First of all, this is hardly a defense of the latter days of the BB era-- while I'm a huge fan of his legacy and impact on the program, I am in the rather large (unanimous??) group that believes the sooner he leaves, the better it will be for our program.
But I have felt a little twinge when I've heard people talking about this being the worst stretch of his tenure.
It's actually not.
Read on .......
I think this is really a companion piece to FrankD's post today about lousy recruiting as the root cause for lousy performance.
First, for the purposes of this discussion, for a "stretch" of games to be a "stretch" it must cover at least five years. So, looking at the records of the last 8 years.
TOTAL 67-36, .65 winning percentage
Coming on the heels of 42,452 straight seasons in the Top 5 (OK, it just seemed like that many), winning fewer than 2 out of 3 hasn't been much fun.
But a forgotten stretch in the Bowden era came in the early-mid 80s. To put it charitably, the Noles just weren't very good during that stretch.
The dropoff from 1980 to 1981 was every bit as precipitous as from 2000 to 2001. In 1980, FSU had its best defense ever, imo. The Noles lost a heartbreaker to Oklahoma, 18-17 in the Orange Bowl and finished 10-2, ranked 5th in the nation.
But -- and I'm sure you've already done this math -- the 1980 class would have been Bowden's first full year-recruiting class. The losses off that senior class were devastating:
Ron Simmons, Monk Bonasorte, Reggie Herring, Bobby Butler, Phil Williams, Kurt Unglaub, Ron Simmons, Paul Piurowski, Arthur Scott, Mark Macek, Keith Jones, Gary Futch, Bill Capece just to name a few.
Along comes 1981 -- the famous "Octoberfest" schedule.
FSU goes 6-5. Just look at this schedule:
After opening with Louisville and Memphis State, FSU faces, consecutively, Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and LSU. Oh and did I mention those games were ALL ON THE ROAD!!!!!
Incredibly, we won 3 out of 5 in that stretch (beat OSU, ND and LSU) but by the end of the season we were toast and loss three straight to S. Miss, Miama and UF (ending a four-game winning streak) to finish 6-5 and miss a bowl (I believe the last time Bowden has not played in a bowl game).
We rebounded in 1982 to go 9-3 with a Gator Bowl win over WVU, but the next years went:
1983: 7-5 (8-4 in the record books but our "win" over Tulane was a forfeit, they beat us on the field)
That adds up to a 6-year stretch of 43-23-2 or 64 percent winning percentage.
So, what went wrong?
Well, first of all, we had a unique batch of talent in the late 70's and 1980 -- there aren't many Simmonses and Bobby Butlers and Monk Bonasortes and Herrings, et al. Those folks don't still hold records for nothing.
Second, did not recruit well at the quarterback position. The early-mid 80s was marked by a revolving door of players like Blair Williams, Kelly Lowery, Eric Thomas and Kirk Coker (household names? Uh.. no.).
Third, we played some TERRIBLE defense. I remember going to the 1983 opener, at home vs. East Carolina.
We put up 558 yards of total offense, the turnover battle was even and scored 47 points ... and WON BY ONE POINT!
We had to score in the last 5 minutes just to win the game!
Bottom line: We had some players during this era -- Greg Allen, Jessie Hester, to name a few.
But we didn't have the collection of 5-star players that you need to be great.
When we came out of this slump in 1987, look at who was on the team as freshman and sophomores:
Edgar Bennett, Leroy Butler, Dexter Carter, Lawrence Dawsey, Odell Haggins, Eric Hayes, Ronald Lewis, Sammie Smith and Peter Tom Willis. And, of course, Deion was a junior about to have a huge two years.
So, my point is this: It's good to talk about scheme and intangibles and all that stuff. But it still, as FrankD pointed out earlier today, comes down to players. We simply haven't had them the last few years, just like we didn't have them in the early-mid 1980s.
The question is: If we look at the freshman and sophomores on this team, do we see a class of players like we had in the late 70s or late 80s that will lead us back to prominence?