Oct 22, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Texas A&M Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher directs his team against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
John P. Lopez — Jimbo’s trick play? How things could get weird in Aggieland
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher swallowed his pride.
The question is: Can he keep it down?
Aggies everywhere had enough of the dry heaves last season when it came to offensive football. Key word: Offensive. To say nothing of repugnant and more than a little embarrassing.
The one-time unquestioned play-calling genius and molder of quarterbacks didn’t so much forget football or how to develop players as much as Fisher’s philosophy never adjusted to today’s rapid-fire college game.
And neither did the Aggies. Advance, that is.
The Aggies ranked 100th in the country in points per game in 2022 and 13th in the SEC. They lost in humiliating fashion to Appalachian State on the way to a 5-7 season where they finished 92nd in the country in total offense.
With talent and depth much more acclaimed than that, the $9 million-per-year head coach in his fifth season had to look hard in the mirror. He had to make a tough call. For his own good and the Aggies’ sanity, he had to admit he needed help.
In this 12th Man Step program, there was no other choice.
Hi. My name is Jimbo, and I’m a play-calling relic.
After recruiting some of the best talent in America and teasing glory days with a superb start to his tenure at A&M, Fisher had to succumb to the pressure and ineptitude of all that underachieving.
He gave up playcalling, which for the entirety of his career was his signature and identity.
He hired the wildly innovative road-rash king, Bobby Petrino. And everyone who’s anyone in college football agreed: The only neck braces Aggies are going to see will belong to defensive backs and defensive coordinators.
Just like that, the Aggies and all their five-star talent would become a perfect mesh of Fisher’s big-picture vision, his golden-touch recruiting, and charisma, mixed with Petrino’s still cutting-edge offensive approach.
Strangely, Jimbo made the transition to the next chapter much more complicated and convoluted than it should have been.
Bizarrely, when Fisher was asked for the gazillionth time before spring training about his new OC calling plays, he said Petrino would indeed be the play-caller. Kind-of. Maybe. Or not.
“We’ll go through that as we go,” Fisher said. “I plan on him making calls. I plan on him calling plays. I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
Plan on. As we go.
It shouldn’t be this hard, Ags. Why make it so, Jimbo?
Anyone who has watched the early stages of Aggies spring ball knows Petrino very much has been the loudest and often only voice working with the Aggies offense. Still, as much as Fisher has lurked in the background and rightfully should impact offensive philosophies and the big-picture given his resume, the question remains: Why be so vague if the answer is clear?
The only thing Jimbo did by not wholeheartedly pitching the keys to Petrino was complicate things.
Petrino seems unfettered by it all. He has taken the reins and happily giddy-upped his way forward this spring with an offense that has more talent and depth than perhaps he’s ever had. Between super-talent Connor Weigman at quarterback, a deep receiving corps led by Evan Stewart and Ainias Smith, five-star running back Rueben Owens, and a monster returning offensive line, life is good.
Petrino has excelled at Arkansas and Louisville in his career, but rarely has he had these kinds of resources and this kind of talent and depth at his fingertips.
He could well get the Aggies to the place most thought they’d already be. He could well be exactly what the otherwise elite-in-every-way Jimbo needs. He could be the answer. He could get the Aggies over the top and into national championship contention.
If only Jimbo were as convinced of it as everyone else seems to be.