Franklin vents about criticism over Minnesota loss
James Franklin wanted to get some things off his chest and delivered an interesting monologue at the end of his press conference Tuesday.
But why Franklin chose to say what he said in the first place is probably even more interesting, albeit it unknown.
Franklin answered questions for about 40 minutes, mostly concerning critical elements of Penn State’s 31-26 loss at Minnesota on Saturday. He was asked after the game about a failed two-point conversion attempt with 4 minutes to go in the third quarter, but he was not asked any questions Tuesday about that decision.
So, Franklin broached the subject on his own, feeling the need to vent. Instead of walking out of the room after all questions had been asked, he decided to do stay for a few more minutes and express his thoughts.
“I do got something,’ Franklin said. “I want to talk a little bit about, because at the end of the game, I got some questions — some questions about going for two — and I kind of want to talk about that specific situation.”
What followed was about a 5-minute rant that dealt with criticisms that frustrate the coach. To put it in perspective, Franklin almost never addresses such topics, especially on his own without provocation, which made his doing so newsworthy in and of itself.
“I also kind of want to talk big picture of what I struggle with, and maybe next summer at the (annual barbecue with PSU coaches and media), you guys can fill me in on your perspective, because it’s probably not the setting for this right now,” Franklin continued.
“But so, going for two in that situation, we looked at the classic two-point chart, which said go for it. We used our analytics stuff, which said go for it. We decided to go for it partly because we’re on the road, not playing as well as we thought we should be at the time, and if we picked up the two-point conversion, it increased our chances and put us in a better situation. If we didn’t pick it up, we still were going to have to overcome those points at some point.”
All of that made perfect sense. It was a coach explaining why he made a certain decision.
What followed felt like something different — a coach feeling the need to tell the media what he doesn’t like about criticism.
“At the end of the day, here is the thing I struggle with: A lot of these decisions are not clear cut,” he said. “There’s 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 two-point chart said go for it and 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.”
Franklin went on to tell a story about the decision to kick deep late in the game down 31-26 instead of trying for an onside kick. That decision paid off, with PSU’s defense holding and getting the ball back.
“That was the right decision,” Franklin said. “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 have picked up two first downs and ended the game, I would have been getting my butt ripped in the press conference for why didn’t you go onsides kick.”
Franklin probably isn’t wrong about that. Coaches have to make a lot of tough decisions, and sometimes the right decision doesn’t pan out. Sometimes the wrong decision does pan out. It is easy, as he noted, to second guess after the fact regardless of the outcome.
But why did Franklin say all of this? Why would he be bothered so much by some criticism about a two-point attempt that he felt the need to spend five minutes talking about it when he wasn’t even asked any questions on the subject Tuesday?
It was very much out of character.
Franklin generally does not engage in such reactionary topics. He’s always well prepared for press conferences and has a good feel for what reporters might ask, and he usually doesn’t go off script much with things that aren’t focused on a previous or upcoming game.
“My point is, sometimes the decisions are clear cut, and I get it,” Franklin said. “And 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 are not. They are opinions.”
Clearly, Franklin came into this press conference with a certain beef that he wanted to share with the media, and he did just that. Whatever his reason or agenda for doing so, however, remains unclear.
“You can disagree with me,” Franklin concluded. “You’re more than welcome to. I’m stating my opinion on how I see it. I appreciate you guys listening to me and letting me vent for a few minutes, and it is on to Indiana and I’ll look forward to not answering anymore questions about last week and Minnesota.”