When it comes to interviewees for head coaching jobs, no one in the country is more sought after at this moment than Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. We’re talking about a Stage 5, Gruden-level feeding frenzy. And why not? The Commodores’ coach just wrapped up back-to-back 9-4 seasons, he’s won 16 of his last 20 games, and he’s taken to Vandy to three bowl games, winning two of them. Short of walking across the Cumberland River, Franklin has proven about all a man can prove at what had been the SEC’s traditional cellar-dweller.
That’s why he’s on Penn State’s short list. That’s why the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins have reportedly asked for permission to speak with him. It’s why the Houston Texans did speak to him (reportedly) and why the Tennessee Titans might check to see if he’d be interested in moving a couple of miles across town.
The NFL thing seems a bit farfetched as the two biggest pluses for the young coach are his infectious enthusiasm and his recruiting ability. And recruiting doesn’t help a whole bunch in the pro game. That’s not to say Franklin can’t X and O with the best of them, but it’s his attitude — which he’s instilled into Vanderbilt’s program — that’s drawn raves from pundits and wowed some NFL owners.
Today the NFL Network reported that the Washington Redskins plan to meet with Franklin, “likely” this week. He is believed to have met with Penn State officials yesterday. There the Pennsylvania native is on a short list that includes two former Nittany Lion players-turned-coaches: Mike Munchak and Larry Johnson.
For his part, Franklin has remained mum at every turn. Asked by The Tennessean for an interview yesterday he simply texted back: “Excited about going to LA, we can talk later.” Franklin will be a part of ESPN’s coverage of tonight’s Auburn/Florida State BCS Championship Game.
Tennessean reporter Jeff Lockridge tweeted today that co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry has pulled out of the Georgia Southern head coaching search:
Whether that means Pry will stay at Vandy or move with Franklin to the pros or — more likely — Penn State remains to be seen.
The one surprising point in the Penn State/Franklin talk is the lack of talk regarding the ongoing court cases of four former VU players arrested for sexual assault. As noted previously, defense attorneys for one of the accused requested that the Nashville DA send them transcripts of all phone and/or text conversations between the players and their coaches — including Franklin — on the night of the alleged rape.
As we’ve stated repeatedly, we don’t believe for a second that Franklin helped his players cover up such a heinous act. However. If you’re Penn State University can you really afford to ignore the possibility — no matter how small — that Franklin might have helped cover up some portion of something?
“But a rape case involving four of his former players at Vanderbilt is ongoing. Though Franklin has, to this point, been cleared by police and the local DA of any wrongdoing including involvement in a cover-up of any type, the trial is still pending.”
Left unwritten is the fact that PSU just went through a massive beatdown at the hands of the justice system, the NCAA, and the public at large for a widespread cover-up of former assistant Jerry Sandusky’s own sex crimes against young boys.
For that reason, if there were one job in America this writer would have automatically ruled out as a potential landing spot for Franklin… it would have been PSU. So much for that.
Perhaps the folks at Penn State feel they can put up with one or two uncomfortable questions at an introductory press conference if it means introducing the right guy. Perhaps they feel completely at ease with Franklin’s assurances that there are no skeletons in his closet when it comes to the sexual assault case involving his ex-players.
From our perspective, trepidation regarding that case would be the only reason for Penn State not to offer Franklin it’s head coaching position. He’s led one of the most unexpected turnarounds in the history of America’s toughest football conference. Aside from the occasional tongue slip — hiring assistants with pretty wives, Nicky Satan, etc — Franklin has done all Vandy fans could have hoped for and then some.
If Penn State isn’t worried about what might come out in the trials of those ex-bandy footballers, they should absolutely offer Franklin their job.
And if Franklin does leave Nashville for College Station, another college job or the NFL, no one in black and gold should begrudge him that. He will have left Vanderbilt in much better shape than any departing coach in nearly 100 years.
But that’s if he’s offered another job. And if he accepts it.