A&M beat writer Brent Zwerneman recently appeared on the Paul Finebaum show to discuss the current state of the Aggie Football program, specifically in reference to the upcoming coaching search. By now it has been made pretty clear that Kevin Sumlin will not be returning as head coach in 2018, and so naturally the topic of possible replacements has come up. Brent specifically named Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher as a possible replacement
“I’m gonna drop one that I mixed into a column a few days ago and it’s a name I heard in the week after the UCLA game and that’s Jimbo Fisher...from talking to people, that hasn’t changed.
“I will say that Jimbo Fisher has been mentioned around here for some time now.”
Fisher is in his 8th season at FSU and has a 81-22 record, with 3 ACC titles and a BCS championship. I reached out to Bud Elliott, founder of the Florida State SBNation Site Tomahawk Nation to pick his brain on the veracity of these rumors.
Good Bull Hunting: Let’s get this out of the way...would Jimbo leave FSU for A&M? If so, why?
Bud: I don't know. FSU's given him basically everything he wants, and he gets to face an ACC schedule with SEC resources. But it is so hard to stay at a place for more than a decade, and he's been in Tallahassee since 2007 as the OC, and since 2010 as the head coach. Some coaches are tremendous as change agents, but their style grates on people and eventually, people within the program resent the coach, tune him out, or both. Fisher is an incredible change agent, but it's yet to be seen if he can be a maintainer. If he believes that he is better as a change agent, then starting over elsewhere makes sense. I do think he would immediately jump start a program if he were to jump jobs. I can't rule out Fisher getting things turned around at Florida State, because it is so easy to win in Tallahassee, but there are a ton of examples of guys getting recharged with a change of scenery, and very few of coaches getting the magic back once its gone at their current program.
What’s the situation on Jimbo’s buyout?
Bud: Fisher owes roughly $7M if he leaves (the amount remaining on his assistant's contracts) if he wants to leave, but FSU would owe roughly $40M if he's fired
What’s the vibe around Jimbo right now? Is he generally thought of positively?
Bud: It's mixed, but the majority of the fanbase, from what I can tell, are content to blame a lot of assistant coaches for the year's failures, as opposed to the head man.
What happened this year (referring to the current 3-5 record)
Bud: Fisher failed in his evaluation and management of the coaching staff over the last several years, not realizing changes were necessary, or flat refusing to make the necessary changes.
Eventually, the stale staff began to impact the better coaches on the staff, and the whole thing is simply a mess. This was avoidable. This is the most underachieving defense in college football, relative to talent level. Offensively, FSU is down to a true freshman QB who didn't enroll early, a true freshman RB, most of its good wideouts have missed a lot of time, and two of its better offensive linemen. The offense is worse than the defense, but the defense is more disappointing. Add in a brutal schedule and a hurricane, and a staff that has largely checked out, and ...
Were Jimbo to stay, what does next year look like for you?
Bud: It all depends on the coaching changes. The offense should be better due to experience, but the defense loses the majority of its starts. Clemson and UF come to Tallahassee, while FSU must travel to South Bend, Raleigh, and Miami Gardens. The last two years were a tremendous waste of defensive talent. 2016 was somewhat hard to prevent, but the 2017 disaster was quite preventable from a coaching standpoint.
How do you think Jimbo would fare in the SEC west?
Bud: Probably extremely well, at least initially. He is an incredible recruiter, would have a new staff (I doubt he'd take anyone with him from his FSU staff, which speaks to how bad he's allowed things to get in Tallahassee, but maybe Tim Brewster would be a possibility since he knows Houston recruiting so well), and I've seen how people react to his message when he takes over a program. Sumlin is what, 24-22 in SEC play? I think Fisher could go maybe 30-18 or something in a six-year run?
What do you think an A&M version of Jimbo’s staff would look like?
Bud: The defensive coordinator would be a DB coach by trade, because Fisher believes in calling a defense back to front. The offense will have two ace recruiters, and he'll want someone who can teach receivers well, because his system demands a ton of them. Fisher seems to put a premium on coaches who have coached for or have some connection to Nick Saban, which can be good and bad.
Who do you think FSU would target as a replacement?
Bud: I'd go after Willie Taggart, because he has proven himself to be an amazing recruiter, and he hires good coaches who like working for him. Gary Patterson would also be on the list, I'd imagine.
I appreciate Bud’s time in answering these questions. It still seems like an absolute pipe dream that A&M would be able to pull a national title winning coach away from a school like Florida State, but it seems like the Aggies will take their best shot.