James Franklin came into Nashville last season and took the Vanderbilt Commodores by storm. His enthusiasm, football smarts and bravado appealed to the dormant fanbase. But after one 6-7 season, does Franklin deserve the right to talk so much?
He reminds me of Rex Ryan from the New York Jets. Ryan was an excellent defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens for years and stayed relatively quiet.
But as soon as he was hired to be the head coach of the Jets, he couldn't shut up. He claimed that he wouldn't "kiss the rings" of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
When you win, people love the talk. But if and when you lose, it all backfires. Until Franklin has earned it, he ought to tone down the chatter.
Mouth of the South
Already, he has developed a reputation as a "talker." At the end of the Georgia game, he yelled at an opposing player for a "cheap shot" and then had a heated discussion with Bulldog assistant coach Todd Grantham.
First of all, Franklin's own lineman Josh Jelesky cut Tennessee's Maurice Couch out at the knees on a completely irrelevant play. Just about every expert, former players included, concluded that it was a ridiculous cheap shot.
So Franklin has very little room to talk.
Second of all, is it really the business of a head coach to get involved with an opposing player or assistant coach in an altercation? That's unbecoming of a SEC head coach, to say the least. We'll leave that to you, hothead assistants.
Will James Franklin make Vanderbilt relevant in the SEC?
The irony behind that last statement is that James Franklin is (or was) a hothead assistant. And unless he cools his engines, he'll soon return to being one.
See, when your football team plays in the toughest and most publicized conference in America, you are held to a higher standard. How many times has Nick Saban called into the local radio show when a high-schooler decided not to go to Alabama?
How many times has Franklin done it? I know for a fact: twice, because I've heard it myself.
Vandy Has Gone 6-7 Before
While the Commodores don't have a historically good football program, they have had decent seasons in the recent past.
Under Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt won five games twice in three seasons and won seven games, including a Music City Bowl victory, in another. The incessant talk wasn't going on at that time. Why?
Because Johnson knew his place as an SEC head coach: If you win, thank your players and move on. If you lose, promise to work harder and show results.
James Franklin's talk has duped many into believing that 2011 was a brilliant success.
While I openly acknowledge an improved Vandy squad, when your best three wins are at Wake Forrest, Kentucky and UConn, your success is owed in large part to a cupcake schedule, too.
Tread Carefully, James
Besides taking jabs at Tennessee's obvious decline as a program, Franklin has ruffled the feathers of at least one 4-star prospect who recommitted to Ole Miss after he said he got the run around from Vanderbilt.
If Franklin makes it a point to address every rumor and every bad word against his young program, he runs the risk of being seen as thin-skinned and weak-minded.
In the SEC, you can afford to be neither. Just look at the coaches who dominate(d) the conference.
They deserved to take a verbal jab here and there but didn't. Franklin doesn't deserve to but does.