by J.R. Lind
First, let's acknowledge the history the school made. Franklin is Vanderbilt's first black coach and only the third black gridiron coach in Southeastern Conference history.
In a recent column, I had in mind another man to break that color line in Titans' assistant Craig Johnson. Nevertheless, let's not let the overwhelming underwhelmingness of Franklin's hire overshadow the history here.
As for that declining sense of whelm, one only needs to peruse Vandy's Facebook announcement to see the great sense of "Wha??" that has overcome the faithful.
I'm not sure who is running PR over on West End, but a little free advice from someone who reads the Aristotelian wonder that is Internet commenting everyday: Don't do that. Internet comments are a den of negativity. Unless your goal was to lower expectations so low as to make the inevitable 2-10 season seem like a massive step forward, you shouldn't have done this.
Check out some of the votes of confidence from the Facebook wall:
"Thanks Vandy for the hire and continuing to be that easy win on the schedule — Sincerely, The Rest of the SEC."
"On to Franklin. Not exactly someone who is going to excite the fan base. Maryland's offense hasn't exactly been great. The best thing the guy has going for him is that he was 'good enough for Maryland.'"
"went from almost hiring gus malzon [sic] to this?how far down the list was this guy?wonder we always suck each year.where is the did like [sic] button"
For a school with Vanderbilt's rigorous academic standards and sterling reputation, the irony here is that James Franklin is the football equivalent of the safety school. Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was allegedly thisclose to becoming the Commodore-in-Chief, but Vandy couldn't make the money work (somehow) and Malzahn will stay with the Tigers. Malzahn would have been the coaching equivalent of getting into — oh, I don't know, Vandy. Franklin is like settling for, say, the University of Maryland.
A school desperate for offensive fireworks, Vandy could have hired Malzahn. They could have hired Mike Leach. They could have talked to former Miami coach Randy Shannon. They could have hired the genius who came up with this play.
Or they could pick an offensive co-ordinator whose team ranked 85th in the NCAA in total offense and 100th in scoring offense this season (Vandy ranked 110 and 112 in those categories, respectively). They could pick a guy who runs the West Coast Offense, a scheme predicated on the quarterback making quick, efficient reads of the defense. That'd be great if Commodore quarterbacks didn't read defenses the same way the rest of us read Infinite Jest (which is to say, either "not at all" or "very slowly"). Even His Mighty Brahness Jay Cutler, Hallowed Be His Losing Record, threw a lot of interceptions.
Now, look, Franklin may be a nice guy who does things the right way. Or he may be a corrupt asshole. The fact is, I don't know — and not many other people down here do either. And that's the problem.
Vandy had a chance to make a huge splash. They had a chance to hire someone who would have pumped some iron into an increasingly anemic and dispassionate fan base.
And they punted. Like they usually do.