JACKSONVILLE — For the moment, the relationship looked as if it was working just fine, thank you.
Bobby Bowden, the king of coaches, stood on the sideline, his arms folded, the game in his control. A few yards away, Jimbo Fisher, the prince in waiting, was working the sideline, pacing and pointing and yelling.
For the moment, they were the perfect coaching pair, the old man and the young gun. For the moment, the offense was putting together a step-on-the-neck drive against Colorado, and the Bowden-Fisher combination looked as lethal as when Vito and Michael Corleone talked strategy in the garden.
Winning is like this. It makes everyone look smarter, and it makes every plan look better, and it makes every season look more promising. When FSU beat Colorado on Saturday, it was enough to make you be willing to take a fresh look at the possibilities of the young Seminoles.
Maybe, just maybe, this 3-1 start will be different.
Maybe, just maybe, the decision to anoint Fisher as the next runner in the relay of FSU coaches was a stroke of genius.
A week ago, no one would have said that. A week ago, in a dismal loss to Wake Forest, FSU's offense was only a concept, and the management structure of Bowden and Fisher looked like a mistake. Together, during a three-point performance, the players and coaches both looked as if they were trying to find the proper rhythm to make things go.
This was different. This was progress. It was not electric, and it was not dominant, and it was not precise. But it was better. And it was enough to win.
If you wondered, it was understandable. It is fairly new stuff, having the present and future head coaches share the same sideline. Some places, it wouldn't work. Some places, the coaches might have a tug-of-war over the headset.
"It's working," Bowden said after the game. "It's working good."
For instance, it was Fisher's decision to stick with Christian Ponder at quarterback for most of the way Saturday. It was Fisher's decision to try a 52-yard field goal (which was good) instead of punting. It was Fisher's decision to stick stubbornly to a running game despite an offensive line that is young enough to compete in junior college games.
"I have confidence in him," Bowden said. "I hear him at the chalkboard. I hear him with the kids. I hear him with the other coaches. He's not scared to make a decision."
Oh, there are differences.
When the game ended, Bowden walked off as fans chanted his name. Fisher walked off with a cell phone jammed in his ear, perhaps talking to a recruit. Bowden had two state troopers as security. Fisher still doesn't have any. Perhaps one of these days, he should visit the academy and pick out a promising sophomore for the future.
Bowden has heard the whispers, of course. He turns 79 in November, and already, there have been suggestions that he has become more figurehead than coach in his later years.
"It's amazing," Bowden said. "People say, 'He's too old to coach.' But head coaches don't coach. I don't see Joe (Paterno) wearing an earset. I don't see Urban (Meyer) wearing an earset. He might. I don't see (Miami coach Randy) Shannon wearing an earset.
"You hire a coach to do a job, and you get out of his way and let them do it. And if they don't do it, then I'm fired."
Bowden laughed the old familiar laugh, because really, there haven't been many victories that couldn't coax a chuckle out of him. This was the 500th game in which Bowden has been a head coach, and he has won 376 of those.
"People kept saying, 'Congratulations on coaching your 500th game,' " he said. "But all you have to do is walk out there."
There was a time it seemed that walking onto the field was enough for FSU. Lately, however, things have been tougher. A year ago, the Seminoles started 3-1, and they finished 7-6. Two years ago, the Seminoles started 3-1, and they finished 7-6.
This time? Who knows?
"I've been doing this enough to know what 3-1 can turn into," Bowden said. "It can turn into something good, and it can turn into something that isn't as good."
The offense has to get better, of course. With a sophomore quarterback and a young offensive line, that's to be expected.
As for Bowden, there is still some friskiness there. He doesn't sound like a man who plans on going anywhere. For that matter, neither does Fisher.
On 39-point afternoons, that sounds like a good idea. A good combination, too.