Penn State Football: Four Years Of Franklin
January 11, 2018 11:00 AM
by Ben Jones
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Four years ago to the day Penn State announced that it had hired James Franklin to become the latest head coach of its football team.

Four years later Penn State sits on a 36-17 record and a current 22-5 streak of games that has seen two seasons end in the Top 10, New Years Six Bowls and a Big Ten Title.

There is a tendency to nitpick when it comes to coaches. Penn State and James Franklin's elevated status the past two seasons has opened both up to a critical examination of their collective flaws. Not for the joy of finding the faults, but simply examining those final steps that make the difference between elite teams and championship ones.

So sure, you can talk about Penn State late in big games struggling to find its identity in a way that is successful and a way that allows it to win.

You can point a finger at the appearance of Franklin's CEO style of management could be his downfall when it comes to finding that key third down play, when a head coach flexes his enormous salary and says "We are doing this and it is going to work." and finding a way to squeak out of a jam.  

Are those criticisms legitimate? Perhaps. But at the end of the day you can't really argue with the results.

Which probably is the biggest takeaway from four years of Penn State football under James Franklin. He has, by in large, delivered on nearly all of his lofty promises. The Nittany Lions were probably doomed to stumble at the start, but it's hard to argue with the team's growth and development.

It's hard to say that Penn State isn't miles away from the sanctions and in many respects miles away from where it was before them. Penn State football is nationally relevant, there's no arguing that.

The irony of course is that Franklin has endeared himself to a lot of the same people who once booed him as they left the field. And maybe that's just how sports work, win and fans love you, lose and fans don't. Either way, it is undoubtedly not lost on Franklin who his critics were and where hie new found fans came from.

Maybe that's his biggest success of all. Winning over a fan base that had become a tad reluctant to fully embrace him. Loyalty now lies in the place of skepticism, support in the place of unrest.

Of course those things will as long as the winning does, and Franklin will have his hands full to continue that trend. Penn State is replacing household names all over the field in 2018, with a schedule that is favorable at home but not short on big names coming to town. Franklin will have to find a way to win those close games, and find a way to mend holes on a roster still a few years from true unquestionable depth.

But right now, four years later Penn State football is undeniably doing everything Franklin said it would.

And in the end, it's hard not to be impressed. 

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