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Tomahawk Nation mailbag: Answering questions about FSU football

Tackling some questions from you, dear readers

‘Typo’, typewriter advertisement, 20th century. Photo by Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images

Earlier in the week, we asked for questions about Florida State Seminoles football from you, our dear readers, to answer in a variety of formats. We started off with a megapod episode of Seminole Wrap and our continuing today with some written content for those who can’t stand to listen to other people talk for longer than 4 minutes. This weekend, we’ll also be recording the newest episode of Triple Option, perhaps with a special guest.

If our schedule had been flipped such that we played the teams on the backend of our schedule first, would our record at this point have been better?

And would the record at the end of the year be any different? -bugzbunny

Perry Kostidakis: Assuming no COVID-19 delays, Florida State at this point would have played:

  • Duke (1-5, played Notre Dame close in season opener)
  • Virginia (1-4, lost 19-14 to Miami last week)
  • Clemson (lmao)
  • NC State (4-2)
  • Pitt (3-4)
  • Louisville (2-4)

If we’re going with the team that started the season, FSU would maybe be 1-5 at this point — though you could argue that the two opening games would be a great chance for the Seminoles to build some confidence. There’s a chance they go 2-0 to start the season, but then after Clemson, do they crater? Or, does the same thing happen against Duke that happened against Georgia Tech, with FSU losing the Blue Devils for the first time ever and then things just escalate from there?

If you can remember the long, long ago of the ACC schedule release, you’d remember that the common consensus was that the slate of opponents sucked for FSU — and for some people, they actually felt a bit more positive once they saw the order. I hate for the end of this answer to basically be, “everything happens for a reason,” but honestly, the way that the schedule has unfolded so far has been fine for FSU’s development as a whole, which is the overarching goal this season outside wins and losses.

Here’s some crazy hypothetical questions for you

A) If you know in 2019 that Covid would happen do you still fire Willie?

2) If Willie was HC this year, and Levitt was his DC, does the team look better or worse this year? Especially on defense? -JoeNole1989

Austin Cox: A) This is a great question, but the short answer is heck no, and let me tell you why.

I think with other head coaches who may have on the fringe of saving their jobs, the knowledge that COVID-19 was going to occur may have actually made a difference in the decision. But not with Taggart.

I was in the right place at the right time directly following the end of the 27-10 loss to Miami which turned out to be the last game of coach Taggart’s career. Last season, I was still in college but interning with the good folks over at Warchant.

Since my family and I are from Tallahassee, for home games I would sit in the stands with my dad and cousin rather than the press box. As soon as the games ended, I would high-tail it to the room where the post-game press conferences were held. I actually would make it from our seats in section 29 of Doak to the University Center D room where the post-game press conferences were held in before any of the media would. I could sprint around the outside of Doak a lot faster than all of the official media outlet members could make it taking the slow and crowded elevators from the press box.

Anyways, there I was alone waiting inside the trophy room (the doors right outside the Bobby Bowden statue), setting up my camera and just as much in-shock as anyone else at the terrible performance against an average Miami team. The game had just ended a few minutes ago. Before any of the media came through to join me or before we held the press conference, a lone figure emerged and passed through the hall.

It was athletic director David Coburn. One the same night he organized the booster meeting that would then decide to announce the firing of coach Taggart the next morning, Coburn happened to walk right past me. He didn’t say anything, but the look on his face told me all that I needed to know.

I am a writer, but it’s almost difficult to put into words the look he had on his face. It was probably the angriest look I have ever seen on a person’s face. He looked like someone had just punched him in the gut and then spit on him or something. Again, he didn’t say anything to me, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask him anything with how angry he looked, so I am just going off of the look on his face and his body language.

But just judging just off the look on Coburn’s face alone, I don’t think Willie was coming back no matter if they knew COVID-19 was happening or not. After that game, and the 2019 season as a whole, I don’t think anything could have changed their mind.

2) While I think Leavitt somewhat gave the team a shot in the arm the week of the Virginia game, I don’t think the defense would look any better this year if he were the defensive coordinator instead of Fuller. The hail mary of bringing Leavitt on as a consultant in 2019 was a short-term fix that week, and not a long-term fix. The defense didn’t really even perform that well for even an entire game, crumbling in the second half against the Cavaliers to drop FSU to 1-2.

Greatest sports film of all time?

I have a top 5 of Miracle, Bull Durham, North Dallas Forty, Hoosiers, and Cutting Edge. I’m a sucker for Moira Kelly. -Ukedadnole

Perry: As a manchild born in 1994, here are my answers:

  1. Remember the Titans: On every level, this movie meant a whole bunch to me growing up. It inspired a tiny little Greek boy to aggressively tackle the poor souls in my Pop Warner path, and especially at that age was really important in hammering home the efforts we have to make to overcome prejudice and racism. Today, the most poignant scene remains:

2. The Waterboy: Filmed in Deland, so as a Daytona Beach boy, I claim at least partial hometown cred here. I’m being serious when I say I used the Bobby Boucher technique of envision people who were dicks to get myself hyped up when I was 8. I was a very, very weird kid.

3. Blades of Glory: A truly phenomenal tale of overcoming adversity and shattering the expectations and standards that society has placed on individuals.

4. Creed: I’ve never seen any of the Rocky movies so that’s the best I got.

5. The Longest Yard: The Adam Sandler version, too, which is the only version I’ve ever seen. Why would I want to see a movie that doesn’t have Nelly in it?

Austin: Man, Perry is a savant and our fearless leader, but we’ve really got to tweak that list big-time and get some old-school movies on there! Here’s mine:

5) Rudy: He may have been offsides, but this one is still a classic. If you don’t like this movie, ask yourself: Is it because it is poorly-made, or because it glorifies Notre Dame?*

*(Perry: both, tbh.)

4) Remember the Titans: ditto to everything Perry said. This movie is pretty much universally-beloved by everyone in our generation (I’m 24, two years younger than Perry).

3) Bull Durham: Kevin Costner is the lead in 2 of my top 3 all-time. He may have ruined his sports movie legacy by starring in Draft Day years later and allowing a movie studio to completely compromise the legitimacy of NFL Draft movie trades, but heading into the 2000’s he was the lead actor in three of the best sports movies ever made. Tin Cup didn’t make my list, but it’s great too. Bull Durham is by far the funniest sports movie ever made in my opinion.

2) Rocky: The original, not 2, 3, or 4 (Sorry, Mr. T.) I pity the fool who doesn’t recognize Rocky as an all-time classic. Plus, it paved the way for sports movies to become more frequently made and more popular.

1) Field of Dreams: Seems like for a lot of people, this movie either hits close to home or just seems like a weird movie with ghosts that doesn’t resonate at all. For me, I think its one of the best movies ever made, regardless of the “sports” category. One of the reasons I love this movie so much is the ending. The hardest thing to do for a movie is to have a great ending, there are a lot of good movies (sports or non-sports) that start well but tail off in the second half and have awful endings.

Dear Tomahawk Nation Mailbag,

What did we, faithful Seminoles fans, do wrong? What did we do to upset the balance of college football in a way that, at this point, feels irreversible? Whatever it was, we’re sorry. Deeply, meaningfully, tragically honestly, sorry. Please accept our humble, heartfelt apology.

Follow up question: What do we need to do in order to restore the balance? Is it, like, extra chores and stuff? Or, will it be more like a human sacrifice situation?



I totally agree with a comment I saw about upsetting the football gods.

Can we all collectively apologize so that the balance is restored? I think we all have suffered enough.-NOLEisticscience

Perry: I’m not an expert here, but relying on my ancient Greek instincts, here’s the best I got:

  • Deliver fruit baskets to Jimbo Fisher and Willie Taggart
  • Find whatever cave Randy Spetman has been banished too, solve his riddle, travel below the surface of the Earth, avoid several complicated and deadly booby traps and steal the forbidden Emerald Bowl
  • Offer up Cimmaron as a slaughter sacrifice

Rare positive question…

Which of Norvell’s recruits from last year’s class are you most excited for/most impressed with so far this season?-OTownBred

Austin: Easy answer here for me: linebacker Stephen Dix Jr.

A lot of members of the FSU media have made this point, but he was physically ready for college the second he stepped on the field in spring ball before COVID-19 happened. I was in the IPF for the conditioning drills and also at that now-famed first day of spring ball (one of the only practices the media was able to attend before the world changed), and man he was impressive. I’ll never forget standing about 10 or so yards away from him and at first glance he physically looked like a junior or senior veteran standing next to our actual junior and senior linebackers.

There are always some young players who look great in spring or fall camp but didn’t get on the field much, so it’s been great to see Dix start a few games and get a lot of playing time from day one of his career. He has a really bright future in my opinion.

Also, would like to mention running back Lawrance Toafili. I know he was technically more of a Willie recruit, but I’m still giving credit to Norvell’s staff for holding onto him. He’s not only shown some tremendous burst on the field, but when he was on Norvell’s coaches show a few weeks ago, he mentioned that he “never liked Florida”. Even though he grew up with his dad being a Gator fan. So, gotta love that!

What exactly is the Culture Problem at FSU?

I agree there is one, see it refered to all the time but is there a quantification or detailed definition for it? I only feel it see celebrating incomplete pass arms on 1st and 10

When did it start? I see a ton of the same mistakes and total lack of effort or heart against UL that has been seen again and again since 2015 (maybe even flashes of it in 2 -OrgaNole

Perry: To me, it started January 7, 2014. We saw small glimpses of it during the 2014 season, when the team didn’t commit the same way but was so hilariously talented they could turn it on whenever they felt the pressure become too much. It worked, but it bit them at the end of the season (when something happened but I don’t remember what.)

As the years have gone on, the loss of singular game-changing athletes (Jalen Ramsey, Dalvin Cook, Derwin James and Cam Akers) as well as vocal, committed leaders compounded with losing two head coaches in three years, losing to in-state rivals, feeling the need to constantly bicker with your own fanbase and a general diminished state of confidence have led to where we are right now.

Austin: I want to key in on what Perry said at the end of his answer. I think it’s a confidence “problem” more than a culture “problem”. Everyone always talks about a culture problem, but I think that is code for “the team isn’t as good as we want them to be”. When a pro team or a college team or really any organized sports teams is struggling, its easy to say “well, they have a culture problem”.

A lot of fans or people who watch FSU, when they see them lose and struggle on Saturdays, want to assume they aren’t giving their full effort or don’t care to be successful as much as the 2013 team or the great Dynasty teams. I think that is simply not true. These players were all standouts at their high schools, football has been a huge part of their lives since they were very young, and they are all deeply committed to being the best players they can be.

In fact, I think they hold FSU and their football careers so highly in their priorities that it is having an adverse effect on their ability to perform to the best of their abilities on Saturdays. Basically, I think they’re in their own heads.

Think about it from your own perspective and apply the current crop of FSU players and their situation to whatever task/job/career you have worked your whole life to succeed in. If you had been through the struggles and low-points that they have had the past few years, you would question things like “Do I have a future in this career?”, or “Am I ever going to succeed in this career?”.

Everyone know this, but failing in life is hard. The difference for these players and your life is there’s a flashing scoreboard emphasizing the disappointment they have felt. This team’s psyche is a little broken right now in my opinion, and you can’t just flip a switch overnight and overcome that. When things are going bad on the field, a lot of doubt creeps in with this team and for a lot of players their confidence seems to plummet.

Another issue is the current internet culture of our society as a whole, and how that also emphasizes failure. You’re probably thinking “why aren’t the players on Clemson or Alabama or Ohio State struggling with overcoming a million negative retweets?” That just goes back to infrastructure those programs have to overcome that, and that FSU was sorely lacking in that area from 2017 to 2019.

I honestly believe it is tougher for athletes at a national brand like Florida State to overcome adversity than it is for the average joe struggling with a 9-to-5 job. So, people shouldn’t even think to compare themselves to big-time college athletes.

About ten years ago when I was just a teenager, I was talking one time with a division 3 football player who had just graduated. He was talking about how intense even at that level playing was, how it was like a job, and how relieved he was to be done playing. And that was a player in D3. Imagine the pressure behind a career at Florida State?

Perry: Pretend I also said what Austin said in my first answer, except better.