'Noles' Mickey Andrews the Finest Defensive Coordinator of the Modern Era

For more than 20 years, Andrews' defenses dominated college football in an unprecedented way.

Don't choose to remember Mickey Andrews for this abysmal final season.  Remember him for his courage, his selflessness, his loyalty, and his patience.  Remember Mickey's ability to repeatedly dial up the right pressure at the right time, some of the funniest stories that we can't repeat here (hey, this is a family site), remember how he changed the game of college football, remember his spitting and his fiery temperment- the perfect foil to Bowden's ho-hum good ol' boy demeanor.  But most of all, remember Mickey for being a great 'Nole.  After 26 great years, Mickey Andrews is hanging it up.  And nobody could be more deserving of a great retirement.

Today Mickey Andrews announced his plans to retire at the end of the season (statement there, read that first, it's excellent.).

Andrews transformed the 'Noles from a high-scoring mid-major into a national power

When Mickey arrived for the 1984 season, FSU had one consesus AA from the defense in the Bowden era.  The '83 defense allowed more points than any squad in Florida State history.  Mickey began to recruit and within 4 years he had a consensus All-American and a 1st rounder.  By 1992, he had 4 more All-American players.  From '87-'07 his defense produced 18 first round selections, including 9 in the top 10.  Andrews produced more than 7 All Pro players (many honored multiple times), an NFL Rookie of the Year the Super Bowl MVP (dexter Jackson).  Andrews produced has coached two Jim Thorpe Award winners (Deion Sanders in 1988 and Terrell Buckley in 1991), two Butkus Award winners (Paul McGowen in 1987 and Marvin Jones in 1992) and two Lombardi Award winners (Marvin Jones in 1992 and Jamal Reynolds in 2000).  Mickey brought in his players, developed them, and dominated.  In all, he produced 18 NFL 1st rounders, 56 All-Americans.  Before Andrews came to Florida State, the 'Noles were basically known as a high flying offensive team that fielded a defense only because they were required to do so by rule.  

Andrews is one of the longest tenured assistants in the country and you'd be hard pressed to find a coordinator who dominated college football like Andrews did for the better part  of three decades.  Andrews defenses played a major role for Florida State's 1993 and 1999 National Championship teams.  He was National Defensive Coordinator of the year in '98; National Assistant of the Year in '91; and '96 Broyles Award winner. Won a National Championship at Livingston and won 5 national championships as a player (at Alabama) or coach.

Andrews changed the way the game was played.

Andrews has always been known for his honesty and fairness.  And it was that honesty and fairness that drew the respect from his players.  Mickey's guys knew he would get on them in the worst way, but that he would only do so when it was justified, and that he would do so because he was trying to get the player to play at the absolute top peak of their ability.  

And in large part, Andrews made defense sexy.  Guys like Deion Sanders, Peter Boulware, Marvin Jones, and the 80+ players Andrews sent to the NFL changed the way kids thought about defense.  No longer was offense the only game in town.  His scheme put the players first.  It wasn't overly complicated, but it worked.  His 1998 playbook is only 125 pages (for comparison purposes, Nick Saban's plabook is 500+).  Mickey's defense gave every player on the field the chance to be the hero, but he also got his guys to play as a team.  Here are some quotes from Andrews:

"Simplicity is the key to execution."

"I want runners and hitters.  You can't take a mule to the Kentucky derby."  

"Don't flinch, let's kill a fly with an Axe."

"Speed is the #1 ingredient."  

And his philosophy showed in the kids he recruited.  Andrews put fast players at every position.  He stressed gang tackling.  11 men fly to the ball.  

And Andrews' unique style frustrated offenses for an unprecedented period of 20 years (1988-2007).  He shut down Nebraska's option attack.  When college coaches started running a pro-style scheme, Andrews dominated them, repeatedly.  And it was Andrews and a few other defensive coordinators in the late '90's who so frustrated college offenses that young college offensive coordinators were forced back to the drawing board.  And in my mind, the shift to the spread offense, almost universally across college football, is the greatest compliment anyone could give Mickey Andrews.    Coach Urban Meyer, in an interview with Fox Sports.com, now lost in the annals of the internet, spoke of how Kansas State's defense (who ran Andrews' scheme) forced him to try the radical changes that eventually became the offense he would take to Florida.  Andrews scheme hit people into submission and their speed made sure that offensive mistakes were always capitalized on.  Outnumbered at the point of attack, they had to try something, anything, because getting in the I-Formation and out-running a pack of thoroughbreds to the corner simply wasn't working.  

Andrews is considered the finest college defensive coordinator in the modern era.  His ability to make in-game adjustments was legendary.  And Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who has coached under NFL defensive wizard Dom Capers, Alabama's Nick Saban, and Arkansas' Reggie Herring- all great defensive minds, says that Andrews was the best play caller he had ever been around.  Steele said it was just a feel thing.  Andrews literally changed the way offenses had to operate.  When I was young, my dad and mom would tell me "Mickey will shut that down in the 2nd half."

Continue reading for more thoughts on Mickey Andrews.

A man of incredible patience and class, Andrews' career not incomplete.

And while some may point out that Andrews never became head coach at Florida State, despite allegedly being told that he would be Florida State's next head coach.  So he waited, and waited, and turned down many a job offer that came his way.  But his chance to be head coach at Florida State never came, as Bowden stayed long past his prime, but that's no slight to Andrews.  Mickey's career is more than complete. He was a father to countless young men.  And selfishly, I am glad that Andrews never left to take a head coaching job.  I choose to remember him as the dominating defensive coordinator who held this program together despite Bowden's attempt to use it as a charity for his family.  

Andrews' announcement not a surprise.  

Just 14 days before the 2007 season, Mickey Andrews' son Ronnie, committed suicide outside of Andrews' house.  He was 41. It was a huge blow to Andrews, his family, and everyone who cares for Mickey and his wife Diane.  He has wanted to retire for two seasons now, but he came back for two years out of love for Florida State.  Andrews hinted at the move before the season at Media day, and recruits have been told all year that Andrews would not return for some time now.  

His wife, Diane, is beloved by everyone who has met her.  The two were recently honored as Grand Marshals of the 2009 homecoming parade.  Many consider them the finest 'Noles.  And those who know them acknowledge Mickey's greatness but stress that Mickey and Diane are better people Mickey is a coach- and he is a great coach.

And even in announcing his retirement, Andrews shows how much he cares about Florida State.  Even though recruits had been told Andrews would be retiring, opposing teams continued to negatively recruit against Florida State, citing the lack of an official announcement from Andrews.  After Bowden stated during his call-in show that he expected Andrews back, Andrews' decision to come forth with the announcement was especially important.  Mickey saw that Florida State's defensive recruiting had taken a huge hit, and he did the right thing, solidifying the idea that a new defensive staff will be in place for the 2010 year.  

Mickey can now go be with his grandkids and enjoy a great retirement.  

Andrews held Florida State together during the "Nepotism Era"

Andrews will always hold a special place in my heart.  While I had attended FSU games with my parents since 1986, I started at FSU as a student in 2003.  My college career saw some of the ugliest football ever played, most notably between two state schools (Florida State and Miami) who were doing their best to squander a treasure chest of offensive talent.  Oh but that defense.  That defense.  Wow.  There were games when i thought "if we can just score twice, we've got this."  Andrews was a man of class and professionalism.  When Bowden tragically hired his son to be offensive coordinator instead of a qualified candidate, Andrews continued to produce with great consistency at an elite level.  While the offense slacked, played with an insane amount of sloppiness, and blamed everyone but themselves, Andrews repeatedly took blame for losses- even when his defense held teams to less than two touchdowns and lost!  Corey Clark writes that you just had to feel for Andrews, especially in that decade.  He continued to produce in the worst of conditions.  

So thank you Mickey.  You made my years at Florida State tolerable as a college football fan.  You're the only defensive coordinator I've ever known at FSU.  I'll leave our readers with two videos:

Florida State Seminoles Goal Line Defense (via NeroUltra)

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