James Franklin has already turned Vanderbilt around, won a Big Ten title with Penn State and earned three Coach of the Year awards in 2016.
But, according to an anonymous coaches’ poll conducted by CBS and published Sunday morning, he’s one of the most overrated head coaches in college football.
CBS said its writers spoke with one-fifth of the 129 FBS coaches and asked about the most overrated and underrated coaches. When it came to overrated, both Franklin and Florida State’s Willie Taggart each received a poll-leading 20 percent of the vote.
Here are two of the anonymous quotes CBS picked up on Franklin:
“His coaching peers know he is full of it.”
“When [Franklin] got the Penn State job, I thought, ‘Man, he’s a good marketer.’ He did a nice job with that. It’ll be interesting without Saquon [Barkley]. He’s underrated. He turns a lot of no[-gain] plays into 60-yard touchdowns.”
Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz received the third-most overrated votes with 13 percent. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald was the third-most underrated coach with 8 percent.
Franklin is a point of contention in the college football world. His resume is long and impressive, and he’s been a hot commodity for about six years now. He led Vanderbilt to its first back-to-back bowl berths in the school’s 128-year history, and he helped rebuild Penn State after Bill O’Brien’s departure en route to back-to-back top-10 finishes the last two seasons.
But, inside, there’s also criticism that Franklin is more of a recruiter than a coach — that his success is more the result of talented assistants, such as former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. He’s a wonderful CEO, some will say, but not necessarily a wonderful coach.
Regardless, Franklin’s teams have had the results that both fans and administrators dream of. Penn State is a College Football Playoff-caliber team again this season, and at least one national reporter came to Franklin’s defense shortly after the poll’s release.
“Also, the jealousy of James Franklin is palpable,” USA Today’s Dan Wolken tweeted. “If you’re a coach who thinks he’s overrated, you’re probably not good at your job.”