Thursday, October 09, 2008

Franklinpalooza: thoughts, links, etc.

Why now? You don't really need any news reports or inside info to explain why Tubby and Franklin were going to go their separate ways sooner rather than later: it was right there on the field against Vandy, where Auburn opened up in a two-tight end ace set that surely had Franklin grinding his teeth and then went back to the spread that had Tubby visibly grinding his teeth the remainder of the game. (So many Auburn fans have asked why Franklin didn't go back to the ace set earlier than he did, and now it's all rather obvious why: he wanted to prove he could win his way rather than Tubby's. I'm not sure if I blame him or not.)

Of course, "sooner" didn't have to be this week. As Mike Szvetitz writes in one of the better pieces I've seen on the firing:
When did he first consider making the change?

“That’s a non-question,” Tuberville said when asked.

Well, not really.

It had to have happened sometime before Wednesday morning, right? You just don’t wake up, pour a bowl of cereal and between bites decide to fire your offensive coordinator. Especially after giving him a vote of confidence twice in the last three days.
Which is why I give plenty of credence to the swirlin' "rumors" (or to some people who would know, "facts") that the timing was accelerated by Tubby and Franklin finally getting around to the big fightin'-words, screamin'-match dust-up that had been coming for weeks. We may never get mainstream confirmation that such a dust-up occurred (Tubby's already in denial) but if/when we do, the reaction here isn't going to be "Oh" or even a more appropriate "Duh": after watching these two candid and proud men arrive at total loggerheads on the football field over the past three weeks, it's going to be--or sort of already is--"What took you guys so long?"

Blameshift. Almost overnight, the tide of Auburn public opinion (at least that expressed out there on the Interwebs) has seemed to have undergone a near-seismic shift, from Tony Franklin=DEATH to something more along the lines of "Tony Franklin=MAYBE NOT DEATH IF TUBBY HAD LET HIM RUN HIS DAMN OFFENSE." The consensus--as expressed by Josh Moon--is that Franklin coulda been a contender if he'd been allowed to bring in his own coaches and run his offense without the "help" of Tubby's longtime band of skeptical, uncooperative, and spread-ignorant offensive underlings. Arriving just in time to pour gasoline on this particular fire is soft-spoken, media-shy former Hoover High football coach Rush Propst, who told reporters ...
Franklin tried to appease other assistants for a while to establish a working relationship. At practice Tuesday, Franklin ran every drill and didn't allow his assistants to coach, Propst said.

Thanks to anecdotes like these, speed with which Franklin's gone from villain to victim in many corners of the AU Internet has been enough to nearly cause whiplash. And this shift in blame from Franklin to Tubby and, more specifically, his Overcompensated Merry Men is in many ways appropriate. It does not make much sense to attempt a transformation as wholesale as Borges' power-n'-play-action to the Mike Leach AirRaid without changing the offensive coaching staff. It does not make much sense to give Franklin not a single advocate or spread buddy with which he can bounce off ideas. It will not make any sense in the future if Tubby insists on keeping his old standbys at the cost of driving away talented coordinators who might be able to dig Auburn out of this mess.

But for all that, Franklin is not blameless. Al Borges had to work with the same crew and for two years at least put together the best Auburn offenses since the beginning of the Bowden days. Whatever the failures in communication between Franklin and Nall, Knox and Ensminger--failures that may at least partially be Franklin's fault--Tubby didn't start demanding new formations until four games in, by which point the Wad of Paint offense was already scoring a net of one point against Mississippi St. And as little help as Knox's receivers and at times Nall's linemen may have given Todd and Burns, the fact is that neither of Franklin's two quarterbacks have looked well-prepared or comfortable in the offense--not to mention it was Franklin's decision to bring Todd aboard and declare him the winner of the QB derby, a move which made some spread-based sense but also undoubtedly helped short-circuit the Auburn ground game.

The bottom line is that when your offense has gone for less than 75 yards across three quarters against Vanderbilt, there's more than enough blame to go around.

Good move? I can respect the position of Jay and other Auburn fans who think Franklin should have been given the chance to finish the year. There's something to be said for letting a man finish what he's started, something to be said even louder for not putting an offense completely in hands of Hugh Nall and Steve Ensminger. (And oh merciful heavens, definitely not an offense that's not even an offense in which they might sort of kind of maybe know what they're talking about. Low is right: sticking with the spread with this coaching staff is asking to find a new bottom below the rock-bottom we found last week. I'm hoping the whole "We're still a spread team!" thing is a ruse. Please?)

But let's be honest: this offense wasn't going anywhere as long as Franklin was busy pulling it in one direction and Tubby and Co. were pulling it in another. Having the offensive coordinator do all the coaching while the other assistants stand around and mumble under their breath is not a tenable long-term situation. Something had to be done to give Auburn's players some kind of direction, some kind of vision, some kind of unified plan rather than making them little more than a confused, angry rope to be used in Tubby and Franklin's tug-of-war. As a) it's just not realistic or even practical for Tubby and Co. to suddenly go hands-off b) surely, surely, surely, things could not get any worse than they were last Saturday, I think the firing was probably the right move at this time.

But I've been wrong before. We'll find out starting Saturday.

And finally ... The Pigskin Pathos (as you may recall, a combination Auburn-Tennessee blog now united under the tagline "United in misery") either responded with lightning reflexes or was a bit on the prescient side yesterday ...


Yes. Funny? Also yes.


PhilipVU94 said...

JOX is certainly interesting today (although I expect someone to tell me they're all a bunch of Bammers interested in making Auburn look bad or something). I'm sure it's that Auburn people don't already know, but it's appearing likely there was open revolt by Franklin's coaches. That's why he's looking more like a victim as the full story emerges. (In particular, they're pushing hard on this quote by Franklin that taking the job without bringing assistants was the worst mistake in his career.)

This also sort of explains the odd change of heart by TT this week. It seems he really was prepared to give Franklin more control over the offense this week until the position coaches pushed back.

In any event, I really am pulling for y'all to miraculously get back on track this season. Yeah, it's out of self-interest.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Ahhh, open revolt, the hallmark of any successful football season.