumping a little pomposity back into its players and fan base. But he always had one foot out the door, only stayed two years anyway, and, frankly, be it strictly sanctions-based circumstance or not, his impact was purely superficial.
Penn State really didn’t get any better on his watch.
It has under Franklin. Exponentially.
We’re not just talking record (last year’s 11 wins were the first double-digit total for Penn State since 2009). We’re talking entire state of the program, from top to bottom. That goes from recruiting to preparation to culture – and, no, not the cult-like, blind-eye crap that somehow flows through Love Ya Blue Nation, but the type that has Franklin running down one of his players who took it upon himself to blow off shaking hands post-game with the opposition this past Saturday.
No big deal? Think again. Class and sportsmanship never go out of style. They build the type of character within that, ultimately, will prove the difference between being a winner and a loser.
Franklin, for all the elitist, look-down-on-so-many-others snobbery he displays in front of the microphones that plays so well with the Penn State masses, actually gets that.
He gets a lot of things. Including the need to adapt and change.
It’s why innovative mind Joe Moorhead has been running the Penn State offense last season and this one, and also why Moorhead may not be running it next season.
Hey, the Lions’ reliance on the home run style under Moorhead may work for all eternity with the Earl Weavers of the world out there, but it’s starting to show that maybe, just maybe, it has played itself out in the Big Ten.
Point is, Franklin has his finger on the pulse of everything with the program.
Think about it. He has Penn State back in the national spotlight for what it does on the field now, and his list of “crimes” thus far in 2017 amounts to two entries: a 1-point loss at then-No. 6 Ohio State and a 3-point loss at then-No. 24 Michigan State on a last-second field goal.
Yeah, what a bum. Run him outta town.