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Penn State Football: Franklin Looking for ‘Head Coach of Offense’

James Franklin won his 100th game as a head coach with Penn State's 55-10 victory at Rutgers on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022.

As Penn State looks to replace offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, it’s probably worth circling back to the man in charge to see what exactly head coach James Franklin is looking for. Perhaps more importantly, what Franklin thinks his role in the offense is in the first place.

“As we all know, I’m ultimately responsible for everything,” Franklin said on Wednesday following practice. “So I get that and take full responsibility. But I’ve also said multiple times that I want a head coach of special teams. I want a head coach of offense, I want a head coach of defense. I want a head coach at the tight ends. And, I want them to approach it that way. I want them to create a room. Or, a side of the ball, that’s high production and low maintenance. I’m there to support whatever possible. I’m there to bring perspective whenever possible. But, I’ve been very clear about how we run it, and how I’m not running the defense. I’m not running offense, [and] I’m not running the special teams. I’m involved in all those things.”

“But, I’m also involved in academics. I’m also involved in fundraising, [and] I’m also involved in recruiting. I’m involved in every aspect of the program. And when you do it that way, and you’re not in one area; I need Andy Frank to run the recruiting department, and I rely on him to do that. I need academics run like that.”

It’s a complicated thing to unpack in the fallout of Penn State’s losses to Ohio State and Michigan this year, the fact Franklin is broadly responsible for his team’s performance but that he has largely run the program in a way which encourages assistant coach autonomy. There is a perpetuated – but unsubstantiated – belief among many fans and others that Penn State’s offensive shortcomings in big games have been a result of Franklin’s own meddling. In essence that if Franklin would simply get out of the way things would be going better. This runs in the face of a lot of evidence that Franklin – maybe even to a fault – is allowing his assistants to run a great deal of the show on Saturday’s.

One might argue that this insulates Franklin from his team’s own failures but in many respects it speaks to the CEO label that has long been attached to Franklin. Franklin himself has never claimed to be a brilliant football mind, and his forte has always been the overarching ability to run the program and advocate for its needs.

It’s also true that Franklin might not be the x-factor in the season’s biggest moments, the sort of sideline general who gets just a bit more out of his team with a deft touch. Additionally, for as much as some fans might want Franklin fired for his program’s shortcomings, you’d be hard pressed to make an actual list of things where his decisions have been the deciding factor in these games Penn State has fallen short in. Fans latch on to two controversial decisions to go for two in Saturday’s loss to Michigan, but neither made a difference in the outcome, they’re simply a lot easier to comprehend amidst a lot less obvious problems and solutions.

Because in reality a lot of the desire that some fans have to fire Franklin has far less to do with an actual understanding of the issue than it is a baseline “this isn’t going how I wanted it to.” That’s not to say Franklin is absolved of responsibility for Penn State’s shortcomings under his watch, but it does suggest that things aren’t that simple.

“I also want to be very clear, I also understand that ultimately, I’m responsible for all of it,” “Franklin added. “So, if that’s been ambiguous in the past, I hope that clears it up. And, that’s what I’m looking for moving forward. And that’s what I’ve stated very clearly in the past. Strength and conditioning, I want Chuck Losey to be the head coach of strength and conditioning and run that. And, he has done a phenomenal job. Manny’s done a phenomenal job. Stacy, I’ve been very impressed and pleased with our improvement from the beginning. of the season to now. We’ve improved dramatically on special teams. Our specialists have been more consistent.”

No matter how you read the room there’s no question that Franklin’s next hire with be a critical one since he’ll be the head coach of the offense.