There’s some chatter out there that Jimbo Fisher is a primary target of Texas A&M to replace Kevin Sumlin. I don’t know if he’s an achievable target or not but the chatter is out there. He has a history with A&M’s Athletic Director as they were both together at LSU back in the day. They know each other which always helps in the hiring process. Would he be a good hire for Texas A&M? I’m not sure but let’s take a look.
Before I look at anything coaching related let’s be clear Jimbo Fisher is an asshole. He’s got a temper and it gets the best of him sometimes. Earlier this season he told a fan to come down and fight him after the fan told Jimbo he needed to fire some of his coaches. A lot of coaches are assholes so that’s not a big deal but you can’t engage fans and invite them to come out of the stands and fight you. If they jump out of the stands and confront you that’s one thing. If there’s a fan in the stands saying bad things as you run back to the locker room you have to keep going. You can’t engage any negative behavior from anyone in the stands ever. Words from a distance are just that and nothing more. Be bigger than that and move on.
Beyond that the thing that bothers me the most about Jimbo Fisher is his involvement in the Jameis Winston rape issue. It’s very Art Brilesesque. I obviously have no direct knowledge of what happened between Winston and the girl that night but what I do know is there appears to be a systematic failure to truly discover what occurred that night. The Florida State administration (including Athletics), Florida State Police Department, Tallahassee Police Department, and Tallahassee District Attorney are all either completely incompetent or weren’t really interested in finding out the truth over what happened that night. Jimbo Fisher is a part of that. Where they purposefully covering up for a star athlete, afraid to find out the truth, or just incompetent? I don’t know the answer but it was one of those three if you read how everything was handled involving the investigation. It doesn’t give you a warm and fuzzy feeling things were handled correctly. Well, that is if you think rape is a really bad thing and deserves investigating. If you think rape is no big deal then I’m sure you don’t have an issue with how things were handled.
If Texas A&M is serious about hiring Jimbo Fisher I want a very lengthy and extensive conversation as to what he knew and how he would handle the Jameis Winston situation looking back at it. I would purposefully ask him what he thinks of the situations with Joe Paterno at Penn State and Art Briles at Baylor. In both of those instances those coaches just wanted to wash their hands of the situations. They had no interest in taking the lead and doing what was right in those situations. Fisher at best was similar with Jameis Winston. He seemed to just want to know if he’d have his star quarterback to play games. Fisher did not take the lead trying to uncover the truth about that night. That’s fine as it shouldn’t necessarily be the head coach’s job but at some point I hope he at least had an uneasy feeling for how things were handled. I would ask him that point blank.
If he’s flippant or not contrite in how things were handled I’d thank him for his time telling him he was free to leave. Think back to the Art Briles interview on ESPN the season after he was let go. He was very vague about everything never offering specifics and seemed to fake feeling contrite only because he was supposed to. If Fisher is not sincere in his answers to how things could have been handled with Winston then there’s no point in asking him further questions.
I can handle an asshole as a head coach but when it comes to matters of rape I want someone that understands the severity of something like that. I want someone that understands there’s a point where a line is crossed and people need to step back thinking about more than football. I don’t expect a head coach to be a saint and perfect at all times but I do need to know my head coach does in fact have a moral compass and there’s a line that once crossed everyone needs to step back and think about what is truly going on. There’s a time to protect the players but there’s also a clear line when a player is accused of something that maybe football shouldn’t be a factor until it’s all sorted out. It took A&M too long to handle the Kirk Merritt situation appropriately and I want a coach that recognizes those situations and handles them quick and swiftly. There’s a clear line between boys being boys and someone doing something harmful to someone else. I want to know Jimbo is FULLY aware where that line is.
I certainly don’t want A&M ever turning into a Penn St or Baylor where I fully question my support of the University as a whole. I also don’t want A&M turning into a Florida State or Oklahoma where I question if a player was protected or given something they don’t deserve simply because they’re really good at football. No player is ever above the program. Even if it means a national championship because we’re playing a player that likely raped someone or laid a woman out. I want Jimbo Fisher to understand that up front. If he’s not on board with that then there’s no reason to continue discussion any further. Being an asshole is one thing. Being a sleazy coach putting wins above what’s right is another.
With that out of the way let’s look at Jimbo as a head coach. He’s an outstanding head coach. He’s having his worst season in his 8 seasons as head coach. He’s currently at 3-5 and in jeopardy of not making a bowl game if he can’t beat Florida. He’s doing so bad they had to re-schedule the canceled game against Louisiana-Monroe because FSU will need that game to become bowl eligible. That game was originally canceled thinking it wouldn’t be needed for bowl eligibility. This season has turned out differently for FSU so they scheduled that game so FSU can get 6 wins to go to a bowl. FSU lost their starting QB in the opening game against Bama but they’ve looked terrible this season with close wins over Wake Forest, Duke, and Syracuse. Those shouldn’t be FSU’s only wins and they shouldn’t close. That’s not a good look for Jimbo even losing his starting QB in the first game.
When you look at the other 7 seasons during his time at FSU it paints a different picture. You know about the national championship in 2013. Coming into this season Fisher has only had one season where he didn’t win 10 games. 6 out of 7 seasons he’s had 10 wins or more. That’s pretty damn impressive. He’s been to a bowl game every year and is 5-2 in bowl games including 2 Orange Bowl wins. He beat Michigan in last year’s Orange Bowl. His two bowl losses were the Rose Bowl in 2014 when they lost to Oregon in Winston’s second season and then in 2015 when they lost the Peach Bowl to Tom Herman and UH. I believe FSU was missing both of their starting quarterbacks on the season at that point. Great win by UH but I don’t think FSU was playing with a full deck. Fisher’s bowl record is pretty damn impressive. He seems to have his team show up in big games for the most part. I like that.
Fisher’s coaching tree is pretty impressive having coached under both Nick Saban and Bobby Bowden. He was named Bowden’s successor as coach in waiting and it actually worked out. FSU was actually pretty mediocre before he took over as they went 7-6 in three of the four seasons before Fisher took over. FSU’s best season in those four seasons was 9-4 two years before Fisher took over. Fisher made immediate improvements to a FSU program that had slipped to above average and was no longer dominate. The dude can coach without a doubt.
He’s an offensive coach through and through having been a quarterback in college. He’s always been on the offensive side of the ball having coached mainly quarterbacks and been a very high profile offensive coordinator at LSU and FSU before assuming the head job after Bobby Bowden. FSU for the most part has never had issues scoring points. Fisher is the main reason for that as he appears to call the plays himself. He has two co-offensive coordinators but not sure how much they help with the game plan and calling plays during the game.
From a recruiting standpoint Fisher is an outstanding recruiter. The area around Tallahassee is a hot bed for recruiting but Fisher has had a top 10 class every year except for 2013 where FSU ranked 11th so it wasn’t far off. In the last four years he’s signed a class ranked #6 or higher. That’s pretty damn impressive even if he’s in a great area for recruiting. No reason he couldn’t do the same in Texas as it’s a great area to recruit as well. He must not be that big of an asshole to kids if he’s pulling those kinds of recruiting classes.
In doing research on Fisher my main concern outside of the moral question is his staff seems to be pretty complacent. It looks like a lot of the same guys he’s had for a while and many of them should be considered to be replaced. The hiring of assistants is one of the most important things a college head coach can do. Nick Saban is a master at it. He’s continually replacing his guys because some of his guys move on to better jobs or Saban feels they need to be replaced. I would want Fisher to challenge his assistants and never let them get complacent. I think Kevin Sumlin has done a lot of that with his offensive staff letting everyone getting complacent. Sumlin has definitely done this on the offensive side of the ball. I would want Fisher to detail out his plan for his assistants in the immediate and long term. A complacent staff can kill a football program.
In looking at Fisher there’s no doubt in my mind he’s a Top 10 college head coach. He has some unexplainable losses every season but so does every coach not named Nick Saban. That includes Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Chris Petersen, James Franklin, Jim Harbaugh, and any other coach you can think of. It happens and you just have to deal with it unless you’re Alabama with Nick Saban. Jimbo Fisher clearly belongs in that next class of coaches that aren’t Nick Saban.
If A&M hired Jimbo Fisher I think he’d immediately vault Texas A&M to at least the third best team in the SEC West and likely the second best SEC West team every season. We’d become a better LSU during the Les Miles era as we’d actually have a competent offense. This is assuming nobody in the West hires a lights out coach like Fisher as well. I think we could compete with Alabama year in and year out even winning one every four years or so. Fisher wouldn’t be cheap at all but the results are pretty guaranteed. We’d be a legit Top 15 team year in and year out with Fisher. More than likely we’d be a Top 10 team most of the years.
Assuming the A&M higher ups make it clear to Fisher there’s a CLEAR line when it comes to the morality of players I’m good with the Fisher higher. I’m fine with him being an asshole sometimes because he wins games. What I’m not okay with is him being a sleazeball putting wins above doing what’s right when it comes to his players. No player is above the program at Texas A&M. Johnny Manziel came close but he was just signing autographs and getting drunk like a lot of college players do. I don’t expect a team of saints but I do expect a team that knows things like rape and female assault are never acceptable. Other violent crimes and major theft also apply here.
If Jimbo is aware of that and willing to make his players aware and uphold those standards then I’m perfectly fine with him as Texas A&M’s head coach. He’d make us a damn good program in no time at all. He’s not a slam dunk hire and wouldn’t be cheap but he’s about as big of a guarantee in college football as it gets right now.