With the ham-handed firing of Mike Munchak a done deal, the Tennessee Titans have the opportunity to land a rare breed of coach: Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.
Franklin has done the impossible at Vandy: given life to a program many decades removed from any relevance. Instead of hiding from Vandy’s woeful gridiron history, Franklin charged into the situation head-on, clearly stating his intentions to turn the program around.
And boy, has he. Inheriting a team that had gone 33-84 the previous ten seasons, Franklin has led Vanderbilt to a 24-15 record over three seasons, three bowl appearances, and two bowl victories (11-13 overall in the SEC).
Just as impressive as the record on the field is the fact that he has made Vanderbilt fans BELIEVE.
The Tennessee Titans are a franchise that in many ways mimics the Vanderbilt situation. Since the Jeff Fisher period began, Tennessee has has made six playoff appearances. Apart from a great run that culminated in a memorable Super Bowl showing in 2000, two of the exits were in the divisional round, as the number one seed (both times to Baltimore). Only once did they make it to the conference championship.
It’s a rag-tag history, in many ways. Conference runner-up twice to the Steelers in the late seventies. Blowing the biggest lead ever against the Bills in the 1993 wildcard game. Uprooted from Houston and relocated to Tennessee in 1997.
This is a team and a history made for a James Franklin. Someone who would embrace the historical challenge and fling themselves into it.
You don’t accomplish what Franklin has done at Vanderbilt without garnering notice. Penn State has made overtures to him. There’s been talk of NFL interest in Cleveland and Washington.
It’s a long shot, at best. But the Titan job requires a certain person, of a certain intensity. Grabbing up the typical NFL coordinator is not going to cut it for this franchise.
(As I write this, the signals are strongly pointing he’s taking the Penn State job)…