The Daily Nole

FSU Fans, Point Your Fingers in the Right Direction

Photo courtesy of Mitch White/FSU athletics

Florida State’s stunning loss to North Carolina on Saturday made its ripple effect across the college football world quickly, and as expected, the Florida State fan base was thrown into upheaval. The nation’s longest home winning streak had just been snapped on a 54-yard field goal attempt, just minutes after many FSU fans believed their team had secured the hard-fought victory.

It was a brutal loss, of course. The phrase “winning solves everything” could not be more apropos: imagine if the Seminoles had slightly more luck on Saturday. How does the rest of the schedule begin to look? Does defensive coordinator Charles Kelly’s seat stay the same temperature? Do the talks about head coach Jimbo Fisher’s future subside?

It happens after every FSU loss. Without fail, whether it be fans on Twitter or even media figures, talk of Fisher’s job security will undoubtedly arise. The most recent loss is no exception. Already, there are Seminole fans expressing approval at the idea of Fisher leaving for LSU or outright getting fired.

Who do FSU fans think they can get? Better question: Who do they think FSU will actually pony up for? This shouldn’t come as a shock for anyone that follows Florida State, but in case you haven’t noticed, the athletics department isn’t particularly keen on throwing money around to whoever they desire. Some call it cheap, some call it frugal, but the point remains that they won’t be forking over more cash than they think reasonable.

You know who’s going to be the No. 1 choice? Houston’s Tom Herman. You know who FSU will be going up against in a bidding war? Multiple teams, including most likely LSU and USC. Heck, Texas and Notre Dame could be in the mix.

If LSU hires Fisher after the hypothetical firing or just lures him away from Tallahassee, that solves one strand, but the idea that there won’t be a long list of suitors is pure fantasy. The Seminoles would almost certainly need to open the wallet, and they aren’t keen on doing so.

There’s a lot of coaches worse than Fisher. There aren’t many who are better.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Charles Kelly and how much blame could be attributed to him. I said that the year should play out before any decisions about his future are made.

At this point, I still believe that. But if he was let go in some capacity, I wouldn’t protest.

We could go on for hundreds of words about what mistakes the defense has continued to make, about where the staff needs to put its attention, which players have under-performed, etc. But there’s no point in ranting about that. Instead, I want to make an observation.

The week before it entered Doak Campbell Stadium, North Carolina beat the Pittsburgh Panthers by a score of 37-36. That’s a 1-point difference from Saturday’s 37-35 win in Tallahassee. That means that the FSU defense is on par with the Panthers.

Pittsburgh is a team with a second-year head coach in Pat Narduzzi, who has not had a team yet full of players he recruited. It should go without saying that the Panthers don’t have the talent Florida State does. They simply aren’t the type of program that can draw FSU-level players.

Still, they gave up the exact number of points as the Seminoles, held Mitch Trubisky to a lower completion percentage (76 percent to 81 percent), held him to fewer yards per attempt, and absolutely stunted the UNC rushing game (giving up 18 yards compared to FSU’s 133).

The defense is bad and Kelly is a bad defensive coordinator. At this moment in time, that is a fact. The lowest number of points his defense has given up to FBS competition is 34. The average is more than 42.

Kelly has been at the helm for two of the worst blowouts in Seminole history — the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon to conclude 2014 and Week 3 vs. Louisville. His defenses require the offense to put up 40 or more points to secure a victory. FSU is currently dead last in yards per play allowed among Power 5 teams (6.98). Going forward, it’s hard to justify Kelly keeping his job or even to make a legitimate case that he is FSU’s best option.

Some media members will point towards Fisher making bad decisions as the biggest concern for Florida State. Did he make bad decisions? Of course.

After the second missed field goal, it should have been obvious to him that Ricky Aguayo was not having his regular type of game. It would’ve probably been better to try and put up points late in the first half also, considering the success his offense was having up to that point in actually moving the ball.

Fisher’s offense however, scored 35 points and touchdowns on each of its final four possessions. The Seminoles marched 75 yards in just over two minutes at end of the game to take the lead with 23 seconds left. They averaged more than seven yards per play. They had more total yards than UNC and controlled the ball more about 10 minutes more than the Tar Heels. Fisher is not the biggest concern at this point — not even close — and if someone tries to sell you that, you need to remain skeptical.

Fisher in the postgame was almost apologetic. He said they needed to coach better, and that they had missed opportunities come back to bite them.

“That’s the same defense we ran in 2013, 2014, 2015, and we played a little bit last year,” he said. “I’m not blaming the kids. It’s not that.”

If there is one avenue to properly criticize Fisher on, it is keeping Kelly in the first place. But that’s also not entirely fair: when FSU signed Kelly to a bonus, it was after his defense had a strong 2015 and Auburn was trying to poach him.

Florida State would have then had to hire its fourth defensive coordinator in five years. It wasn’t unreasonable to keep Kelly at that moment.

Five games into 2016 however, and it’s clear that he’s not up to the task.

Obviously, this is not where Florida State fans wanted or expected to find the Seminoles at this point in the year: 3-2 with the ACC Championship almost certainly out of reach and questions about staff competency being debated. It’s probably more shocking because it’s the first FSU team that that simply looks worse than its opponents without explanation besides coaching.

2011 saw a team racked by injuries in just the second year of Fisher’s tenure. In 2012, FSU lost two games overall, but was still able to win the ACC and a BCS bowl. The 2014 squad didn’t look good, but they still went undefeated until the College Football Playoff.

This team though? They just aren’t living up to expectations.

And that’s on the coaches.

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