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Jimbo Fisher: Overrated, Overpaid, But Somehow Still Too Good for A&M

A quick note on national media coverage amid coaching rumors.

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New Mexico v Texas A&M Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

Jimbo Fisher is not leaving Texas A&M to coach for LSU in 2021. Think about it for more than a literal second. It’s not happening. He definitely considered it! Any agent worth his salt, especially one as good at wringing boosters’ pocketbooks as Jimmy Sexton, would have looked at the vultures hovering over Ed Orgeron’s LSU tenure weeks before the season kicked off as an opportunity to squeeze more cash for their client. This is almost certainly how Jimbo secured a monster 10-year, $95 million extension in September.

Dan Wolken, like so many others, had something to say when that happened. “There was no actual urgency or significance to giving Fisher a new contract,” he wrote in his Misery Index column three weeks ago, “other than the vague possibility that LSU might fire Ed Orgeron and come after him after the season.”

Seems like there was some urgency after all!

Is any college coach worth that much? Almost certainly not. But the nifty, oft-forgotten fact of the matter is that none of that contract money came from the fans or even Texas A&M University. It most likely came from men who would’ve otherwise blown their excess capital on fracking rigs, dubious political advocacy groups and his-and-her matching Teslas. So you’ll understand why fans are nonplussed about stupid-rich alumni shoveling more zeroes into the platitude-spouting hick’s bank account in exchange for program stability and occasionally beating a team like, say, Alabama.

Still, it’s sensible to want to make fun of A&M. I sincerely don’t hold it against any sportswriter making the case that Jimbo’s contract is embarrassing for society, that he and Sexton are robbing the Aggies blind or that his tenure so far, while solid, doesn’t nearly justify the price tag. This sport is a magnificent neverending story with winners and losers switching places season to season, week to week, and day to day. Pointing and laughing at others’ misfortune in the moment is part of the fun. I only ask that members of the national media consistently making Jimbo out to be an overrated and overpaid coach keep the same energy when there’s a minuscule chance of him leaving.

Thus, we arrive at Pete Thamel. The Yahoo Sports contributor spilled a great deal of ink in 2020 before the Ags’ doomed trip to Tuscaloosa. “Considering all the self-congratulatory noise Texas A&M made when hiring Fisher, the on-field realities have been defiantly vanilla,” he wrote. “You don’t guarantee $75 million over 10 years for vanilla.” After the Arkansas loss this season, he happily guffawed with his College Football Enquirer co-hosts at Jimbo running his program’s pockets while Sam Pittman took the Hogs to the moon.

Again, all good and fine! Schadenfreude and overreactions are football’s bread and butter. I certainly would’ve seen things similarly as a neutral observer. But imagine my surprise when the same man emerged from that media dogpile just a few weeks later to proclaim that LSU’s current AD, Scott Woodward, was gunning for the championship coach he brought to College Station.

“Woodward lured [Fisher] to Texas A&M for a historic 10-year, $75 million contract that was fully guaranteed if A&M fired Fisher,” Thamel wrote. “It also wouldn’t cost Fisher a penny to leave. And even after Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork extended Fisher earlier this season—a move widely regarded as a way to fend off LSU—there’s still no cost for Fisher to walk away.”

No cost at all! Except for leaving the most secure job in collegiate sports and $95 million guaranteed to head an admittedly more storied program marred by sexual assault scandals and missing almost all of its key players and assistants from 2019.

“Fisher will bring consistent and quality quarterback play and development. He also has shown the capability to counter Nick Saban, as the upset in College Station showed last weekend. Fisher brings the confidence, maturity and decision-making inherent to a coach who has been at a high-profile job for 12 years and won a national title at Florida State in 2013. The list starts here.”

To use a tired metaphor, what we have here is a case of Schrodinger’s Coach. Jimbo is simultaneously an overhyped huckster slowly but surely running A&M’s prospects into the ground and an elite offensive mind capable of unlocking LSU’s potential trapped in a historically mediocre program. Or, he is both and neither until someone needs clicks on a deadline.

This isn’t about Thamel per se, though he was the one proudly carrying the banner for the LSU rumors (only for those rumors to burn out days later when Jimbo asserted publicly that, yes, $95 million is just enough to stay in Aggieland for now). It seems that every time Aggie football gets the national media’s attention, a scourge of amnesia sweeps over otherwise bright sportswriters, wiping all memory of the program and everything that has changed about it since 2010. “Of course Jimbo’s leaving for LSU,” they shout, “Regardless of money, it’s the better program!”

Aggie fans will be tempted to point to A&M’s seemingly infinite resources, overwhelming investment in Jimbo’s success, top 5 AP Poll finish in 2020, and friendly community (or whatever) to try and make these media figures see the light. My advice: don’t bother. Their minds will remain made up until they see Aggies holding a trophy. Even then, they would still have Jimbo on their shortlist to take the Notre Dame job in 2027.