Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the crazy carousel of coaching changes in college football.
Say it ain’t so
In the craziest season of coaching changes in the history of college football, could FSU do the craziest thing of all and let Jimbo Fisher get away to Texas A&M? If I had an opening right now and could pick any coach in the country, Fisher would be no lower than fourth on my list. And I’ve got news for you. The top three on that list — Alabama’s Nick Saban, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney — aren’t leaving their current posts for the FSU job. Jimbo is about as good as Florida State can do.
Jimbo is such a big deal that Texas A&M fired a pretty darn good coach, Kevin Sumlin, and are reportedly throwing ridiculous money, some $8 million a year, to pry Fisher out of Tallahassee.
Maybe it’s the money that is making FSU choke. But they need to remember what Jimbo did for this program. He patiently played the coach-in-waiting role while legend Bobby Bowden stayed a little too long at the party. Fisher then turned FSU back into a national power.
Look, there’s a part (a small part) of me that gets that FSU might be getting tired of Fisher flirting with other schools every offseason. Maybe FSU feels totally jilted after giving Jimbo pretty much everything he has wanted since he has been there, including a $5.7 million annual salary. Maybe FSU thinks that if Jimbo would seriously consider leaving them then maybe they should just let him walk.
Then again, that just seems crazy to me.
Driving the bus
The buzz is former USF and current Oregon coach Willie Taggart could be FSU’s choice if Fisher leaves. Lots of smart people think Taggart would be a great fit. Me? Eh, doesn’t blow me away. Taggart seems to have had a meteoric rise. Too meteoric. He went from back-to-back 7-5 seasons at Western Kentucky to almost being fired at USF to an 11-2 season at USF to the Oregon job in about as long as it takes Quinton Flowers to run into an end zone. I’m still not sold he was more than that one-hit wonder at USF.
Tennessee fans need to get over themselves. They have a much higher opinion of themselves than anyone else does. Memo: you’re a mediocre, if that, program these days. You never should’ve fired Phil Fulmer.
Anyway, this backlash over the hiring of Greg Schiano reached ridiculous proportions when Vols fans dragged the name of Jerry Sandusky into the conversation. There’s no proof that Schiano, who spent time as a Penn State assistant in the early 1990s, knew anything about Sandusky molesting boys. Pretty much everyone associated with this ugly case agrees Schiano didn’t know anything.
Here’s the real deal: Tennessee fans didn’t want Schiano because they didn’t think he was a good enough coach, not because of anything having to do with Sandusky. If they simply don’t like Schiano as a coach, that’s fine. But this mob mentality stooped to the lowest levels has now smeared Schiano’s name and might make it difficult for him to get a head coaching job.
Meantime, how weak does this program look now that it allowed Twitter to essentially fire a coach before he started? Maybe Tennessee should hold a Twitter poll and let fans pick the next coach. But be sure Jon Gruden’s name is not on that list because Gruden isn’t coming. He never was. Tennessee isn’t a good enough job for Gruden — or most really good coaches out there.
Chip off the old block
This is the second time that Chip Kelly has forced someone to panic and pick Schiano as coach.
We’re all familiar with the first time. Back in 2012, Kelly was supposed to be named coach of the Bucs. When he changed his mind at the last minute, the Glazers plucked Schiano out of Rutgers.
Well, if you believe the buzz out there, it sort of happened again.
Florida was set to hire Kelly. But Kelly pivoted to UCLA, forcing Florida to look at it second option, UCF’s Scott Frost. But Frost gave them a stiff arm, presumably because he is headed to Nebraska. That left Florida scrambling to find a reliable coach and it went a safe choice: Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.
Up until then, word was that Tennessee had its sights on Mullen. But when Mullen chose Florida, Tennessee felt it had to do something quickly and went with Schiano.
On the mark
You know whose name should come up more during the annual game of coaching musical chairs? Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio.
He’s 61, so maybe that has something to do with it. But still, look at what he has done at Michigan State. Other than one clunker, fluke season (3-9 last year), Dantonio’s teams are always in the mix for the Big Ten title. In fact, he has won more Big Ten titles than Urban Meyer since Meyer joined the conference in 2012. Throw out last year’s stinker, and his teams have gone 29-4 in the Big Ten since 2013.
In the past five years, his teams have gone 13-1, 11-2, 12-2, 3-9 and this season the Spartans are 9-3. That run includes two Big Ten titles and a trip to the college football playoffs.
Three things that popped into my head
1. If I was Tennessee, I’d take a long look at USF’s Charlie Strong. He’s a stand-up, reliable guy — something Tennessee could use after the Schiano debacle.
2. Frost looks like a decent coach, although like Taggart, a lot of people are putting stock in one great season in a small conference. But even if he’s all he’s cracked up to be, I’m not sure anyone can have big-time success anymore at Nebraska. Maybe he might realize that and stay at UCF?
3. Mullen is probably a good choice for Florida, but how fun would it have been if the Gators had turned to Lane Kiffin?