It’s the Moment of Truth for Fisher; FSU

Written by Shawn Davison
It’s been 329 days since the Florida State Seminoles last won a home game and that win came last November against their hated, in-state rival Florida Gators. At the time, the Seminoles were capping off a comeback season following early losses to the Louisville Cardinals and UNC Tar Heels. The Seminoles were walloping opponents left and right and depending on who you ask, were a horrific call away from potentially defeating Clemson. Potentially knocking off the eventual reigning Atlantic Coast Conference and national champs out of the College Football Playoff altogether. FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher proclaimed that his team might just be the hottest team in the country. And he had a point. From there on, the Seminoles advanced to the Orange Bowl, rolled over a Michigan team that was an OT-loss to Ohio State removed from the College Football Playoff themselves, and set up their sky-high expectations for the 2017-2018 season.

I’m not going to bury the crux of this story any further. FSU lost to Louisville at home Saturday, 31-28. The ‘Noles had their hearts ripped out again in the final seconds. So, their 329 day winless streak will extend to at least 343 days. The ‘Noles now have a record of 2-4 on the season. They’re 2-3 in the ACC. They’re 0-3 in their home games and frankly, it’s shocking.

When asked about the fumble by quarterback James Blackman that set up the Cardinals’ game-winning field goal drive in the final minute or so of the game, and how it reflects on the season as a whole, Fisher said, “We’ve been one inch away, one play away (all season long).”

Indeed they have. But, so what? We’ve heard this song and dance time and time again.
The offense still struggles to move the ball for quarters at a time. The defense can’t find a way to get off the field on third down when it matters most. On both sides of the ball, this is simply unacceptable. It would be at any major D1 program. It is especially so at Florida State.

The FSU Football program is experiencing a disastrous 2017 season that words cannot begin to adequately explain. They need a turnaround, and quickly. Or FSU will not play in a bowl game. It would be the first time since 1981 that FSU would not be playing in a bowl game. FSU must somehow find a way to win on the road at Clemson, or at Florida and not lose to any of the teams that many would label as “inferior” along the way. It’s a tall task and a tough ask for a team that can’t get out of its own way. So, yes, this will focus primarily on Jimbo Fisher, because ultimately, it’s what he opts to do over the coming weeks and months that can alter the trajectory of his proud program.

“Our guys have a great attitude. They have great heart,” said Fisher after the loss to the Cardinals. “They care about each other. They are hurt again. They are hurt in that locker room because they knew they were that close.”

Nobody can deny this in the slightest. How else can a team manage to engineer 4th quarter comebacks and potential game winning drives with regularity like this bunch has? They were successful at Duke and Wake Forest. The offense did all it could do against Miami. They had a chance to ice it all away against Louisville before the costly fumble by Blackman. And sure, their losses have come to teams that were ranked #1, #8, #14 in the country and a team that sports the reigning Heisman winner. Not a bad bunch. But these are, at best, moral victories for a team that should never have any business settling for them.

Before I write any further, I will preface this by saying that there’s only so much Fisher can do with his coaching staff in the middle of the season. He may have already made the decision to make some changes. Is he? Who knows? But this answer may give you a window into his thought process…

“I understand you’re (the fans) going to get on us. That’s part of the business. That’s part of life. I understand that. When success happens, they put you too high. When failures happen, they put you too low. That goes with the territory. We’re going to coach the same way because there’s no quit in us either. We’re right there. Got to find a way to get it.”

I understand Fisher sticking up for his assistants and coordinators. Wholeheartedly. What else is the man going to do? BUT, here’s the deal… I recall the defensive press conference in Pasadena at the National Championship Game. Then FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt told the congregated media that at first, his coaching style wasn’t working in terms of getting results on the field. So, he changed it to suit the players better. And clearly, it worked…because after spotting Boston College 34 points, the team made opposing touchdowns more of a rarity than a regularity. It’s long been said that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again the same way and expecting a different result. Is it really a good idea to “keep coaching the same way” then? It has kept you a step away from the College Football Playoff since you were thrashed by Oregon, and this year, it got you a 2-4 record. I shudder to think of what else it’ll get you, too.

Bottom line, it’s time to acknowledge how inconsistent the defense has been under current defensive coordinator Charles Kelly and not just this season, but for years…and how the offensive line still looks shaky under offensive line coach Rick Trickett. Both men are well-known as being great coaches. They’ve done great work in the past. But something they’re doing just isn’t working at FSU at the moment…and it’s time to either make a change in what they are doing, or make a change on the staff, in general. Fisher has had plenty of assistants hired away by other schools, but he has yet to dismiss one. This needs to change, or Fisher himself could wind up going down with them. It sounds insane, I know, but it’s the ruthless nature of college sports…and many disgruntled Seminoles fans, who once again expect to win a whole bunch of games on a consistent basis, are already calling for drastic changes. If they don’t see them, they stop buying tickets, merchandise and so on. Fisher and FSU, right or wrong, cannot afford to play with fire here.

Beyond this, there’s the reality of being a 4-loss team in an 11-game schedule, with road trips to a top ten Clemson team and your in-state rival Florida. The possibility of losing both is incredibly real. In such a case that FSU were to lose those two games and NOT lose to Syracuse or Boston College, with Delaware State basically being paid to come down to Tallahassee to lose, the best record FSU is potentially looking at is 5-6. That would most likely mean FSU won’t be playing in a bowl game. Unless…

Florida State calls up University of Louisiana-Monroe. Hurricane Irma wiped that Week 2 game off the board. Not playing in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte could potentially put it back. The reschedule has been rumored about for a few weeks now, with not much clarity on what Fisher or the administration will choose to do, but in case you want the head coach’s two cents on it…

“If we can play — I love to play, so whatever we can play, we can play. I love to play ball, so it would be great.”

I don’t know about “great”, but if you want to see this FSU team in the postseason in any shape or form, it may be the only choice you have. Then you can look ahead to 2018…and hope that the situation looks a whole lot different and is much improved.

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