James Franklin and The Perception of Success for Penn State

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

James Franklin and The Perception of Success for Penn State Football

James Franklin and Penn State Football face a pivotal 2024 season.

To understand the present, we must trek to the past.

Penn State Football, James Franklin
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

2006 – Kansas State

Franklin spent the 2006-07 seasons as offensive coordinator at Kansas State, helping the Wildcats achieve their first winning season in four years, and gain a berth in the inaugural Texas Bowl. While with Kansas State, he impressed another member of the Wildcat staff, former Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Raheem Morris.

Onward to Maryland.

2009 – Maryland Terrapins

With Franklin as offensive coordinator, the Terrapins finished the 2010 regular season with a record of 8-4 and earned a berth to the Military Bowl. Maryland was second in the ACC’s Atlantic Division thanks in large part to an offense that ranked third in the nation with only 12 turnovers lost.

Franklin had spent eight years on the coaching staff at Maryland, including his last three seasons as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.

In February 2009, Franklin was designated the successor to Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen.

In 2010 James Franklin left Maryland to become the first minority Head Football Coach at Vanderbilt.

Former Maryland AD Debbie Yow was impressed. “Coach Franklin is a terrific fit for Vanderbilt … an overachiever who maximizes every opportunity. He will bring with him a relentless work ethic and a staff that does the same. Working hard and working smart are his trademarks, along with expectations of academic excellence,” Yow said. Sounds very familiar…

On to 2011 and Vanderbilt football begins anew …


2011 – Vanderbilt

Franklin was 6-7 his first season in Nashville. As the rebuild began. Then two back-to-back nine win seasons in the SEC, where it “Just Means More.”

Not an easy feat by any means.

Franklin was 24-15 during his three-year run as the Commodores head coach. That included appearances in the Liberty Bowl, Music City Bowl and the BBVA Compass Bowl. He led the Commodores to three consecutive bowl appearances for the first time in school history, including back-to-back AP Top 25 finishes in 2012 and 2013.

In addition to his offensive acumen, Franklin was regarded as one of the nation’s top recruiters and helped the Terrapins sign 10 four-star recruits in his last two classes.

Rivals cited Franklin among the nation’s Top 25 recruiters on at least four occasions, including his final two years.

Franklin also has a history of developing outstanding talent.

Two of his pupils – Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman – were chosen in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. That development has been a pinnacle trademark for Franklin at Penn State with 63 players drafted to the NFL. Only a handful of programs have done better.

Then there are six former-hires-turned-head-coaches. We’re counting Manny Diaz, barely, since he was a head coach prior to becoming Penn State’s defensive coordinator.

But, he has both hired some of Franklin’s staff and also had to have success at Penn State to get that role.

Additionally, each of those head coaches have a respective staff but only coaches who worked or played with Franklin appear on the list. For example, Brent Pry is the head coach at Virginia Tech. Hokies offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen makes the list because he was a GA at Penn State.

But onto what MATTERS right?

Wins & losses.

Where the rubber meets the road.

Can James Franklin Lead Penn State Football Over The Top?

Penn State Football, James Franklin
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin leads his team to the field (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire)

James Franklin has been beaten up regarding his inability to win the “big game.”

And it’s not a Franklin thing:

Penn State is 18-99-1 all time vs top ten teams. This was a Joe Paterno thing. A Bill O’Brien thing. And, yes, it is now a Franklin thing.

Until recently Franklin was even with Harbaugh during his tenure.

It’s tough to be mad at a team that beat THE Ohio State Buckeyes three consecutive times AND is currently under investigation for what may have taken place while doing it*.

But that’s the beast … Ohio State. Franklin with just one victory over his bully in 10 years.

And this. This is the brick wall, the mountain he’s been unable to overcome, and what his entire resume has melded into. The inability to beat Ohio State.

To be objective, only one team has more wins than OSU over the last 20 years. Alabama. In those 20 years, OSU has 10 B1G titles. For you Iowa fans, that’s a 50% championship rate. Insane.

Ohio State has more titles than Iowa had touchdowns last year. OSU rarely loses, and Penn State Football isn’t immune in that. Yet, Franklin has been closer than anyone.

One point losses in 2017 and 2018 to OSU were devastating. So close. Too close. And Franklin was leading both games late.

And the critics continue to holler.

This is the task before James Franklin.

Defeat the dragon that is OSU, and everyone is happy, right?

Not hardly.

What if Franklin finally beats OSU, but drops other games and doesn’t make the playoffs? Will people be happy?

What if Franklin loses to OSU, but makes the playoffs and goes further? Will people be happy?

What if Franklin has already been extremely successful, and the OSU beast is overrated goal?

What if Franklin beats OSU, wins it all and returns eternal glory back to Happy Valley? Will it silence the very many detractors?

What if it doesn’t matter, because in today’s society people thrive on negativity, hate and feel good watching others fail?

What, in the end, is considered “success” for James Franklin? Looking into the past it’s hard to argue James Franklin hasn’t already achieved massive success.

But that’s far different than reality equaling public perception.

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