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Bodani: Franklin proves point in firing Donovan

Written by Frank Bodani/York Daily Record | Nov 29, 2015 8:06 PM
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Photo by AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

(East Lansing, Mich.) -- If anything, James Franklin has proven that he is decisive and is hell-bent on improving and winning sooner, without even the thought for later.

In simple terms, he fired his offensive coordinator one day after his offense struggled mightily for the second-straight season -- despite an NFL-talent quarterback and young stars at the skill positions.

For certain, he proved that he cares far more about accountability and results than loyalty.

Who really knows if he made the right decision by firing John Donovan after two years together leading Penn State and three more at Vanderbilt?

Although fans had been calling for this move for weeks, there was no hard evidence that Donovan was most responsible for the Lions' repeated failures with the ball. After all, the program was left with little depth, if not talent, across its offensive line when this staff arrived. And the line is the foundation of any successful offense.

The Jerry Sandusky scandal, NCAA sanctions and even coaching turnover all had a hand in wrecking recruiting classes and creating instability everywhere in this program. And over the past two seasons Penn State has struggled on special teams and even defense, at times, as much as anything.

Surely, Donovan was leading the offense with limitations no fault of his own.

But the only thing that matters moving forward now, toward 15 extra practices and a bowl game, is that Franklin viewed change as necessary. And that he moved quickly, more so than most anyone would have predicted.

And for now, at least, Penn State fans should feel secure in that.

It's too early to evaluate whether Franklin was right to fire Donovan, just as it's too early to evaluate whether Franklin is even right for the job. Consider how long it usually takes for a rebuild, especially with the circumstances at Penn State and the growing strength of the Big Ten East.

But we did learn something critical about the head coach on Sunday, more than anything else that came out of three-straight losses.

Consider that Joe Paterno rarely if ever fired anyone. That was one of the biggest complaints against him in his final years, more so than his overall record, uneven recruiting or inability to compete for national titles. If anything, an aging coach could least afford to fall into a complacency that favors loyalty while other programs pass him by.

Then, Bill O'Brien wasn't really around long to fire anyone with ramifications.

But this is Franklin's responsibility now, and surely he sees how quickly Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State are pulling away from his own program. And to some degree he agrees with the majority of fans in that catching up requires a new offensive leader, at these very moments.

Will a new coordinator have any effect on quarterback Christian Hackenberg's decision to leave early for the NFL? Would it signal a recruiting shift as the final pieces of this class are being put together? Can it possibly change a worrisome offensive line situation with seemingly the best prospects still too young?

Meanwhile, other Penn State assistant coaches could move on, too.

For now, the questions are more important than answers we can't possibly attain yet.

These Penn State players who have absorbed so much change over the past five seasons will be going through it yet again. But this time, for a change, it's the head coach initiating it all.

And Franklin was decisive enough about this that he must have had his mind made up for a while -- decisive enough that he feels his team cannot even proceed to a minor bowl game without it.

He has proven that he's more than positive energy, recruiting prowess and steadfast patience in the midst of turmoil. He does possess a bolder stroke than most expected when the first appropriate moments arrived to strike and potentially improve his situation.

For now, firing Donovan really doesn't guarantee anything will be better.

But Franklin, facing his first major dilemma, proved he will strike without languishing even a bit. And Penn State fans, of all people, facing even more change, should at least feel secure in that.


This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF.

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