Ralph Friedgen Proves Why Head Coach Designates Are a Bad Idea
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By Luis Torres
July 2, 2009 (original publication date)
One of the most common preseason distractions in football is the quarterback controversy.
It affects football at all levels, every year. Will it be Sean Glennon or T-Mobile? Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn?
A coaching controversy could be exponentially worse.
But that’s exactly the situation that the Maryland Terrapins are heading toward in 2012, when they will find themselves with both a reigning head coach and an offensive coordinator who has already been promised the top spot.
Terps head coach Ralph Friedgen, 62, is under contract with the team through the 2011 season, but has hinted that he may decide to keep his title longer if the mood so strikes him.
Offensive coordinator James Franklin has already been promised the head coaching position for the 2012 season after Maryland fended off possible suitors for Franklin that included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If Friedgen decides to stick around, Franklin can resign and get a cool $1 million before heading anywhere he wants.
The Friedgen-Franklin 2012 situation has the potential to be the biggest Maryland-related disaster since the Oakland Raiders took Darrius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree.
Friedgen has stated that the team’s winning ability will be the key factor in his decision to leave or to stay in 2012. If the team is winning and he decides to stay, then the school will be caught between a rock and a hard place.
They will have to choose between forcing out the incumbent who has led the team to a winning record and tapping the young, hand-picked successor, risking fan base and player estrangement by letting go of a proven winner.
Before the time comes to make a decision, the Terrapins will have to sort through some other prickly situations.
How will players react to a lame-duck coach?
Will they rally under him or brush off his coaching as rants from a guy who’s going to be fired soon anyway?
And as far as recruitment, I find it difficult to imagine a promising young blue chipper being convinced to join the Terrapins by a coach who won’t be there by the time they’re finished redshirting.
Why would they commit to a school that can’t even commit to a coach?
By making the head coach succession so public, Maryland opened the second-guessing compartment of Pandora’s box.
No matter who coaches, everybody will question the decision if the team doesn’t have a great season come 2012.
If Friedgen stays, it’ll be, “Why did they keep this old, out-of-touch geezer when they had already promised the Terrapin future to the young buck?”
If Franklin is the choice, fans will question the entire concept of promising someone a job that isn’t now, and won’t assuredly be, vacant until 2012 with every interception, every missed tackle.
The biggest risk here is that the second guessing will reach the minds of the Terrapin football team and the coach will lose control of his locker room.
The obvious solution would be to keep the coaching decisions behind closed doors.
But ever since Jimbo Fisher was named head coach designate at Florida State, the trend has been heading in the other direction.
The Terps obviously see something in Franklin that they really like, and I’m sure they would be kicking themselves if they saw him flourish in the NFL because he didn’t know his future at UM.
So offer him the job, but keep it to yourselves, Terps. And maybe, just maybe, don’t put a date on it—especially not with a $1 million out-clause.
This isn’t the Obama administration: There is no need for complete transparency.
Eventually you’ll have to make a tough decision, but it should be made privately. And a head coach should be in place before any official announcements are made.
This type of distraction can only detract from the most important factor: the quality of play on the field.
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