Let’s start with “innocent until proven guilty.” Let’s say you believe that Jameis Winston did nothing in the potential rape case, that no one interfered with it at all, and that his on-campus outburst was just immaturity. After all, if you arrive at FSU and lead them to a national title in your first year — and hell, you still haven’t lost — then you’re entitled to scream a few things in an open space now and again, right? (#College) Forget about the crab legs stuff too. (College athletes probably get tons of shit for free that’s never reported.) So if you toss all that out, and assume it’s a series of misunderstandings, then we’re also assuming Jameis Winston is a good kid at heart. (He may well be.) Jimbo Fisher and his family may well love him. (They probably do. Without him, they likely don’t have their national title.)
But Fisher is still a sanctimonious piece of shit. Here’s why.
Start here. College football is as conspiracy-laden a sport as any on Earth, and literally every time College Gameday chooses an SEC location, Twitter and my iMessage erupt, but still, it’s odd when the coach of the defending national champions is basically like, “Well, we get negative attention because ESPN has money in the SEC:”
Everyone thinks there’s a bias, sure. But when you’ve won a national title and represent a top-3 team in America, you need to keep the bias shit out of it.
I have this theory that there are basically three types of football coaches, at any level:
- Executors Who Could Care Less About The Media: You know these guys. They win, and they seem to do everything to the minute. They’d probably bench a star RB for being 23 seconds late to a film session. Bill Belichick is the pro high-water mark for this type, with Nick Saban probably being the college high-water mark. Routine and doing things the right way.
- Flashy, Gimmick Coaches: These are guys like Mike Leach, or even Art Briles — they run programs who put up a lot of points, and have a couple of really good stretches, but aren’t necessarily consistent winners like the other coaches above.
- Nondescript or Bad: These are coaches who fall into the “other” bucket. They win games and get high-profile jobs, but eventually they fade from view. Think Will Muschamp or even a dude like Marty Schottenheimer — who had success, but never amazing success.
There are obviously coaches that go outside this mold; Pete Carroll seems to focus on execution (he’s had good teams at both levels) and messes around with the media sometimes. My theory is not airtight.
Here’s the thing with Fisher: he doesn’t seem like an executor, per se. He was 12-2 in the year before Winston, but in the two years before that, FSU lost four games each time. In 2010, with Christian Ponder and E.J. Manuel on the roster — who would both go and start games in the NFL — they lost back-to-back games to NC State and UNC, both unranked at the time. He’s not a flashy coach. He’s not “other.” I mean, he’s won a title.
So what is he?
He comes off, honestly, as a guy that very consistently got lucky — he was around when Bowden was ready to go out (preventing a PSU situation or a situation akin to what’s going to happen with Duke basketball), and then he landed one of the best frosh QBs to come along in years. Yes, he recruited Winston, and interestingly, his behavior with Winston is now helping him with other recruits:
He does come off, often, as more lucky than good. I’m not saying I could coach FSU to a title. I couldn’t. Football is not a roll-the-balls out situation.
His consistent focus in interviews, though, is on “doing things the right way.” He mentioned it again before the Notre Dame game, as cited by College Football Talk, and one of the comments reads like this:
So many leaders, in sports, in business and in politics shrink the most when they’re supposed to show their mettle.
But we’ve all known for a long time now that it’s about money.
It’s not about doing it the right way, it’s about winning. Winning equals money and other things will be and are swept aside and under the carpet in pursuit of money…
And not just in sports.
Agree. I think leadership really doesn’t exist anymore. Being-good-at-what-matters-to-those-above-you replaced it. In Jimbo Fisher’s case, that’s winning football games.
OK, so here’s how I can reconcile all these garbled thoughts:
- When you have a guy like a Saban or a Harbaugh or a Belichick, people will tolerate this kind of onward-focus-bullshit with the press, because their narrative is “Execution wins games, and you get execution from doing things the right way.”
- When a guy like Fisher does it, it can seem sanctimonious and condescending, especially in light of investigations around his best player. (And yes, they did win a game with Winston out.)
Here’s the other thing to remember about this discussion: they’ve won like, 27 games in a row. They haven’t looked great this season, but they haven’t lost. Alabama has. Oregon has. MSST has. TCU and Baylor have. FSU hasn’t, and unless you believe Will Muschamp’s last stand or Georgia Tech will take them down, they won’t lose before the playoffs. 29 straight games. They need to win another 20 or so to tie the all-time record (not happening), but still, it’s already tied for the 19th-longest streak ever. Impressive.
Point is: people don’t like teams that win a lot, especially when they win in tight games where maybe the QB shoved a ref.
If you look back through any college/pro dynasty in any sport, even if they started out as fun and scoring lots of points/runs, eventually people started to want to see them lose. I loved those UNLV teams back when. When Duke finally beat them, that was awesome. I loved the 1990s Cowboys initially. When they started to fall apart, I was ecstatic. I loved the ’99-’00 era Lakers. When they began to implode, I cheered passionately. That’s life. Winners eventually become hated. It happens.
Maybe that’s what I’m channeling with Fisher, but I can’t get it out of my head that he probably knows more — about everything — then he lets on, but he stays this straight-and-narrow of lucky, drop the same soundbites, and support the questionable elements so long as the scoreboard is on your side.