Paul Zeise: James Franklin doesn’t have as much influence on Penn State as he thinks he is | Sports

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If I were Penn State President Eric Barron, I would have a very short, straightforward, one-sided conversation with Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin at some point this week, and it would be like this. …

“James, we really like what you have done for our football program, and although you have had a difficult few weeks, we believe you are still the man for the job. However, you are clearly not irreplaceable, and if you want to continue to coach Penn State beyond this season, you have to make it very clear in a very public way that you have no interest in leaving Penn State, no interest in working at USC. and no interest in LSU or any other work.

“You will also make it clear that you will be the Penn State coach next season and that you will be working to get the program back on track. If not, you better hope one of those two schools hire you, because we finished with your silly attempts to take advantage of us for a new contract. “

And then I wouldn’t take any questions.

I officially state that I think James Franklin is a good football coach and has done a very good job at Penn State. I think he has built a program that is both strong and sustainable. I think he recruited well, his kids never embarrass college, they have a chance to play in the NFL and the team seem to play in big games every year (except maybe last year) . There is a lot to love about what he did.

But at this point, he has failed to deliver what you might think he delivered based on the way he talks, behaves, and conducts his business. And more importantly, he hasn’t failed to make himself so irreplaceable that he can continue to play this game where he has those unchallenged and loosely worded denials about other jobs in order to gain influence.

Barron shouldn’t listen to suggestions that Franklin should be fired, but he certainly shouldn’t listen to the ideas the university needs to give him what he wants in order to make him happy. Franklin has a lot to prove, and a good first step for him would be to show that he’s 100% committed to being the Penn State coach.

And it goes way beyond last weekend’s debacle against Illinois, by the way. Each team can have a bad loss or a disappointment game. The problem is, Franklin talks and acts like he should be treated like an elite coach, and he just hasn’t come close to that.

There’s this notion that he somehow got into a disaster at Penn State and changed everything and pulled him out of the shadows of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He did not do it. Bill O’Brien is the coach who had to keep up with Joe Paterno and keep the program from turning into a trash fire as a result of everything that happened, and he did so by going 15-9 and keeping things afloat in two seasons despite recruiting penalties and everything in between.

Franklin has done a good job of taking the program to the next level, having won 11 straight games in his third and fourth seasons and even won the Big Ten title in 2016. But this is his eighth season in as a coach, and he’s only produced a top 10 team (in the latest AP poll) three times.

He has a division title (which led to a Big Ten title) and his record against Ohio State (1-6), Michigan (3-4) and Michigan State (3-4) is a combined 7-14. His record against ranked and top 10 opponents is appalling. He’s 2-9 in games against top 10 opponents (likely 2-10 after this weekend in Columbus), and both of those wins came in this magical 2016 season.

He’s 65-30 overall and 40-25 in Big Ten games, and those numbers speak for a successful coach – but certainly not an elite one – especially considering his record in big games. and its relative lack of hardware. He’s 9-7 in his last 16 games, and if Saturday’s Illinois disaster is any indication, Penn State is in danger of being beaten in every game remaining on its schedule.

A lot of schools would love to have a coach with this record, but Penn State isn’t a lot of schools, and the question then becomes, is he making enough for Penn State given all the resources and benefits of the program?

The answer is probably no, but I don’t feel like the administration up there cares about winning championships as long as the program wins a lot of games. I’ve read several articles like that of excellent PSU reporter Cory Giger on whether Franklin is overrated as a coach.

My answer to that is that he’s not, at least by someone not called James Franklin. Most people understand that he is a good coach who has done a decent enough job, but he is not an elite coach and he may never be. Penn State should look after him every time his name appears in another job search until he proves he’s an elite coach by winning big games and championships.

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