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Giger: If there's no perfect candidate, why not Larry Johnson for PSU job?

Commentary

January 6, 2014
By Cory Giger (cgiger@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

Hey, why not Larry Johnson?

If there's not a perfect candidate for the Penn State job -- and perfect is in the mind of the beholder based on criteria we'd all like to see met -- then the university owes it to the longtime defensive line coach to at least consider him.

There's been no indication so far that Johnson is being considered, but that could change depending on just how many of the supposed top candidates Penn State officials have to cross off their list.

Al Golden already has been crossed off.

I continue to believe, all things being equal, that Vanderbilt's James Franklin would be the best choice for Penn State.

But all things aren't equal.

Franklin already is being considered by NFL teams and could be hired by one any day. For him, Penn State may be no better than the third or fourth option, including perhaps behind even Louisville, which lost coach Charlie Strong to Texas and pays more than PSU (Strong made $3.7 million at Louisville, Bill O'Brien $3.3 with the Lions).

Franklin already makes a reported $3 million at Vanderbilt, so if he doesn't get what he believes to be a destination job this time around, he could stay put, make his money with the Commodores and re-enter the fray again next year.

The danger in hiring Franklin would be that he could pull an O'Brien in a year or two by leaving for the NFL. Some people might think that's OK because at least the Lions would get the best coach available right now, but stability is far and away the most important thing Penn State needs to achieve from this hire.

Mike Munchak would provide stability. He's a Penn State guy, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and by all accounts a first-class human being. The 53-year-old could be the Lions' head coach for the next 10-15 years.

But Munchak has never worked in college football, having spent 32 years in the NFL. He has zero recruiting experience, and that makes him a dangerous choice in many ways.

Munchak also doesn't know about all the other tedious, annoying, time-consuming things that go into being a college coach that have nothing to do with coaching football. He should call and ask O'Brien how much time and energy have to be spent on doing those things at Penn State.

There are so many good football coaches in this country that most people have never heard of -- from head coaches at smaller schools to assistants at big ones or in the NFL -- and O'Brien was a great example. He wasn't high on many wish lists or mentioned in media reports until shortly before getting the PSU job, yet he worked out great.

If Penn State's search committee is going to try to find a diamond in the rough, it doesn't have to look any further than the guy who's running the program right now -- on an interim basis.

Johnson isn't a perfect candidate. He has no head coaching experience, and he's a defensive-minded guy, which goes against one of the top priorities for many fans.

But Johnson's recruiting knowledge is light years ahead of what Munchak would bring. Johnson has been the glue of PSU's recruiting for years, and hiring him would ensure many of the 2014 recruits would stay on board.

No, Johnson doesn't have the offensive background that Franklin does, but he could easily go hire a proven offensive coordinator and proven quarterbacks coach who can help Christian Hackenberg continue to develop.

And when it comes to stability, the 61-year-old Johnson won't be going anywhere else and could give Penn State at least a good five to seven years, if not more.

There could be a number of candidates out there who are better than Larry Johnson, and if so, they could come in and do an outstanding job. The truth is that no one has any idea about all the people being considered by the search committee because that group showed the last time around it can be incredibly secretive.

Before Dave Joyner and the committee ultimately decide on anyone, they at least owe it to Johnson to give him an interview and compare what he can bring to the table.

Joyner's group can't miss the forest for the trees, especially when there's an attractive, accomplished and respected tree already standing right in front of them.

Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.

 
 

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