As Penn State looks to replace head coach Bill O'Brien, who recently departed Happy Valley to lead the Houston Texans, debate will wage about which coach is the right man for the tricky job.
Before O'Brien even departed, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner is seriously considering making a pass at former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano:
Rather than voicing support for Schiano, the fanbase seems to favor Vanderbilt's James Franklin, as shown on a poll on PennLive.com where Dustin Hockensmith broke down the top candidates for the opening.
Franklin would also be a smart hire, but the Vandy boss is one of the hottest commodities still on the job market and he could be up for a move to the NFL or to lead college football's most valuable program: Texas.
The attraction to Franklin and disinterest in Schiano isn't all that puzzling. Likely, it's just a result of a short-term memory.
Franklin has been excelling at Vanderbilt—a situation where success doesn't come easily. The Commodores have been to three straight bowls, navigating the tough Southeastern Conference with gusto under Franklin.
Meanwhile, Schiano was fired from Tampa Bay after a dismal 4-12 season that was lowlighted by drama between he and quarterback Josh Freeman. However, Schiano's struggles with the Bucs seem to just be a disconnect between his philosophy and the nature of the NFL. In short, he's just another coach who is better suited for the collegiate level.
His undoings in Tampa Bay also overshadow his excellent tenure at Rutgers. Like Franklin at Vanderbilt, Schiano took a program that was starving for success and gave it sustenance.
Before he arrived in Piscataway, the Scarlet Knights hadn't been to a bowl game since 1978. Before he left for the pros, he took them to six bowl games in his final seven seasons.
He would also bring PSU ties to the head job in Happy Valley. Schiano was an assistant under Joe Paterno in the early 1990s during some of the program's most successful seasons.
He knows the culture of the Penn State program and he knows how to recruit the East Coast region from his time at Rutgers.
As reported by Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com, Schiano was unsure of his future as of his firing in Tampa Bay:
Like I said, I woke up this morning planning on being the head coach of the Bucs, so I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what I want to do. Literally, as I just mentioned, we were meeting with players and taking care of exit interviews and then WHAM, so I’m ... kind of getting through today and then I’ll take some time. I know that I’ll lean on my wife, kids, family, and faith; we’ll kind of figure out what the next stop is for us.
As Schiano looks to make his transition, PSU is also in a crucial time of its own. O'Brien did an excellent job at leading the Nittany Lions through a tumultuous time fresh off their ugly scandal.
But now, as Penn State enters its next chapter, it needs a coach that can return the focus to the field and rebuild it into a program that competes for Big Ten titles.
The storied program will attract many coaches—and it just might pull in the fan favorite, Franklin. However, even though he isn't the top choice among the Nittany Lion faithful, Schiano knows how to win at the collegiate level.
While Franklin might be the coach PSU wants, Schiano could be just the coach it needs.