The Daily Nole

Column: Fisher Has Lost Whatever Good Will He Had Remaining

Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

It has now been over three seasons since Florida State won the national championship. The 34-31 title game victory over Auburn topped off years of program development devoted to recruiting more talent, overhauling the coaching staff, and installing a brand new identity. It got the proverbial monkey off the back of head coach Jimbo Fisher, whose teams had suffered questionable losses in the previous two seasons.

Fans were willing to see a couple of non-championship seasons if it was part of the natural ebb-and-flow of college football seasons. After all, there’s only been two programs in the past decade who have been able to do that. For almost every fan who had doubts about Fisher’s ability to lead a program, the title assured them it was in good hands.

That was over three seasons ago. Jimbo Fisher has now lost whatever good will he had remaining.

When the Seminoles opened up the season 0-2 with a loss at home to N.C. State, many had already assumed that Fisher’s slack had run out. It had certainly been reduced a great deal. But with remaining big rivalry games against Miami, Clemson, and Florida, there was still a chance for Fisher to secure whatever leeway was still present. Saturday’s 24-20 loss to the Hurricanes eliminated that chance.

There’s a couple reasons why this loss has provoked this situation.

The obvious one is that the Miami game was Fisher’s last remaining “emblem”. As in, no matter how many times the team frustrated with bad play or even dropped an easily winnable game, you knew that Fisher still had the ability to properly prepare his team for an important game.

To win seven straight against Miami as an FSU head coach is an incredible accomplishment — something even the legendary Bobby Bowden never did. Sure, the Hurricanes had been in a downturn until head coach Mark Richt showed up in 2016. But rivalry games like FSU-Miami are so important that it didn’t matter how bad either program was when they played. It was still going to be a hard-fought game.

Fisher could hang his hat on the streak. It was one of the most noticeable marks of his tenure at Florida State.

Now that the streak is over, Fisher basically has nothing left that he can point to and say “This is what will give you confidence in me”. He has had three or more losses for now three straight seasons. October has just started and FSU is effectively out of both the ACC and playoff picture — for a second year in a row.

Since 2016, FSU is 3-4 at home against FBS opponents. Problems with the staff did not arise out of nowhere, and Fisher put the future of the 2017 team on a few who did not deserve it. He can still lead a national championship team — just not with the current coaches.

The second reason is that Fisher has tried to convince fans and media alike with late Bobby Bowden era comments. The difference in public perception between someone like Butch Jones and Dabo Swinney is that Swinney wins enough to back it up. When your team is 1-3, and you just lost to one of your biggest rivals at home, and your press conference is filled with questionable comments, people see through the smokescreen.

“So I told our players, like I said, there’s no reason to hang your head,” Fisher said in the post-game press conference. “You competed your tail off. That was a classic game. That was a great game. They’re a good team. We’re a good team. They made one more play. We got to find ways to do that.”

FSU had just saw one of its longest streaks ever against a rival come crashing to a close. A late defensive collapse caused a loss that may have been the most heartbreaking of the six in the past two seasons. The Hurricanes made one more play? That’s how they won?

“But I was proud of our team,” Fisher said. “I still think we really grew today in a lot of ways, got better. Still 1-3. I understand that. But at the same time, we’re getting better.”

Perhaps the last thing any fan wants to hear after a devastating loss to a rival that you’ve beat seven years in a row is that their team “got better”. Did a few players improve? Certainly. Quarterback James Blackman came up big in the fourth quarter (142 yards, two touchdowns). Running back Cam Akers appeared much more comfortable and did very well in place of a hobbled Jacques Patrick. Others like defensive ends Josh Sweat and Brian Burns have matured greatly.

That doesn’t mean the team itself has actually gotten better. There’s simply very little proof of that. Heck, this might be the worst FSU squad of Fisher’s eight years in Tallahassee as head coach. Trying to spin a 1-3 team as “getting better” sits well with pretty much no one.

This situation will probably get worse before it gets better. There is no guarantee that FSU makes it to a bowl game at this point. Certain coaches will likely continue to have their players ill-prepared for upcoming games. Some players are even publicly showing their dislike of coaching staff decisions.

Florida State is not destined for another “Lost Decade”. Fisher is still a good coach that knows how to play to his offensive strengths. Talent is still present everywhere on the roster, and certain coaches are definitely good enough to retain their jobs.

But Saturday’s loss hurt Fisher’s legacy. It now has the ability to cause a season to spiral out of control. If Fisher doesn’t get a handle on it now, it will be his future that is in jeopardy.

2 Comments

  1. Edwin Collins

    October 8, 2017 at 10:06 am

    It is inexcusable to ever let Mark “traitor” Richt win in Tallahassee. We had two timeouts at the end of the game. We took them to the locker room. Charley Kelly should have called a timeout before that last play after seeing Miami’s line up. It would’ve slowed momentum and allowed for adjustments.

    No Excuses left! This team is not being coached!

  2. mmccscribe

    October 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Ah, nothing like a little impotent fury and rage. It’s actually kind of fun to see it. People acting like the program owes them something. Can you get a refund for the time you spent watching the game last night? Le sigh.

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