What I really can't get out of my head from Saturday's debacle, is the decision not to start EJ and all of the ramifications contained therein.
Let me start by saying that there is no doubt in my mind that this loss has changed the entire dynamic of the program.
Now, the logic JF tried to offer up post-game was that the team was in an "emergency" and that's why he played EJ despite the warning that one hit could have him out for six weeks.
The problem with this logic is that it seems to come with a caveat that not all games are "emergent." Well, perhaps this is true. Perhaps ULM and Charleston Southern are non-emergent cases -- after all, almost everyone painted them as 99 percent games.
But I would have put us between 75 and 85 percent before this game (I believe Bud had us at 80).
Let me tell you something -- Dan Uggla is a pretty dangerous hitter -- and he was hitting around .200 for much of the year (roughly WF's chances of victory). If the Wake game, figuratively, was "Uggla at the bat" and the stakes were NOT just a home run in one of 162 games, but instead: One home run SHAKES THE VERY FOUNDATION OF THE PROGRAM .... you could be damn sure that it wouldn't be some middle reliever in there trying to get him out -- it would be the best pitcher available.
My point is this: This game should have been seen as an "emergency" from the getgo.
The only thing that changed between the start of the game and EJ's entrance is that we were losing. His health was the same; Tricket's health was the same.
It can only mean that CJF saw the game as non-emergent at the opening gun, but suddenly an emergency because of the score.
Look, if you are less than 95-99 percent to win, it's an emergency, dammit. Even Dr. Lou knows that you don't overlook anybody.
Which brings me to the second main effect of the decision not to start EJ: It sent the message to the entire team that this game was not going to be a challenge!
By not starting a quarterback who every single player saw in practice was capable of playing meant that the coach might as well have given the team a pregame talk that said: "We do not need our best to beat this team."
I think this was a critical, only-make-it-once-in-your-career, blunder by Fisher. I'm sure he'll never make it again. Frankly, it's the only rational explanation I can come up with for the loss and it's actually just a wee bit comforting, in a warped kind of way.
I think I would feel better if he took responsiblity for this royal screwup. Not in the general "buck stops here" way that coaches take blame, but in a more specific way.
The question is now, can he save the team? Finger-pointing will commence and there is really no inherent motiviation for all but the two rivarly games on the schedule.
But, if he can string together a couple wins -- get to the Miami game without a loss, then beat them at home and be 8-3 headed to Gainesville, he could still see a 10-win season and at least say that no ground was lost. Even 9-4 would be close enough to treading water.
Anything worse than that, though, is regression, which is OK when you are coming off a Top 5 season, but not now.
I think there is a good chance that Fisher's memoirs in a few decades talk about this game as one of his biggest lessons learned as a coach. Either that, or he won't be famous enough for memoirs.