John P. Lopez: If only Jimbo would put down the reading glasses, so he could see more clearly

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sam Craft/AP/Shutterstock (13554573n) Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher reacts after a penalty call on his defense during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi, in College Station, Texas Mississippi Texas A M Football, College Station, United States – 29 Oct 2022

John P. Lopez: If only Jimbo would put down the reading glasses, so he could see more clearly

By John P. Lopez

It is the 11th Hour for the 12th Man.

Jimbo Fisher’s act is as old as those color-coded key maps he shuffles through on the Aggie sideline. From the Dixie Chicken to the Chicken Ranch, Aggies everywhere are unfulfilled. Jimbo’s stubbornness is grating. His excuses, tired.

Change clearly is coming in Aggieland, but how sincere will it be? How real? Most important: Will Jimbo finally change?

A wildly successful coach with national-title pedigree and so many players still believing in him — including the No. 1 running back in the country committing on Wednesday — the benefit of the doubt from fans and big-money Old Ags nevertheless has largely disappeared. Somewhere between App State and 5-7, all the four- and five-stars in the world have only made the impatience more hostile.

Fisher has been given five years and a gazillion dollars, give or take. He’s had monster recruiting classes, resources that would turn a Kardashian green, and more unfathomable opportunities than Pete Davidson.

But here are the Aggies, waiting, waiting, waiting, for that magical moment that was promised, but still yet to arrive.

Texas A&M’s 5-7 season was perhaps the most unexpected in all of college football, given the Aggies’ highest-rated recruiting class in 2022 and so much promise in Jimbo’s first three seasons.

Sure, there were some bad breaks and some young mistakes in 2022. But nothing about this team, this program, these resources, and this coach could be explained away or pardoned. The record books say the Aggies haven’t experienced such a complete face-plant since 1972 – the last time there was such a five-game losing streak on the way to a losing record. That team, however, was an Aggies squad barely out of the all-male enrollment era at A&M. It was pre-Emory Bellard. It was Wishbone.

The reality is the Aggies never have been as bad or as embarrassed with such lofty expectations in their football history as they were in 2022.

There are no excuses. There are no more Jimbo, “there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” quotes that would cause anyone in Aggieland to feel hope and promise.

And that’s why there is no more waiting. It’s getting late early in College Station, and there hasn’t been a portal as busy as the one in Aggieland since Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Nerves are frayed.

The first step of the Aggies’ 12th Step Program is admitting you have a problem, of course. And there is only one person who needs to take that step. We’ll find out soon if Jimbo is even capable of acknowledging he should be more CEO than Xs and Os.

If the next offensive coordinator hire is more about window dressing and taming the angry masses, it will be an exercise in futility. Next year won’t be much better, no matter more experience and growth. While today’s college football is all about The Griddy, Jimbo’s offense appeared stuck in the grainy True Grit days. Today’s college football is about high octane, movement, motion, and up-tempo. Jimbo continues to dance the Box Step.

Despite it all, the most astounding thing is the Aggies, in reality, might be just those few tweaks away from breaking through. That’s the most frustrating thing for Aggies fans. They’ve seen the potential. They’ve seen the National Championship-caliber leadership and coaching style Jimbo possesses. They’ve seen the talent arrive and continue to come through. He went 9-1 and won the Orange Bowl in 2020. He’s stockpiled talent that, despite some defections, seems to continue to buy in.

The biggest hurdle is not what the Aggies have at every level of the program. The biggest hurdle is Jimbo has had his nose stuck into his play sheets so deep he can’t see the game passing him by.

What worked then doesn’t work now. Yes, old-school SEC football has its place: Defense, running game, big bodies, and depth along both lines. Those are Jimbo staples to which he continues to cling.

But look at the best teams in college football – specifically, the best in the Southeastern Conference. They have that but also roll up big passing game numbers and high-level zone-read and run-pass option wrinkles on the offensive side. Most significantly, few top-tier programs have head coaches calling plays.

It’s well past time for Jimbo to put down the reading glasses so that he can see more clearly.

While Jimbo fired offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey after the season and figures to bring in a more progressive play-caller, will it matter?

Can Jimbo let go? Some of the greatest in the game never won championships until they swallowed pride and took a step back. Go back as far as you want – Tom Osborne at Nebraska. Mack Brown at Texas and still at North Carolina. Even Jackie Sherrill, who authored the most dominant era in Texas A&M football history, relinquished hands-on duties and thrived as a master recruiter and overseer of the program. Nick Saban, anyone?

Is Jimbo capable? If he hires an offensive coordinator and doesn’t allow them to call the shots, does it make a sound?

Some of the names bandied about as the Aggies search for an offensive coordinator are wildly impressive, and the possibilities seem endless. Garrett Riley of TCU. Arksanas’ Kendal Briles. North Carolina’s Phil Longo. But they all likely are asking the same questions.

Will I have free reign? Will I call the shots? Is this real? Or just for show?

Time to do what a lot of the greats have done, Jimbo. Even your hero and mentor Bobby Bowden did it — toss the keys to the offense to someone else. Put down the reading glasses.

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