HEISER: Hackenberg-Franklin soap opera continues

Steve Heiser
  • Christian Hackenberg reportedly is blaming his sophomore and junior struggles on James Franklin.
  • Hackenberg's comments were fodder for a number of nationally known football pundits.
  • The 2016 NFL draft is set for April 28-30. Hackenberg hopes to get picked in the early rounds.

Every good soap opera has one thing in common.

It takes nearly forever for any good story line to come to a conclusion.

It's a tried-and-true formula for keeping viewers glued to televisions for weeks, months and even years at a time.

Given that definition, the Christian Hackenberg-James Franklin saga is the perfect football soap opera.

The latest chapter in this never-ending narrative occurred late last week when Robert Klemko of the MMQB web site reported that two NFL personnel sources on two different teams told him that Hackenberg blamed his sophomore and junior struggles at Penn State on Franklin and his coaching staff.

It's well known that Hackenberg, after a promising freshman season under renowned quarterback guru Bill O'Brien, regressed during his final two college years. Those struggles coincided perfectly with O'Brien's departure for the NFL's Houston Texans and Franklin's arrival at PSU.

Throughout their arranged marriage, rumors were rampant in Happy Valley that the highly regarded QB and the energetic new head coach didn't always see eye to eye. During an especially difficult sophomore season, Hackenberg was often seen on the sideline yelling at coaches or openly pouting.

So, it was no surprise that Hackenberg bolted from PSU for the NFL at his first opportunity, leaving State College after just three years.

Now Hackenberg is trying to prove his worth to NFL decision-makers through a series of workouts and interviews leading up to the NFL draft in late April. Hackenberg is hoping to be an early-round pick.

Apparently, in a couple of those interviews, he had the audacity to tell the truth about his relationship with Franklin. That's reportedly not what the scouts wanted to hear.

Christian Hackenberg impresses NFL scouts at Penn State

“Despite the fact that it's probably true, you don't want to hear a kid say that,” one talent evaluator told Klemko.

Not surprisingly, Hackenberg's alleged criticism of Franklin instantly went viral on the Internet.

Well-known national pundits immediately weighed in, including Yahoo! sports columnist Dan Wetzel and ESPN talking heads Bomani Jones, Jeff Saturday, Mike Golic, Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell, among others.

Wetzel, in a nutshell, defended Hackenberg and was critical of NFL personnel folks who hypocritically say they want to hear the truth from players, only to rip those same players when they are actually honest about their feelings.

Others, meanwhile, said Hackenberg's comments appeared to be a classic case of the QB throwing a head coach under the bus for the QB's failures.

Still others questioned who was giving Hackenberg advice.

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the Hackenberg-Franklin dynamic, even though the two men no longer really have a relationship.

It has all the ingredients of a classic soap opera — conflict, melodrama and fascinating characters.

And, oh yeah, this sordid tale appears to have no end in sight.

Hackenberg and Franklin will be joined at the hip over the weeks, months and years to come.

If Hackenberg fails in the NFL, many will say that will vindicate Franklin and his staff. It will prove that Hackenberg, not Franklin, was the problem.

If Hackenberg thrives in the NFL, many others will say that is clear evidence that Franklin has no idea how to handle an NFL-style QB.

No matter what happens, however, it will be a compelling story to follow — just like any great soap opera.

Steve Heiser is sports editor. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.