Tony Franklin's Traveling Circus

Tony Franklin "broke his silence" in the Montgomery Advertiser over the weekend. I'm sure every other Auburn blog will mention Josh Moon's story, which you can read in it's entirety here. It's going to raise a few eyebrows but after reading and re-reading and going over Josh Moon's piece, I can honestly say: Auburn made the right choice in letting Franklin go.

The article itself doesn't really have anything new to say about the Franklin Saga. But it basically boils down to 3 main points about Franklin: 1) Franklin had reservations about taking the job 2) Franklin was considered an outsider to the rest of the staff 3) Franklin loves the Sunbelt and is glad he out of Auburn and then has about 3 main bullet points about the former Auburn staff: 1) they didn't trust the administration 2) they didn't trust each other and 3) they were worried about Nick Saban.

Rather than break down the article piece by piece like I've done in the past, I'd like to revisit the "Tony Franklin Spread" and talk about why it was the wrong choice for Auburn. Why it failed at Auburn, and ultimately, why Tony Franklin and his "Snake Oil Offense" can't truly be trusted.

Before the 08 Season began, I was all about some Tony Franklin. The interviews I sat in on painted him as engaging and cocksure and I saw first hand what he was able to do at Troy. But in reality, Tony Franklin is a whiny doubter who plays the "outsider" card to feel like a braggart.

Throughout the Josh Moon article talks about being that "outsider":

"I don't have anyone on that staff that I'd call a friend now," Franklin said. "I never fit into that group. I was never welcomed into that group. And that's fine. When I was brought in, they did what they thought they should be doing to help me. When things weren't working, they started doing things like they'd always done them, because that's what they knew.

"That Group" that xCTF (Ex Coach Tony Franklin) refers too is probably the Bar B Q bunch, that core group of coaches (Grann, Nall, Dunn, Tuberville, etc) that most Auburn fans had a problem with because they wouldn't change their ways. Moon mentions this, and let's Franklin get a little dig into his former coaches:

"That's all they do is pray -- and talk about praying and religion," Franklin said. "It's a constant thing with them, and it's just overwhelming at times. A lot of people use religion as a crutch, and I think that's the case there. Every word coming out of their mouths is something about religion, and most of it is just a joke.

"I don't want to come off as anti-religion or that I'm not a Christian, but the best people in the world -- the ones who do truly great things -- they just do good things for people. You don't know most of the time if they're Muslim or Christian or anything else, because they never talk about it. But it was constant with them, and it was uncomfortable sometimes. When you talk about your religion so much, it comes off as fake or phony. That's the way I think of several of those people (at Auburn) as fake."

I'm sure those last couple of quotes will be at the forefront of most Auburn fans minds. Personally, I could care less. The only point that this proves to me is that Tony Franklin felt uncomfortable, whether it be for personal and professional reasons. The main problem I have is that he never made any effort to rectify those problems. Franklin acts like he doesn't care about what other people think, but in reality he does. Take this article from 2005 (which is pre-Troy and pre-System). In it Franklin mentions what he misses about coaching:

His current job is ideal, Franklin says. He gets to do on-the-field coaching and teaching. "All the good, and I don't have to handle the bad — dealing with parents, administrators. ... The biggest thing I miss is the camaraderie with a staff.

He misses the "camaraderie". Camaraderie I’m sure he felt to some extent at Troy and thought he might get at least a bit of a Auburn.

But also notice what he calls the "bad". Dealing with Administrators, Parents, etc. I'm sorry but that's a part of Coaching. It's more than the X's and O's as they say, It's about the "Johnnies" and the "Joes". But Franklin talks about wanting camaraderie but still holding on to that ideal that he's an outsider or "hired gun"

The main problem is that Franklin tried to be two things. He complains to Josh Moon that he wasn’t “accepted” by the staff and never talked to them, never hung out with them, and never thought he was trusted by the Tuberville staff, but that’s exactly what he wanted:

I've enjoyed working with Tommy (Tuberville) and the fact that it's one of those situations like I was used to with coach (Larry) Blakeney. I know I have a job, and he allows me to do that job. I think that makes my life a lot better. I've been an entrepreneur and I've worked for myself, and I don't need somebody to point me where to go and what to do. I know how to go to work, and I need that freedom to be able to do my job, and he's given that to me. It's been fun."

That’s Franklin himself, six months into the job. Talking about what he’s enjoyed about it.

So you have a man who prefers to work alone. Who was allowed to work alone and given the freedom he needed and actually wanted. Then when the results on the field weren’t up to par, he lost his cool, came down from his mountaintop and:

I wasn't going to sit and watch it all sink with my thumb in my mouth. I was going to take every approach I knew to make it work. And I really think it worked."

Franklin went out for practice that day and "coached every position on the field like I was 25 years old again. I was running routes the best a 51-year-old can run them. I think I got most of them back."

Doing the exact same thing he hated personally happening to him: Having a coach tell him what to do and how to do his job. Of course, it backfired, but he still had Tuberville’s support:

"Coach Tuberville made the statement that this was my offense," Franklin recalled. "He said they needed to jump on board or find somewhere else to go."

So here we have Franklin, who doesn’t play well with others, who was given a long leash, and a wide berth, just because of his personal philosophy, abrasive personality, whatever, telling a group of coaches how to do their job. Something he hadn’t done for however many games prior, but when the backs were to the wall he decided to change his M.O:

"There were some things the players and coaches needed to hear about being responsible. I had owned up to my responsibility and publicly tried to take the blame every time I was asked. It was time for them to do the same.

"Some of them hated me for it, I'm sure, but it worked. I made an attempt that I either won the football team and got them back in my hands, or I lost them

But complains to Josh Moon:

"I don't have anyone on that staff that I'd call a friend now," Franklin said. "I never fit into that group. I was never welcomed into that group. And that's fine. When I was brought in, they did what they thought they should be doing to help me. When things weren't working, they started doing things like they'd always done them, because that's what they knew.

"They were doing what was best for them. You can't blame them for any of that, for the way they reacted to me or anything."

It doesn’t happen both ways. You can’t sit and say you want to be left alone as a head coach, then when you’re offense is failing, decided that THEN is the time to react. Telling all these coaches, who have been together around 10 years that the job they are doing is WRONG. That they can’t coach and here’s the “hired gun” to take care of it.

Also you can’t sit and chide coaches like Hugh Nall at one practice when, before the season began you were saying:

We have one of the top offensive line coaches in the country (Hugh Nall). Our guys are going to be very tough.”

Franklin is calculating. He knows what he’s doing. He plays the poor pitiful me excuse, but he knows exactly how to work a situation to his advantage:

Watching Tony Franklin pack his car in front of the complex after being fired.
*The grad/student assistants later chided us for taking Franklin's "dignity" by taking pictures of the situation. Franklin DID THAT ON PURPOSE, fellas. (10/8/08)

That’s from Jay Tate’s HABOTN. Notice the red text.

But let’s be honest the real problem is this: TONY FRANKLIN COULDN’T COACH.

He was a wishy washer second guesser who gave Auburn fans gems like this:

Hell, if I was them, I'd boo. I'd boo me. I'd be angry. Everybody's expectations were high. My expectations were high. Hell, if I was a paying fan I'd be pissed. This product has not been good, and it was my product. I don't blame them for being upset. I don't take it personal. When they said how wonderful you were, I didn't take that personal because I knew it wasn't true. I said all along that I wasn't very smart and y'all thought I was joking. Now you know. It's pretty true." 9/28

"It might be the dumbest call I've made in 10 years. It's a third-and-short call, not a third-and-long call. I was being a total dumbass. That's what I was. 9/27

Here’s a quick rundown, off the top of my head and without citations and hyperlinks why I, personally, feel Franklin couldn’t coach:

-Having offensive lineman lose 20 lbs each

-Abandoning the Ben Tate I formation that had been dominating Vanderbilt for 2 quarters

-Bringing Chris Todd’s noodle arm into the fray, and convincing the staff he was still a solid QB (he is, but he’s not 100% or even 80%)

-The entire Tennessee gameplan

-Many many questionable calls, and terrible clock management against LSU

But I think the real problem with Franklin is that the offense that he’s “patented” is a sham. It’s a High School offense that he’s managed to sell versions of to various colleges. It’s a offense that Franklin himself says works better with inferior talent:

This works very well in high school and at the Division II and Division I-AA level of college football because at that level teams don’t have the numbers on defense. It’s more difficult at this level because the good teams are so deep in defensive linemen.

But even then, if you are playing against a better defense, then you have to just hope and pray it could work:

But in games where I knew we were overmatched physically, I spent the first quarter and third quarter just running plays hoping to get their defense tired. Then if we could just keep it close we might have a chance in the fourth quarter

What coach would legitimately buy into an offense that’s main proponent says “might have a chance in a fourth quarter”? That’s not exactly exuding confidence.

But the main thing I have a problem with in Franklin’s offense (besides the fact that it’s a dumb downed version of Hal Mumme’s Air Raid) is that people are buying into it. Teams are finding success with this this “system” but which schools are succeeding? The ones with money:

Business is good — he has grossed approximately $170,000 this year.

His initial consultation fee is $1,500. He then charges a daily rate or a season-long rate if it is for the rest of the year.

But what happens when schools don’t have that money:

Franklin says about half the time, individual boosters or booster clubs pay the fees. That's fine for a school like Hoover, located in an affluent area of Birmingham, where 94% of the students go on to college and whose booster club raises more than $300,000 a year.

But what about a financially challenged program?

"Why get a consultant when they have me?" says Lexie Spurlock, who has coached for 12 years in Chicago's Public School League at Morgan Park. "Fees like that are not feasible at any Chicago public school."

But it’s also a system that let’s a team with the most money win:

Friday night, Hoover lost to in-state opponent Tuscaloosa County 39-28. Both teams use Franklin's system. Franklin allows current clients to "blackball" an opponent from learning his system.

I know times have changed since that 05 article that I referenced, that Franklin doesn’t have a stake in the company thanks to Auburn, the SEC, and:

its ridiculous, nit-picky rules and regulations on everything you do.

It sounds to me like someone is still a little bit bitter because their love of money, cost them their cash cow:. Yes, greed, that’s why Franklin took the Auburn job to begin with:

Franklin is angrier with himself, saying he was seduced by the money and allowed his ego to get the best of him instead of "using common sense."

Ultimately, I’m glad we are rid of Franklin. The Josh Moon story isn’t much of a story at all. Will Collier breaks down that aspect here. But everytime I think of Franklin I think of this:


CajunTiger said…
First time I have read your blog. I am listing it as one of my favorite sites right now. Enjoyed the dissecting you did on Franklin. Thanks.

First time reader Kevin - Great breakdown of Moon's article with past references to other Franklin statements. Seems he talks out of both sides of his mouth, doesn't he?

Kevin said…
Cajun and Loganville, thanks for the love. Hope to keep it going.

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