Penn State Football: Franklin Sells Penn State Fans What They Want To Hear
The used car salesman gig is a dangerous one to fall for.
Success at the job requires a large amount of shoveling of post-digestive remains in order to get the target audience to fall for the pitch. You can fall for the presentation, but there is always the threat that the rug will be pulled out from under your feet when you take that leap of faith.
The guy says the car runs, but have you gotten it off the lot yet?
James Franklin, turns out to be -- at first glance -- the best used car salesman Penn State has seen in a long time. He has the energy, speaking for just over 40 minutes during his initial news conference, without losing pace or enthusiasm. He has the looks. A young energetic coach hitting his stride at the right time. His suit is probably the last thing you would have ever seen either of his predecessors wear.
There was a North Carolina blue pocket square poking out of his jacket, opposite a Penn State pin that was a fitting mirror image of the Houston Texans' pin Bill O'Brien wore only a few days earlier. Both men, looking the part. Perhaps both men are better at their new jobs rather than their old ones.
But not every used car salesman is out to get you. Sometimes people really do find a deal, walking away with exactly what they wanted and what they were told they were getting. And sometimes with a little work, a used car can look like it was never driven before.
And that seems to be the kind of salesman James Franklin is. If O'Brien's job was to put out fires. It seems only hours into the job that Franklin is focused on post-fire restoration.
Right now, that's exactly what Penn State needs.
Franklin is aggressive, boldly declaring Penn State will "dominate" the state and region in recruiting. He used the word "dominate" on ten different occasions during his press conference. He was giving the Kanye West of coaching pitches, firing a salvo at Pittsburgh when he said that he respected the program but Penn State was going to recruit in every corner of the state.
"Well, I have tremendous respect for Pittsburgh, for the University of Pittsburgh, tremendous respect for their coach, tremendous respect for their university. But when I say Pennsylvania, and when I say Penn State, that is the whole state. That is the whole state." Franklin said emphatically.
"I'm going to let you finish your recruiting pitch," Kanye Franklin would have said to Pitt, "But I'm going to come and recruit those kids too."
And that's what fans want to hear.
Penn State in large part has been a dormant program over the past decade. It has every thing it needs to succeed at a high level but those assets have been under sold or under utilized. The program has only just now become accustomed to a head coach being active in the recruiting process.
Penn State fans may ride a horse slightly higher than the rest of college football, but deep down there has always been a desire for the gritty, energetic coach that will let fans party like it's 1987 all over again. And Franklin seems to be that coach. To Penn State, he's the guy in high school who convinced you to ride the Harley as fast as you could when your Dad wasn't looking just to see how it feels.
If there are political battles, Franklin seems happy to get his hands dirty where O'Brien did not. Franklin is aggressive, because that's who he is. He's a people person, because that's what gets the job done. He's a used car salesman because if people didn't want to hear exactly what they wanted to hear, why would they want to hear it? And he can back it all up. His turnaround of the Vanderbilt program is one of the more impressive jobs in recent years.
"I think that's what everybody's looking for. They just want a great university," Franklin said on unifying Penn State. "They want a great football program. They want to do it with honor and do it the right way, and that's what we're here to take this university and bring it back together and unite it so that we can all just be so, so proud of everything that it stands for on and off the field."
While he never made broad sweeping promises about the future of the program or guarantees of five national titles, that kind of energy was in the room on Saturday. It may have been the greatest feat in Franklin's entire pitch. He invigorated a fan base with images of national relevance without ever saying the words.
James Franklin sold Penn State fans something on Saturday, but they'll have to wait to see exactly what's under the hood.
If early indications are accurate though, Penn State hired the right kind of salesman and the Nittany Lions are getting an engine change.
And it's going to be a major upgrade.