BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA – NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Texas A&M Aggies reacts after a loss against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jimbo Fisher once was the guy that so many Aggie fans now want him to hire.
That’s the biggest irony in this whole mess. That’s the most mind-bending thing in this 2022 Frustration Season the five-star Aggies are experiencing. Somewhere along the way to what figures to be another Rotten Tomatoes kind of night in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Jimbo has either forgotten or refused to admit how he became the embattled $95 million man he is today.
His mentor gave him a chance. His idol adapted.
Once upon a time, when a legendary gunslinger of a coach named Bobby Bowden was thought to have lost his edge – with younger and more progressive approaches seemingly passing him by — it was Jimbo who was the hired gun.
It was Jimbo who was the fixer. It was Jimbo who was the innovative offensive mind, equipped and proven, landing in Tallahassee with a playbook that practically dripped with cutting edge ideas.
Can’t see ya, forest. Too many trees in the way.
If not now, soon, Jimbo needs to wipe the I-got-this out of his eyes and make the kind of changes that made him, him. To be clear, message boards notwithstanding Jimbo Fisher has not forgotten offense. He has not lost his edge. He has not lost his eye for game planning or teaching or quarterbacking technique. He knows how to attack opponents and what adjustments should be made.
He just needs to remember that even some of the greatest of all time could use the occasional software update. He needs to remember the game constantly is changing and innovating and even great offensive minds like his need to be challenged and re-equipped.
That’s what these Aggie offensive struggles truly are about. They are about how adjustments are made. They are not about fitting supremely talented players into a system, but fitting a system around super-talented players. It’s about simplifying. Compromising.
Jimbo needs a Jimbo. Bad. That much has been talked about ever since Appalachian State danced off Kyle Field early this season. Will it happen? Would Jimbo allow it?
The reality is there may be some truth to Fisher’s contention that the Aggies are young, still learning and the plays are there to be made if executed correctly.
“The system is the same system a lot of people use,” Fisher said this week. “The plays are there. We’re just not executing.”
That mostly is bunk, however. Worse, no one should know it more than Fisher. And no one should be more willing to adjust accordingly.
Most likely, any significant changes or additions to the Aggies’ offensive staff will be made in the off-season. But even now as Fisher’s talented team sits on the brink of a season going off the rails, simplifying schemes and listening to other voices in the room might kick-start something.
The Aggies currently are in the kind of funk Bowden couldn’t shake in the early-2000s when similar worries made the rounds. Those Seminoles still were recruiting supreme talent – sound familiar, Ags? But their record went from 8-5, to 7-6, to 6-5 in the three years before Bowden lured Jimbo away from LSU. That Seminole offense fell to all-time lows in total offense, ranking 70th, and scoring offense, ranking 57th.
At the depths of the Florida State struggles, a board of trustees member said, “Florida State needs to get to where college football is going, not to where it has already been.”
Again … sound familiar, Ags?
In five years at LSU under Nick Saban, Fisher’s offense established 13 school records, including points in a season, total yards and passing touchdowns. By his second year as FSU offensive coordinator, Fisher’s offense averaged 34 points and 372 yards-per-game. After taking over as head coach in 2010, Fisher won a national championship in 2013 averaging 519-yards and 51-points per game.
Currently, Fisher’s Aggies rank 105th in total offense and 108th in scoring. To put it mildly, Fisher needs to go where college football is going, not where it already has been.
Any number of names could be legitimate possibilities to become Jimbo’s Jimbo in the off-season – from Joe Brady, to Arkansas’ Kendal Briles, TCU’s Garrett Riley and North Carolina’s Phil Longo. Most of those names would be short-timers, as they’re all in line to become head coaches sooner rather than later. But the big advantage would be exposing Fisher to new philosophies and expanding his too-tight circle of coaching friends.
In reality, Fisher likely never would completely give up his voice offensively. But he’s known and surrounded himself with offensive assistants like Darrell Dickey, James Coley and Dameyune Craig for the better part of 20-years. Are they innovators or yes men?
He needs a Jimbo. A what-if guy. Maybe that’s one of the names mentioned above. Maybe it’s a bright-eyed talent who could inject Gen Z ideas into Jimbo’s offense, such as Kendal Briles’ right-hand man Mark Cala, Ole Miss’ young co-OC John David Baker or Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach and former A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson.
It’s not just Bowden who found their greatest successes once they stepped outside their comfort zones. Mack Brown did at Texas during their glory days. Most recently, Kirby Smart did at Georgia, hiring Todd Monken, who ignited the Bulldogs offense to a national championship.
And in the ultimate irony of all ironies, across the field from Fisher Saturday night will be the best example of all.
Nick Saban completely changed his offensive philosophy after getting torched by the Aggies in 2012 and then offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. The quarterback? Johnny Manziel.
“The dinosaurs didn’t adapt,” Saban said last off-season. “The dinosaurs are no longer here. Adapt or die.”
Adapt, Jimbo. It’s time.