By Harry Allison
For the coach of an 8-1 team that just lost its first game, Penn State’s James Franklin sure sounds thin-skinned.
Or, maybe the rumors of his departure for USC or Florida State should be taken seriously.
As yesterday’s weekly press conference was about over, he got some things off his chest.
In a five-minute rant, Franklin criticized unnamed reporters for stating opinions as facts — specifically the writer, or writers, who railed against his decision to attempt a 2-point conversion late in the third quarter Saturday against Minnesota. And also those who critiqued the way he disciplines players.
“I do got something. So I want to talk a little bit about — because, at the end of the game, I got some questions about going for 2. And I kind of want to talk about that specific situation. But I also kind of want to talk big-picture about what I struggle with, and maybe next summer at the BBQ, you guys can fill me in on your perspective because this probably isn’t the setting for this right now.”
Franklin was discussing his decision to go for the 2-point conversion with 4:05 left in the third quarter. Penn State did not convert, cutting the Nittany Lions’ deficit to 24-19.
“At the end of the day, here’s the thing I struggle with: A lot of these decisions are not clear-cut. There are some that are. But there’s a lot that are not clear-cut. It’s a gut feel. And what I struggle with is when those decisions — and, again, I already told you, the 2-point chart said go for it; the analytics stuff said go for it — but then opinions are stated as facts. And I struggle with that. I struggle with things that go on when it comes to discipline and people know very little of the story but have really strong opinions on how things are supposed to play out.”
“I’ll give you another example. The end of the game, end of the game, we’re trying to decide: Do we go onsides kick — everybody know what I’m talking about? End of the game — do you onsides kick there, or do you kick it deep, hold them and burn your timeouts? Right? We decided to kick it deep. We decided to do a squib kick; you probably saw me bring (the kicker) over there because I was hoping with a squib kick, we have a chance to maybe pin them inside the 25 because every yard matters at that point. And you never know with one guy deep having to cover the whole field; you kick it on an angle, you may go down and recover it or he may bobble it. And he did bobble it. We stopped them, went three-and-out, I burned the timeouts. That was the right decision. (Pounds table) Why? Why was that the right decision?
“Because it worked. Because we stopped them. They went three-and-out, and I burned the timeouts. If they would’ve picked up two first downs, I would’ve been getting my butt ripped at the press conference for, ‘Why didn’t you go onsides kick?’
“My point is — sometimes the decisions are clear-cut. And I get it. I make mistakes; a lot of people make mistakes. But when things are gray and things are stated as facts, I struggle with that. When I see people criticizing decisions on discipline — and I’m not just talking about my program — and you don’t have all the facts, I just struggle with things being stated as facts when they’re not. They’re opinions. And a lot of times, it’s based on how it plays out.
“If I went for 2 early in the game, and we picked up the 2, it’s a great decision. We threw a screen; we had three guys, they had two. If we run inside and score, we get 2 and it’s a great situation. So I’m not saying I’m always right, but it’s easy after the fact to say that was a bad decision when we don’t execute. Now, at the end of the day, I’ll be the first one to admit: I’m ultimately responsible for making sure that we execute the decision. So I don’t want you to misinterpret what I’m saying — I’m still responsible for all of it. And I’ll take it.
“But I will tell you that’s where my frustration comes from sometimes and, doing this for 24 years, that’s the hard part. Once again, you disagree with me and you’re more than welcome to. I’m stating my opinion on how I kind of see it. I appreciate you guys listening to me and letting me vent for a few minutes, but it is on to Indiana. And I’ll look forward to not answering any more questions about last week at Minnesota.”