3:30 Update: It looks like something started that "Jimbo to Auburn, Done Deal" rumor to stir up interest and they have now lost a bit of credibility in my eyes. I had serious doubts that it was a done deal and that is why I couched it in the language below. I continue to believe that Chuck Amato is done, that Jimbo very well could take the Auburn job, and that the administration needs to seriously act on the suggestions in this article. To me, this seems like a real issue, and not a bluff. I also continue to believe that some action(s) by those in power could go a long way to easing Jimbo's concerns, and that the actions need not be taken all at once.
There is a persistent rumor that Florida State Head Coach in Waiting Jimbo Fisher has taken the Auburn job. I am unable to get any Auburn person to confirm that he has indeed accepted the big money, however, so it seems to be smoke at this point. If he has accepted the job, however, I could think of no better time for Auburn to announce the new hire than during Alabama's biggest moment in 10 years-- the SEC Championship Game.
I love FSU to death, but to be perfectly honest, if I was Jimbo I would take the Auburn job unless FSU made some serious and immediate changes. Frankly, Jimbo should be scared by the attitude and actions of the FSU program. For now, let's proceed under the assumption that he has not accepted the Auburn position. Inside I outline what could happen and what FSU needs to do to avoid a massive failure.
- Why Jimbo Fisher would take the Auburn job;.
- What FSU can do to keep Fisher and avoid a program collapse; and
- My thoughts on the SEC Championship game
- Can the Seminole fan base support three subscription sites in the offseason, given this economy?
Jimbo & Auburn
I first speculated about this on Wednesday, before any of the Florida based media outlets had the story. There are some advantages to living in Alabama.
At about 4PM on Wednesday I wrote:
Word is they're coming after Jimbo Fisher.
They still are. Auburn is a program hellbent on beating Alabama. They are much more intense than we are. They talk Auburn football 24/7. FSU is a better program than Auburn, but the difference is not huge. They play in the better long term football conference (though the ACC is better this year overall).
Jimbo understands that this program has fallen off in a big way. We still do some things very well (recruit), but are massively behind the times as far as progressive tactics, facilities, etc. Our booster base is shrinking and could theoretically fall below 10,000 in number. We also have the sanctions coming and they could hit us hard.
Take a look at a few of the things going on here:
Bobby Bowden is slowly killing the program as he has been for the last 7 years. Our big time boosters are different than those at Auburn. Instead of demanding excellence, they accept mediocrity while worrying about whether they could play golf with Jimbo (this is a commonly cited concern). Auburn's boosters on the other hand, while meddlesome, recognized the slide into mediocrity under Tubberville (3 straight years of declining recruiting classes and the monster that is Nick Saban).
Jimbo does more work than just about any coach in the country, yet is paid like an assistant. FSU has thrown away over 20 million dollars on Bowden mediocrity this decade, and doesn't have any problem with it. Jimbo deserves to be paid as our head coach immediately, as he currently acts as head coach, offensive coordinator, ace recruiter, and babysitter.
As for the Auburn job, I was able to talk to some people with an Auburn perspective tonight, and here is what they believe:
- They believe Jimbo to have a 5 million dollar buyout and have already stated that money is no object in this deal.
- Bobby Petrino is off the board as his buyout is 11.4 million due to a specific clause prohibiting him from going to an SEC west team.
- Houston Nutt is off the table as he signed an extension tonight with Ole Miss.
- Mike Leach is in play. Texas Tech Graham Harell said that there is a "great chance" coach Leach leaves to pursue a new challenge. Leach is weird, however, and some believe that his background (rumored to be Mormon and a bit of a losse cannon) could be troublesome at Auburn.
- Jimbo is the top target. His wife is an Auburn grad and he was the OC at Auburn for 6 years in the 90's.
- Turner Gill (Buffalo's head coach) has been bandied about, however this seems to have stemmed primarily from an interview with Sir Charles Barkley (an Auburn Alum) on 94.5 FM Radio. This rumor is picking up steam after Gill's Buffalo team defeated previously unranked Ball State to win the MAC title. Do not expect anything to come of this as they are worried about his connections in the south as well as other "cultural" issues.
Jimbo Fisher, offensive coordinator "head coach in waiting" at Florida State
It's hard to come up with a coach who would be a better fit at Auburn. Fisher spent five seasons as Auburn's quarterbacks coach. During that time, his wife, Candi, graduated from Auburn. She grew up in Birmingham. Fisher has not hidden his affection for Auburn.
There is little question that, if buyout issues can be resolved, Fisher would choose being head coach at Auburn over being head coach at Florida State. He definitely would bring several former Auburn players home to coach.
A lot of people believe that Jimbo is just using this to get a raise or to gain more control over the program and personnel matters. I say that does not matter. Anything he does in relation to staying at FSU is being done in the interest of making sure the program is in good shape when he does take over. The fact is that he could easily leave and take the Auburn job. FSU needs to play this perfectly. Jimbo holds all the cards in this game and those in power for the Seminoles need to quickly examine their empty hand and fold. Losing Jimbo would destroy the Florida State football program for the next decade, of that I am very certain. Oh, and do you think he might take Trickett and Coley with him?
What do we need to do to keep Jimbo?
- Let go of Bowden and the defensive staff immediately following the Bowl game; or
this series of events (I believe that all of these conditions need to be met, as they are bare minimum):
Strip Chuck Amato of any current recruiting powers and dismiss him following the bowl game. I have reason to believe this has already been done and that Jimbo now has broad power to offer defensive players as he sees fit.
- Allow Jimbo to fill any vacancies that may occur this offseason.
Pay Jimbo a top 15 head coach salary (see comment section for list) beginning in the 2009 season. He currently performs all of the head coaching duties and the offensive coordinator duties.
- Explicitly and publicly define 2009 as the last season for Bowden and Mickey (if Mickey doesn't retire after the bowl game).
- There are very mixed feelings on GT Coach Paul Johnson.
- Do not completely rule out a huge money deal for Will Muschamp.
To those who say that Jimbo should want to stay and that we shouldn't want him if he is going to consider other jobs, I say get real. Jimbo is doing an incredible job with a largely untenable situation. There is no way he expected Bowden back for 2009. He is not being compensated for his work in line with the packages of other head coaches at major programs. The time for action and finality is now. People need to wake up and realize that the new breed of coach works extremely hard, is cut throat, ruthless, will do great things for your program, but also looks out for his own interests. There are no more Bobby Bowden's out there. I don't expect Jimbo to last more than 15 years at FSU, but I do want him for those 15. If the administration is so asleep at the wheel as to let Auburn steal our young superstar while keeping the useless old man, I will seriously reconsider my allegiance to FSU football until a new administration and staff enters.
The SEC Championship Game
I am very excited to see today's ACC Championship Game. As you probably know, I go to Alabama, so I have extra incentive to see them beat the hated Gators. Bama fans have been thanking me all week for Nigel's hit on Percy Harvin. In any case, Smartfootball has an amazing write up on this game, which is essentially a coach's breakdown of the UF Offense
If the old running offenses of yesteryear, in reflecting earlier times, were like punishing boxers who engaged in matches where the biggest and strongest won, then offenses like Johnson's and Meyer's, in reflecting their times, are like martial arts: without sacrificing either strength or power, they punish you but also use speed, quickness, and cleverness to hit you where you do not expect and probe to find your weak spots, and to exploit them, without mercy.
You may remember his breakdown of Nick Saban's defensive scheme. He talks about how Saban likes to be very aggressive on 3rd down, and combines that with some very specific coverage techniques:
Saban likes to have his cornerbacks adjust their "leverage" on a receiver based on the receiver's split from the tackle and sideline. The theory is that if the wide receiver has cut his split down he has done one of two things: (a) given himself more room to run an out breaking route, or (b) cheated in to run a crossing or deep in-breaking route. So if the receiver cheats his split in, Saban has his cornerbacks align outside the receiver to defend the out-breaking route, because if he runs the in-breaking route the corner has help from the linebackers and safeties. Similarly, if the receiver lines up very wide (bottom of the numbers, let's say), he has given himself room to run an in-breaking route like a slant. So the cornerback will align inside the receiver to take that route away and on the belief that an out-cut from that wide will be very difficult for the quarterback.
I wish we did this more consistently/ at all. This is a finer part of coaching that we should employ more frequently.
More significant, however, is that Saban heavily coaches up "pattern reading" within his zone drops. Pattern-reading, as opposed to spot-drops, is much like a matchup-zone in basketball. Defenders are responsible for zones but they basically play man on the receivers who come into their zones. Moreover, pattern-read teams begin by immediately coaching their defenders on how to recognize popular pass combinations (and indeed, the very concept of pass-combinations themselves), and each week zero in on the 5-15 most common pass concepts they will see from that opponent. When done correctly, pattern-reading defenders know exactly how to cover receivers in their zones and seamlessly (in a quite literal sense) pass the receivers onto other defenders as they run their routes. One thing that distinguishes Saban is that he uses pattern-reading in almost all of his coverages, including the traditional Cover 3, whereas many coaches only let certain defenders pattern read or only use it with certain defenses like Cover 4.
As he goes on to note, that is a Belichek staple. Having a coach who can simplify this very difficult process and implement it in the limited amount of coaching time available to college coaches is a huge tactical weapon. Combine this with coaches who put in 90 or 100 hours a week, with excellent athletes, and you have a recipe to take your defense to the next level.
I strongly encourage you to visit those 2 links. That guy puts in a lot of work. My prediction? UF 35, Bama 31. What Saban has done with this defensive group is really remarkable (they are nowhere near as talented as the Noles 2008 Defense), but combining an understanding of 4th down math with elite QB play is a lethal combination in college football.