Today, Willie Taggart was fired by Florida State, meaning the Seminoles are now looking for a head coach for the second time in three years, and the third in over 40.
The writers of TN are discussing the pros and cons of FSU making such a big move at this time in the season:
What are the potential benefits of making this move so swiftly?
Juan Montalvo III:
The biggest pro on doing this now, to me, is that you have time to either hire a new coach or do damage control for the 2020 early signing recruiting period. If you wanted to do it in 2019, the soonest possible time was the best possible time.
Like Juan said, doing it now gives you a better chance of holding on to kids that the new staff will value before the early signing period.
It also gives you a chance to get rid of some kids that might not quite be FSU caliber but can now safely drop them ‘as not a fit’ without damaging HS relationships in the future.
It’s also a jump on USC (not that these two programs are picking from the same coaching pool), possibly Auburn (are we really sure that after another round of 8-4 Auburn won’t can Gus?), or possibly South Carolina for some top southeast assistants.
After the Miami game it was pretty clear that Willie was a dead man walking and it’s usually better to tear off the bandage all at once instead of pulling it off slowly. Like others have said the ESP prevents you from waiting until the end of the season
The biggest pro I can think of is that Willie just wasn’t it. It doesn’t matter if it was today, next week if they lost to Boston College, after the season, or even next year. Like Evan said, it’s always better to just rip the band-aid off. When you know, you know.
We’ve been talking about the possibility of Taggart not being the solution for Florida State. We’ve questioned and outlined all the possibilities of how it should or could happen. Scenario one - get bowl eligible and limp along next year until the administration refreshes. A lot of us agreed an October/early November firing would be a possibility for Taggart if there wasn’t enough clear progress through two-thirds of the season.
The second scenario happened. Though we thought, I certainly thought, it was an outlier. Fail miserably against Miami, miss a bowl, get fired this year. In that scenario, Florida State had to move quickly as possible. Do not wait until after the Florida game. They did the right thing in moving on now, giving the admin time to get a new staff and try to salvage a recruiting class before early signing period.
In the end, if the administration doesn’t believe the coach is going to make it through year three, what’s the point in waiting? You could say that’s spinning wheels with a lame duck coach and everyone, fans, players, and recruits know it. This removes uncertainty and lets Florida State to move on. The window for a new coach to enact change at a major college program is small. There was little to none in year one. Taggart certainly had this team playing better this year, but they still found ways to lose (instead of finding ways to, you know, win). Incremental improvement isn’t enough in this environment. The window closed, Taggart is out of time, and he’ll be more than well compensated for 9 wins.
If the decision had been made to fire Coach Taggart in 2019, then the sooner the better. Waiting until December only makes it that much harder for the next coach to put together a recruiting class. It’s also possible that the team gets a bit of a shot in the arm in the last three games and finds a way to become bowl eligible. And if you do make a bowl, an outside hire would potentially have a chance to scout some players during the bowl practices.
From a recruiting perspective, if you’re going to fire Taggart, the earlier you make the move, the better. As long as they get a coach lined up quickly, you can capitalize on the new coach momentum and try to save the class before the early signing period in December. If this decision was happening no matter what, better to cut ties early.
Many of us felt that Miami was Willie Taggart’s Alamo. By losing the way it did, FSU cemented its status as third place in the Big 3 and sealed his fate. There was no reason for FSU to prolong the inevitable aside from monetary savings. Recruiting is expected to take a big hit regardless with another big loss coming at the hands of the Gators, so the timing of this decision does little in the way of worsening things on the trail. I would anticipate a wave of decommitments, with most still considering FSU once a new head coach is named. The timing gives the new hire more time on the trail, where every single day will count with ESD in play.
What are the downsides to ripping off that band-aid right now as opposed to at the end of this season or during the 2020 season?
Matt Minnick: Based on player and recruit reactions, this seems to have come out of left field. Any person in a business that’s reliant on relationships can tell you that surprises are not usually well-received. Typically you want to have some time to manage expectations and gather feedback, and bring others along with you in the decision making process. I can’t imagine any of that occurred in this instance. What if Jeff Sims decommits and FSU goes yet another year without bringing in legit QB recruit? What if this results in guys transferring and FSU’s APR dips even further? What if current players, after weeks of being urged to keep fighting and stay the course, start looking out for themselves a bit and sit out? None of these “unintended consequence” scenarios are far-fetched.
And that doesn’t even touch on the actual dollar cost.
With this Taggart’s massive buyout combined with the potential buyout of any coach who is hired, “rainy day funds” may be depleted for a good while. What do you do if the next hire doesn’t work out in 2-3 years? What happens to needed facility and infrastructure projects across the entire athletic department that could have used this money? (Yes, it was raised from private donors, but even wealthy private donors have limits on how much they can harvest from their money trees in three to five year time frames). How much of this money could have been spent on long term projects that build true sustainability like the scholarship endowment? And what about the expectations of the people who ponied up the money? Will they insist on having more say in the hiring process? Will they withhold dollars in the future if the new hire isn’t satisfactory?
Speaking of the new hire, how many outside candidates will remove their name from consideration because they just saw a guy who literally donated $1,000,000 of his own money get fired in less than two years, despite improving the product on the field from year one to year two (even if it was less than ideal progress, it was better nonetheless)?
Evan Johnson: I mostly see this as a very bad move. Yes, Willie was done after the Miami game but FSU is not in a place to make rash decisions like this. It does not seem FSU can afford this buyout (and possibly the buyout of this staff) along with hiring a new staff and keeping up in the arms race that is big time college football. You are also in a situation where an outgoing administration has to hurry up and find a head coach they can afford and is interested. How much does this job sour if you’re a candidate knowing that FSU might very well punt on you after 2 years because your boss didn’t hire you, and you’ve inherited a very bad team? Others have touched on the recruiting aspect of this but this program will now have 2 “dead” classes in 3 years. What are the odds FSU is relevant in the next 10 years? I don’t think it’s very high.
onebarrelrum: Getting rid of Taggart doesn’t guarantee anything gets better. This is likely an emotional response as a result of getting housed by a mediocre Miami team with a first year coach. I’m not sure Florida State has the admin in place to make the proper decisions to make up lost ground. A president and an AD, both close to retirement, do not exactly make a strong foundation for a coaching hire.
Depending on how this is handled, the recruiting may get worse without Taggart. He still remained an above average recruiter and was maintaining relationships with recruits right up until the end. An uncertain situation just got magnified, a lot. Negative recruiting will be off the charts. Florida State needs to make decisions quickly and get a new staff so that this decision will payoff instead of making things worse. I’m not sure Florida State is in a position to do that.
Jon Marchant: In my opinion the cons are numerous, enough that I consider making this move pretty risky, even if it was inevitable. For starters, do they even have a plan? Do they have a list of potential head coaches? Are any of them any good? Are any good coaches even going to want to come to a place that fired a coach after less than two seasons? It will be difficult to keep the recruiting class together, and ESP doesn’t make it any easier. This locks you in to the new coach for several years, and they’re going to be walking into a situation somewhat similar to the one Taggart walked into — the offensive line is still bad, and the APR still isn’t where we’d like it to be, or rather where it needs to be to allow roster flexibility. Cam Akers and Marvin Wilson will be gone, and now there’s the risk of losing Jeff Sims. Plus, will Kendall Briles even want to stay if he’s not named the head coach? There’s a million ways this could get worse, and all we have are questions.
Juan Montalvo III: Like Onebarrelrum said, the administration is a lame duck one, and who is actually making decisions? How did they manage to pull together $20 million in a manner of weeks to fire Taggart when 18 months ago they were removing water bottles from fridges to save money?
The same AD that decided we couldn’t afford Muscle Milk without a lock on the fridge is the one that fired the coach. I’m really not sure what to make of that. Who will they hire?
NT&T: As said above, the cons of this decision may far outweigh the pros. While Nole Nation was given its sacrifice today, the individuals making the next hiring decision have their sites set on exit dates in the near future. Thrasher and Coburn do not inspire much confidence in making this hire, knowing they will have zero accountability should it not be a home run (like, they might accidentally hire a baseball coach). Just kidding. Kinda.
How do you think this impacts FSU’s game against Boston College?
Juan: You may see more “spark” out of the players. Most of the staff will stay the same, so the freedom of playing with less or lower expectations may get the kids to play at the level needed to beat BC.
Jon Marchant: I want to believe that the players will still play hard for Odell. But there’s definitely a chance they could quit. BC is now a must-win game, or else FSU will miss a bowl game for the second straight season. I have no idea what to expect.
LSK: I’m fully expecting a nightmarish sort of game; on the road and likely freezing for BC’s red bandana game.
OBR: I don’t think this has a huge impact. It’s going to be frigid in Boston. Florida State was likely going to take a loss there anyway. If this really lights a fire enough for Florida State to beat BC, well, that’s another reason FSU made the right choice in moving on from Taggart.
Tim: Well, the mystery of who is running the offense will be over now. You’ll get a look at what the Briles offense is and if it’s any different from the last few games. I’ll be curious to see if there are numerous changes or if it will look the same. The other question is about the defense. Without Taggart, will Leavitt be allowed to have as much influence as he has had the last few games? Again, I’ll be curious if the defense looks different.
MM: Neutral to slightly worse. Boston College is a team FSU can beat. Their defense is much closer to Syracuse’s D than Miami’s. The Seminoles could have won this game before this announcement and I think they still can after. But I do worry that a few players who can get paid to play this sport might start looking to Sunday more than Saturday. And if that happens, FSU has a problem regardless of coach.
NT&T: I haven’t seen FSU play this season but the offensive line wasn’t fired along with Taggart, so I’m assuming we’ll see more of the same. I hope they’ll play inspired for Uncle Odell but not sure it will translate into a win. BC will likely need to beat itself through turnovers for FSU to win the game.
If you were hypothetically told that the next coach MUST come from the current staff, who would you pick and why?
Juan: Kendal Briles. He’s a rising star in the coaching world and it isn’t just because of his offense. He’s young, dynamic, and can recruit.
Jon: FSU hasn’t really left itself with a lot of options. It’s Briles or Jim Leavitt. Honestly I don’t really like either pick. But like Juan said, Briles is young and has an offense that works.
OBR: This is difficult. I think Leavitt has the experience and could be a steady coach to lean on. I think he leaves Briles to coach the offense and do this thing. But it would still be odd. The guy was pretty crazy back in the day, though I think he’s mellowed and matured. I don’t trust Briles enough to be the head coach.
MM: I hope it doesn’t come to this. But if forced, I guess Leavitt. The program is a mess right now. I would rather have Briles free to spend his time and energy recruiting offensive linemen and have Leavitt focus on the admin side of things.
NT&T: Jim Leavitt. Let him draw from experience and handle the HC responsibilities while allowing the offensive staff to focus completely on their players and gameplans. Although I believe the players will play harder for Odell than any other coach on staff.
Give me three names from outside FSU’s current staff who you hope get an interview
Juan: Jeff Scott, Mike Norvell, Matt Campbell
LastNoleofKrypton: Dave Clawson, Tony Elliott, Mike Gundy
Jon Marchant: Matt Rhule, Matt Campbell, Mike Norvell
OBR: Chip Kelly, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops - because everything is dumb right now.
Tim: Mike Norvell, Jeff Scott, Scott Satterfield
MM: Bob Stoops, Tom Allen, Matt Campbell
NT&T: Matt Rhule, James Franklin, and Matt Campbell (after making Bob Stoops say no first)
Complete this sentence: “In two years FSU football will be...
Jon Marchant: Mostly where it is right now, just probably about two to three games better.
OBR: 6-6 or 7-5 but on the way to being a lot better than they are now.
Juan: Winning 10 games, including a 1-2 run against the three rivals. Briles will be on the backs of signing another top 5 recruiting class and scoring 60 points a game.
Tim: 7-5 or 8-4. Unless the next coach overhauls the offensive line quickly, FSU is still a rebuild.
NT&T: starting a new bowl streak, y’all!
MM: roughly the same in the W/L column, worse off in the pocketbook, with fans who expect miracles becoming frustrated that FSU is fighting for bowl eligibility.