From the Sidelines: A shareholder’s revolt

Published 12:06 am Saturday, October 11, 2008

So imagine that you are regarded as one of the better minds in your industry. Your peers consider you innovative, albeit unorthodox, and rave about the job you have done in helping to lift a previously anonymous entity to respectability.

Now, it seems your ship has come in. A larger, more renowned entity has offered you a job. The powers that be at this place believe you are the one to take their entity to the next level. So you take the offer. And, immediately, you hop right into the middle of an already in progress project.

Your time is limited. But you put together and execute a plan that is very effective on a high-pressure stage with much of the nation watching. Congratulations abound as your steadily-developing legacy grows. Board members and even your C.E.O. exclaim that you are the perfect fit. They will now break through and reach unprecedented heights with your help.

Email newsletter signup

Several months pass before your next big test comes along. You have continually informed your peers and superiors that it will take some time to fully implement your system. They assure you that you will be given ample time and resources. Rest assured, you press forward.

Early returns are slight, just as you anticipated they would be. In fact, for six consecutive weeks, your department underperforms expectations. But again, you caution, when installing a new system there will be an unproductive period at the outset.

Still, shareholders and board members have grown impatient and clamor for your dismissal. Then, the C.E.O. does the unthinkable and removes you from your post.

That sounds a little unfair right?

That’s the exact sequence now former Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin endured over the last several months.

He was well thought of for his accomplishments at Troy. So Auburn made the splash hire and brought him in to install his renowned spread offense. With little time to work, he put together a piece of the system and defeated Clemson in an impressive showing.

Then the 2008 season rolled around the team proceeded to disappoint. Last weekend’s calamity at Vanderbilt proved to be the final straw. After Tommy Tuberville gave Franklin the dreaded vote of confidence to kick off the week, the handwriting was on the wall.

But rest assured Franklin supporters, Tony will bounce back. It is Auburn who is likely to come out on the losing end of this deal.

Firing an offensive coordinator after only six games is a decision that not only invites turmoil into the program, but it also serves as a major deterrent for other up-and-coming assistants the school may seek to enlist in the future.

It would be one thing if Franklin wasn’t coming through on his end of the deal. However, his efforts were entirely undermined by a head coach who found himself incapable of keeping his hands out of the offense.

The spread offense is a timing attack. It is all about rhythm and precision. Tuberville’s consistent swapping of Chris Todd and Kodi Burns at the quarterback position prevented both from getting enough reps to develop the necessary timing.

In fact, the quarterback who likely would have been best at running Franklin’s offense is sporting a redshirt this season. Freshman Barrett Trotter ran the exact same system at Briarwood Christian for three seasons.

And while it is reasonable to keep such a talent on the sidelines during his first season, the decision to not go with the most capable hand was ultimately Tuberville’s.

Moreover, the spread offense requires receivers who can make the catch and then make people miss afterwards. Clearly, Robert Dunn and company do not qualify as that kind of receiver.

So the argument can reasonably be made that Franklin was not given what he needed to properly install his offense. That, again, puts the blame back on Tuberville.

After his arrival at Troy, Franklin’s offense stumbled to a 1-6 start before becoming the head-turning system that beat teams like Missouri, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State with inferior talent.

So why then do you dismiss Franklin at this point in the season? The answer is simple. Alabama is ranked in the Top 5.

The reality is that the two major universities in this state are in the business with keeping up with the Joneses, so much so that they will occasionally sabotage themselves in a desperate effort to keep the unsatisfied mob of “shareholders” content.

If Alabama is a 4-2 team, Tony Franklin is still Auburn’s offensive coordinator. And the saddest part of it all is that the Tigers’ offense could very well have been spectacular in 2009.