In a week in which James Franklin is preparing his team for a massive showdown on the road against undefeated Minnesota, he’s been the subject of Florida State rumors. Or rather, FSU’s wish list.
I can debunk the logic of Franklin leaving for FSU — or anywhere — in a matter of a few short paragraphs.
In fact, why I don’t I do that before we get rolling here because it sort of explains why he continues to be a subject of these rumors.
Go back and read some of the offseason coverage about Willie Taggart heading into Year 2. There was a Tampabay.com article that explained why Taggart wasn’t on the hot seat for one simple reason — money. FSU didn’t have the funds to fork over a buyout north of $17 million. Obviously, things changed. There’s a thinking that FSU is hoping to only have to pay a portion of that buyout in the event that Taggart gets hired elsewhere.
Regardless, that’s my way of saying, I don’t think FSU would even have the money to throw at Franklin to lure him to Tallahassee. I believe the only chance — and I mean the only chance — that FSU would have to land Frankin is to make him an offer he can’t refuse. That, in my opinion would be a wild overpay.
Franklin can refuse $6 million to go to FSU. Easily. He’s nearly making that at Penn State already. And there’s a decent chance that if a richer offer was on the table, Penn State would match it in a heartbeat. As Franklin always says, he’s a Pennsylvania native coaching at Penn State — why would he leave?
I’ve always gotten the vibe that Franklin wants to be liked, and he wants to feel wanted. Whether that’s by fans, recruits, his bosses, his players, whatever. I think that matters more to him. What’s a nice way to get that churning? Whether it’s FSU, USC, Notre Dame or whoever, let your agent entertain those big-time offers. Franklin can continue to publicly deny everything, and I actually believe him when he says he has no reason to leave.
Leverage is his middle name. Once again, he has a lot of it.
Franklin’s counterpart this weekend, P.J. Fleck, knows a thing or two about that. He just capitalized on his name being linked to FSU and subsequently landed a 7-year extension and a raise.
I believe Franklin will benefit from that, as well. That’ll be especially true if he leads Penn State to its third New Year’s 6 Bowl in 4 years.
Here’s the list of active coaches with an actual chance of doing that this year:
- Nick Saban, Alabama
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson
- Kirby Smart, Georgia
- Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
- Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
- Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
- James Franklin, Penn State
With the exception of Chryst, all of those coaches make more money than Franklin, who is currently on a deal that paid him an average of $5.78 million through 2022.
Those negotiations lasted much longer than expected. Following Penn State’s breakout 2016 season that ended with a B1G Championship and a Rose Bowl berth, that new deal didn’t get done until days before the start of the 2017 season.
Why? Leverage, of course.
Obviously, a lot has yet to be determined this time around. If Franklin beats Ohio State and leads Penn State to its first Playoff berth, that price tag is going up. Way up. Like, in that $7 million club. That’s a premium that I’d assume the Lions would gladly pay to keep the 47-year old head coach. These days, that’s not that absurd for an elite coach. Eight coaches made at least $6.6 million in 2019, including Jeff Brohm.
That’s right. Even Purdue’s coach is rollin’ like that.
I realize that $1.7 million signing bonus played a part in that, but still, Brohm is going to make $5.65 million next year, which is nearly what Franklin made in 2019. That raise is coming.
Barring something disastrous, Penn State should have double-digit wins locked up at the end of the regular season. Conservatively, let’s say it’s a 10-2 year with a New Year’s 6 Bowl loss. Even if that happens — which I don’t think it will — I’ll be surprised if by this time next year, Franklin’s deal pays him less than $6.5 million annually.
Franklin’s agent could point to the contracts of coaches like Harbaugh, Gus Malzahn and Tom Herman — all of whom have richer deals and less recent success — to make his client’s case.
And you know what? Franklin has earned it.
This season, he quieted doubters like myself who thought he was going to fade from national relevance. I’ve been extremely critical of him with how he manages games late and the fact that he entered the year having gone 0-5 in his last 5 matchups with either Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State. Perhaps it’s a fitting time to eat some crow considering his team is coming off consecutive wins against Michigan and MSU, and he’s got the Lions at No. 4 in the Playoff poll heading into a major showdown against unbeaten Minnesota.
Franklin can agree to an extension now before the home stretch of the recruiting cycle, or he can do what he did back in 2016. That is, let everyone link him to every major job opening — he’s been the subject of NFL rumors, too — and play the long game with negotiating his raise to stay at Penn State.
It’s coming, and when it does, it’ll be another reminder that Franklin isn’t going anywhere.