I’ve covered Penn State football for 15 years and have asked my fair share of tough questions to coaches Joe Paterno, Bill O’Brien and James Franklin. A number of other veteran reporters on the beat also frequently ask the tough questions that need to be asked, including but not limited to: Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle, Mark Brennan of Lions247 with Fight On State, Audrey Snyder of The Athletic, Neil Rudel of the Altoona Mirror, David Jones of PennLive, Joe Juliano of the Philaelphia Inquirer, Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times-Tribune, Ben Jones of StateCollege.com and Josh Moyer of the CDT.
But we do hear one complaint at times from some Penn State fans: Why don’t you guys ever ask the tough questions?
In some people’s minds, the PSU beat is soft or just afraid to ask Franklin tough questions.
That’s a load of horse(bleep).
We do ask the tough questions and the questions that need to be asked.
However, one thing fans who are not in the media don’t fully understand is that there is an etiquette to what we do, a decorum. We can’t just blurt out, “Why do you guys suck?” which is, honestly, what many PSU fans are thinking after some of these games, and some of you would probably love to see Franklin asked that question.
It doesn’t work that way.
We in the media deal with Franklin and the Penn State players frequently, and there is definitely some give and take with regards to what questions we ask, the exact words we use to ask them, the timing and the tone. For veteran reporters, everything we ask and every word we use in the question matters to us because, like you, we are looking for the best and most honest answer to our questions.
It’s not always easy to ask a tough question, given whatever circumstances are at hand. It might be after a loss, when emotions are raw, and sure, some media members don’t feel comfortable in what could be seen as piling on with really probing questions.
But we do know that you, the fans, want answers. Especially after losses, and absolutely during this very difficult and embarrassing 0-5 season.
We do, collectively, try to get to the bottom of things in each press conference. It’s sometimes tough after games because Franklin is only available for 10-12 minutes, so he only gets asked a dozen questions or so. The Tuesday press conferences are usually better, with a whole slew of tough questions usually asked after losses.
As I’ve said numerous times before, I respect the way Franklin handles tough questions. He is respectful and thoughtful in his responses and the way he deals with us in the media. We can ask him a tough question, and we know he won’t bite our heads off.
I’m a lifelong Syracuse basketball fan, for instance, and just watch the way Jim Boeheim handles what he perceives to be bad questions. He’s often a jerk about it, and yes, I absolutely am able to say that about the coach of my favorite team.
Franklin doesn’t do that. Now, he may not give fully detailed answers that we in the media like or that you fans want, but he does at least try to give an answer.
I posed this question Tuesday on Twitter, asking fans to reply with the questions they would like to ask Franklin.
Some fans seem to think the Penn State media is too soft on James Franklin.
OK, if you could ask the coach any REASONABLE question today, what would it be?
I cannot wait to see these.
— Cory Giger (@CoryGiger) November 24, 2020
There were a lot of good responses, and hey, maybe some of you fans will like these questions more than the ones we in the media actually ask.
Enjoy the questions, and as you read them, try to envision how Franklin might try to answer and if you think you’d actually get a detailed, honest response. Oh, and keep in mind, when you flat out make a statement that sounds like a fact, as some of these questions do, it often draws the ire of Franklin and lots of coaches because it assumes that they feel your statement is actually true, when in fact, it may not be.
Coach Ciarocca ran a dynamic offense at MiN with almost no QB runs. PSU offense appears to be last year’s offense. Are you limiting the new OC’s effectiveness by saddling him with RPO?
— JBar32MN (@thesupremecoach) November 24, 2020
Dline, DLine, DLINE….are they too small in the middle, are they to small on the outside and can't control their blockers so blockers are getting the LB's to easy(2 speed rushers not great)? Are LBs not as good as we thought?
— Dan Fredericks (@fmdano74) November 24, 2020
Coach – talent develop has been an issue over the last couple of years, especially at the O-line and WR, where is the disconnect from recruitment 4&5 star guys
— Sweep The Leg (@Hail2TheLion) November 24, 2020
Is is possible that PSU did not do a good job of preparing for the season with all the obstacles? Other schools have lost players for a variety of reasons and seem to be managing much better.
— Kevin Williams (@shoresportsman) November 24, 2020
Why isn’t the offense adaptable to the Qb skill set
— Joe Donald (@psujoe91) November 24, 2020
What makes this season an anomoly and not the start of something you can’t dig yourself out of by Wisconsin opener next season?
— Michael Marino (@mikeydan80) November 24, 2020
Franklin normally has a very positive attitude and high energy on the sidelines. This year he just stands there with his arms crossed displaying no emotion looking defeated. Core value #1 in his program is positive attitude. Has he done a good job following that value?
— Corey Eshleman (@CD_Eshleman) November 24, 2020
Why isn’t he interacting with the players and other coaches on the sideline during the games? He just stands there with his arms crossed.
— Brian W (@bwarholak) November 24, 2020
Do your arms ever go numb when you stand that long in the “arm folded denial” position ?
— B_George (@B_George_Knox) November 24, 2020
It seems like there’s a lot of confusion out on the field on Saturday’s. How many practices are just zoom OR position groups only vs how many times has the entire team practiced together as a whole (i.e. O vs D)?
— Joshua Hoch (@PSULions09) November 24, 2020
The offensive line, which was projected to be a strength of this team, has struggled some- What do you think needs to change to improve their performance?
— john koury (@jkoury27) November 24, 2020
Is there anything you can say to 107k strong to convince them that the program is not in dire straights, and likely years from competing for championships again?
— Jeffrey Graham (@graham_jeffrey) November 24, 2020
3 new coaches this year…OC OL and DL, I know it was a difficult off season but it was for everyone..why should I think that any of the 3 can actually get the job done? I think all 5 starters on the OL are 4⭐️ playing like walk-ons and it's been that way for 7 yrs!
— Colonel Kurtz (@I_Am_Col_Kurtz) November 24, 2020
Why do you always have your arms crossed and mic raised?
— Eliott (@Eliott_2108) November 24, 2020
Why has the pass rush all but disappeared since Michigan last season? Is there a glaring hole in your overall pass D scheme? Why no under center plays for 3/4 short. Why are they throwing low % passes (fade) in the RZ so often? Why the lack of player development at QB, OL
— Sean H (@seanR0617) November 24, 2020
What does the defense need to do to get consistent pressure/Have a more effective blitz? Why does every opposing QB seem to have a career day passing? Do we have predictable schemes? Breakdowns in communication? Mental lapses? Or is it lack of pressure? Why the tackling issues?
— Matt Ritchey (@Matt_S_Ritchey) November 24, 2020
Why does a WR never go in motion, only TEs reset. Why has there yet to be a misdirection play on offense. How difficult is it to add an under center play in short yardage situations when the RPO has failed almost every time
— Aaron Russ (@Aaron_Russ) November 24, 2020
“Coach, obviously the record this season wasn’t part of the script. How are you gonna convince recruits that this year was just the curse of 2020, or are we now two decades further away from our Justin Fields?
Follow up: How did we REALLY lose Fields?”
— jimlogrando (@jimlogrando) November 24, 2020
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