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How Did Franklin Go From Hype to Hero?

You think you know, but you DON'T. KNOW.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - USC v Penn State Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

"You don't know. You think you know, but you DON'T. KNOW. And you never will. Okay?"

These sports-famous words belched forth by Jim Mora were directed at the media horde assembled like vultures somewhere in the bowels of the Superdome, eyeing Mora like fresh road kill immediately post defeat. Sports journalists think they know what’s going on out there, but they don’t know, according to Mora, in part because they don’t put in the 22 hour work days like the NFL coaches.

These words could have, and perhaps should have, been spoken by Mora to the man in the mirror. It’s not just the journalists who don’t know. It’s also the GMs, the ADs, and – yes – even the 22-hour work-a-day coaches.

Otherwise, Andrew Maxwell doesn’t start ahead of Connor Cook; Zeke Elliott doesn’t get a paltry 12 carries against Sparty; and no one – no one sane, at least – would ever take the job at Purdue or Rutgers.

A tidy 12 months ago, I took a long, meandering walk through what I thought I knew about 2016 Penn State. In short, it was this: James Franklin stunk. As I said then:

And if you scroll far enough down that linked post, you’ll see a bulleted list of evidence in support of that conclusion. “Installs Power-O offense without anyone to block”. "Read Option with Stationary QB". Those kinds of things.

Fortunately, Jim Mora’s words stuck with me from childhood, and I cautiously left myself an out, tucked away at the bottom of that post. If James Franklin stopped coaching, I reasoned; and if Joe Moorhead possessed basic common sense; then there was a chance that PSU could score more than 6 points per game in 2016, and not embarrass itself as it had done for most of the 2 seasons Franklin spent piloting the offense into the rocks.

You wouldn't get great odds of that happening in Vegas.

Practically all coaches are control freaks. And certainly all control freaks making $5m/year have supersized egos. But to forestall the failure that was rolling downhill at him in 2016, Franklin had to swallow his ego, release control, and hope his new pick for OC – Moorhead – possessed common sense.

To Franklin’s enduring credit – even as a “Fire Franklin”chant broke out among the students at halftime of the Gopher game – he did it. He let go.

He backed away.

He stopped coaching, delegated to his newly-picked offensive lieutenant, and patiently waited for the course correction. He was rewarded for it. Following that OT win versus Minnesota - a 9-game stretch that included a Rose Bowl appearance - his PSU offense averaged 490 yards and 45.5 points per game.


Will it continue? Will James Franklin reach new heights of coaching success by not-coaching? Maybe even becoming Dabo 2.0 in 2017? Great recruiter, splendid dancer, but keep him away from the chalkboard and he might win it all someday?

We don’t know. We think we know, but we DON’T. KNOW.

And we never will. Okay?


James Franklin won Coach of the Year in will the rest of his tenure go?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    He’s a fraud, 2016 was a fluke
    (38 votes)
  • 1%
    I refuse to acknowledge that 2016 happened
    (5 votes)
  • 5%
    You Penn State Fans ARE SO ARROGANT
    (19 votes)
  • 4%
    (15 votes)
  • 78%
    He’s good at recruiting, as long as he has competent coordinators, he will have a long career.
    (273 votes)
350 votes total Vote Now