I didn’t care how many tweets I saw claiming that James Franklin was going to be the next head coach at Penn State. Until word leaked out last Friday night that Franklin was going to address his team Saturday morning and then fly to State College for his introductory presser, I wasn’t sold that Al Golden wouldn’t be the next coach at Penn State. It was very simple to me: Why would Al Golden turn down a raise of nearly a reported $2.5 million? Sure Penn State wouldn’t be in a bowl game for another two years, and sure they still had the Sandusky scandal hanging over their heads, and Al has dealt with scandal for the last three years. I get all that. But my thinking was, it’s his alma mater, it’s where his wife is from, it’s where he met his wife, and he seems to be more comfortable recruiting the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York areas than South Florida. Penn State is the perfect job for Al Golden. Of course he’d have to have been offered that job to take it, and it looks like he wasn’t. That seems odd to me.
Now there are many reasons why Penn State may not have offered Al the job. Maybe they purposely didn’t want someone that had a connection to the Joe Paterno regime. Maybe they didn’t want a Penn State insider. Maybe they wanted a coach that is more offensive minded than defensive minded. Or maybe they just didn’t want Al, because they didn’t want him. We’ll most likely never know, and it’s probably prudent to tread lightly in an area where you don’t have facts, so we’ll just leave it at that.
So Al is our’s, again, for now. And somehow I get the feeling that a lot of you reading this aren’t happy about that. Man we can flip in a moment. Just a few months ago, Al Golden would have won a popularity contest in this town, if Eric Spoelstra weren’t included of course. It’s amazing what just a few months, or even weeks can do to public opinion. One thing is for sure, for the majority of people, Al’s decision to not make any coaching changes didn’t help his cause in the court of public opinion. By the way, Al doesn’t care about the court of public opinion. Must we forget that in many ways, he tries to emulate the Parcells-Belichick ways of doing things. I need to keep reminding myself of that every time I’m told he’s not available for interviews, which is becoming more often these days.
Look, it took cojones for Al to stand pat with his staff. While my general principle is that consistency leads to winning, there are times when something that is consistently bad leads to losing. I give you Randy Shannon. Al went on the offensive with a pile of stats greater than pages in “War and Peace.” Good move. Quantify success. Of course the guys at Sebastian’s Pub ( READ HERE) pretty much debunked Al’s quantitative analysis by coming to the conclusion that the defense has gotten worse when it mattered.
Look maybe next year it all comes together on defense. Maybe the players finally catch up to the scheme. Maybe the coaches, who, I’ve heard, have had some problems getting their points across, on that side of the football, will be able to get through. Al better hope so. By not making any changes, it will be a lot harder to explain poor defensive execution next year with the same staff intact.
We’re certainly at a crossroads of the Al Golden tenure. The Nevin-Gate mess is behind him. There are no more excuses. Up until this point Al has been able to talk about “The Process” and “Eight Pillars” and “Deserve Victory” and the rest of it with most of us buying in like it’s the Saturday or Sunday gospel. But just as skeptics look for signs of a higher power’s existence, Canes fans are ready to see the fruits of that process. ESPN personality, and my colleague at The Ticket, Dan Le Batard always says that Al “gives great coach.” And Dan is exactly right. Al wins the press conference. He wins the radio interview. He probably wins the locker room speech and meeting room discussion. But in the end, none of that really matters. Can he win football games? Al has made some tough decisions lately. He’s chosen to stay at Miami. He’s chosen to keep his best friend, and every other coach, on the staff. He’s also chosen to accept responsibility for everything that happens in the program. With all of that being the case, Al, next season, all eyes are on you bud. You continue to say not to move the bar, or lower the expectations. Guess what? We haven’t.