Ben State Football: If Franklin Was Selling Cars, They Seem To Run Just Fine
In 1.03 seconds Google will cough up 1.7 million results for the phrase "James Franklin used car salesman."
To be honest that assessment was never really fair or even really all that nice. Franklin was confident and sure of himself, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that
But for some reason it rubbed people the wrong way. As a result he existed in this world where everyone agreed he was a great program builder and the best coach on the market for Penn State while simultaneously being suspicious of his abilities to do the things they just said he was good at.
Which is kind of weird.
So it has been a winding road for Penn State's head coach to get to a point where he is appreciated without skepticism, something he has undoubtedly earned. Because in the end, he did everything he said he would.
"We're coming here with the mindset that we're going to build this program," Franklin said at his introductory press conference.
"We're going to build it the right way, and we're going to build it for the long haul. We plan on being here for a very, very long time. This is my dream job. This is where I want to be. Wearing these colors, representing this state, representing these high school coaches and the people of the fine state of Pennsylvania is what I want to do for a very, very long time. Our plan is to go out and win a bunch of games so we can stay here."
Penn State as a collection of people seems to have moved on to a more modern appreciation for its coach. Franklin is not beloved as much as he is an asset Nittany Lion fans are glad to have. He isn't revered in a way that Paterno was because it will be a very long time before he transcends generations as a common denominator among fans of all ages. He will probably never reach that place because the age of the "forever-coach" has passed him by.
And it's probably better for everyone if he never is beloved that way.
However that doesn't mean Franklin doesn't deserve a certain level of recognition for what he has done. Penn State is subjectively in the best position it has been as a program from top to bottom, maybe ever in its history. The areas in need of improvement are more proof that nobody is perfect than signs of significant shortcomings.
But do the same Google search for Jim Harbaugh, and only 57,000 results come up.
And yet Michigan finds itself no closer to those lofty goals it set when it shelled out millions to bring Harbaugh back home. Equally true, losing does not make a coach disingenuous or somehow a fraud among his cohorts. It simply means he has yet to deliver. It simply means that handling the depth chart like a state secret and random PR stunts in the offseason don't win you games.
Of course all of this will come to a more meaningful head in two weeks. Franklin has yet to beat Michigan while at Penn State, a mixture of mostly circumstance, but not less true. Harbaugh in the meanwhile has yet to win the Big Ten and to a certain extent create the marquee win of his tenure so far. Nobody doubts his credentials, but the results are what they are.
All of that and much more will be on the line.
But for the immediate future it's worth noting that Franklin has, despite healthy skepticism and doubt, delivered what he said he would. Penn State heads into the bye week the No.3 ranked team in the nation not three years after averaging 20.6 points a game and running a program on life-support.
So if he's selling cars, they seem to run just fine.