As the NFL preseason games are upon us, there are a few things Detroit Lions fans should know about free-agent quarterback James Franklin. I have observed these things from watching virtually all of his games at Missouri.
One of Franklin’s greatest assets is his ability to slide around in the pocket and buy time. He is tremendous at this. He does not get rattled by pressure and can wait until the last split-second to deliver the ball. On top of this he has a quick release. Franklin’s game at Tennessee in 2012 was a great example of this as he kept Mizzou in the game with his ability to buy time in the pocket and ultimately deliver touchdown passes. Mizzou won in overtime in no small part due to this. Franklin was 19 of 32 for 226 yards passing with four touchdowns and one interception. His efficiency rating for the game was 153.7.
Franklin learns from his mistakes. As a sophomore and junior at Missouri he threw a number of interceptions that were simply the result of trying to do too much. He would attempt to force the ball into coverage. It was just a matter of trying to make something happen. He cleaned this up completely his senior year.
Franklin’s passes do not look as good as they are. They will never be featured in an NFL highlight film spiraling down from the heavens in slow motion. But he is effective. He is accurate and the ball is very catchable. I remember a guy who threw the ugliest balls ever. I called them blooper balls. It didn’t matter because the Oakland Raiders won a Super Bowl with Jim Plunkett, the author of those blooper balls. However, Franklin doesn’t throw bloopers and his passes are really better than they look. He puts the ball in there.
With fullback size at 6’2″ and 230 pounds, Franklin can run over people, if necessary, and he doesn’t mind contact. They didn’t call him “Frank the Tank” in high school for nothing. In his sophomore year at Missouri, his beasting the ball into the end zone against Texas A&M is a good example. He ran over multiple would-be tacklers on a 20 yard run to paydirt to put Mizzou on the board first in the game. Franklin was 16 of 24 for 198 yards passing with 2 touchdowns, including one for 42 yards, and no interceptions. He also rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns, including the one mentioned above, and an eight yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter which was critical in Missouri’s win at College Station.
Franklin is mentally tough. He took a lot of grief, armchair quarterbacking, and second-guessing at Missouri. And he responded with a stellar senior season. He keeps his mind focused on what is in front of him and can screen out distractions. This is something Mizzou head man Gary Pinkel emphasizes and calls “Park It.” You park the bad play, bad thought, or distraction. There is no time to dwell on it and you move on to the next item at hand. Franklin is very focused.
Franklin is a gamer and never gives up. His last game at Missouri is an example. There were many dropped balls and it was a tough, close game right down to the end. When Missouri really needed it at the end, Franklin responded with a clutch completion down the sideline. It seemed like it would never happen, but Franklin stayed with it. Missouri won that Cotton Bowl over Oklahoma State.
His games at Arizona State, as a sophomore, and at Tennessee, as junior, are two of the best quarterbacked games in Missouri history. The Tennessee game is mentioned above. In the Arizona State game, he showcased his mobility and was able to make big plays repeatedly. It was only the second game he ever started in college, yet it put him on the map as a big-time prospect. In that game he was 26 of 42 in passing for 319 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 84 yards and 1 touchdown.
Franklin is a winner. He started two bowl games in his career and Mizzou won both. He led Mizzou to winning the SEC East when they were roundly predicted to finish near the basement. Bottom line, Mizzou was a winner with James Franklin at quarterback. That did not happen by accident.