Here's the thing with James Franklin: Out of all the candidates being mentioned, he is the one who would probably be the most similar to Bill O'Brien.
Like O'Brien, Franklin is a high energy, innovative offensive mind that recruits well and has his players' back through hell and high water. He believes in balance on offense, and has a great sense of when to run it and when to air it out, and is a guy that the entire Penn State community can rally around. Basically, all of the traits that we loved about Bill O'Brien, we would see in James Franklin.
There is, however, one difference between the two guys. From the nanosecond Bill O'Brien came to Penn State, he made it clear the his eventual goal was to coach in the NFL. That's not Franklin's M.O. He's a college guy. He paid his dues in college football, and ever since 1991 -- with the exception of 2005, when he coached wide receivers for the Green Bay Packers -- his entire career has been spent in college. He ascended to the top of the coaching profession in college. Unlike O'Brien, he's a college guy through and through.
While he has no direct ties to Penn State, Franklin is a PA native who played college football at East Stroudsburg. As John Ziegler has taught us all, you don't need to have attended Penn State to understand the rich history and tradition of Penn State football, especially if you're from Pennsylvania. While I really have nothing to back up this statement, you'd have to believe that a Pennsylvania guy who has been around Penn State his whole life would understand that Penn State isn't a stop en route to a bigger job, it's the biggest job that you'll likely ever get.
One last thing with Franklin that cannot be stated enough: the guy just a great fucking coach. Before he arrived at Vanderbilt, the school was 558-567. In his three years, he has gone 23-15. At Vanderbilt. In the SEC. During the SEC's stretch of dominance over college football where most people would expect a school like Vandy to win about nine games total, he did that in one season. Franklin has taken a garbage program and turned it into something respectable. Imagine what he would do with a good program with the talent, resources, and reputation like Penn State. Shit, Vanderbilt has the 21st best incoming recruiting class in America. He can walk into a recruit's house and say "I won at Vanderbilt, imagine what I can do at Penn State," and pull in almost anyone.
The problem with Franklin, of course, is that he needs to be locked up immediately. He is a candidate for every major job in the NCAA and NFL, and will be as long as he's at Vandy. Luckily, Penn State wants to get its search done quickly, which would give the school the chance to lock him up before schools like Texas come calling. He can come in, and if he can't convince some recruits to stick around, he can probably get some of his recruits from Vanderbilt to switch their commitment.
James Franklin makes a ton of sense. I want him. Like Devon said about Pat Narduzzi, someone's gonna give Franklin a chance soon. Why not Penn State?