No matter what happens to the California football offense in 2015, all the praise or blame will be directed at offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.
Sometimes when things go wrong, the offensive coordinator blames the quarterbacks coach, who then looks for a scapegoat and points to the running backs coach. Franklin has none of these options. He has been Cal’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for two years. That is not unheard of. Current Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, for instance, was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly.
However, recently Franklin was named Cal’s running backs coach as well, and this is the unprecedented part. To have three key coaching roles in a football team at this level of competition is either going to work splendidly or it will all blow up.
Golden Bear head coach Sonny Dykes has worked with Franklin for many years, so this is not something he’s throwing at “the new guy.” As it happens, Franklin has been the only offensive coordinator Dykes has ever had as a head coach — two years at Louisiana Tech and entering their third year at Cal.
If there is someone who can handle all three assignments with flying colors, it appears as if Franklin is the man. His “Tony Franklin System” is a well-known and well-respected offensive system used in hundreds of high school football programs and even colleges. It’s also the reason why Dykes and Franklin met in the first place. Franklin knows how to make every part of an offense sizzle.
And it’s not as if this is part of a Cal offensive coaching overhaul. The previous running backs coach, Pierre Ingram, has moved to the wide receivers. He has also been a part of every Dykes-coached team. It looks to be, at least from Cal’s point of view, a tweaking and not a full reshuffling.
But it also means that if the offense flounders, it won’t be Dykes’ fault. It’ll be Franklin’s. If the Bears don’t make a bowl game under Dykes for the third straight year, heads will be put on the chopping block, and one can make a pretty reasonable guess as to who would be offered up first.