There is a side benefit to waiting for an icon to wrap up a career that seemed as if it would last forever. At least Jimbo Fisher had time to work on his to-do list.
Let's see. What should Fisher do first?
There is a legend to replace, and there is a dynasty to rebuild. There are large shoes to fill, and there is mediocrity to escape. There are high expectations to meet and a staff to build and players to recruit and fans to unite and doubts to erase.
Most of all, there is a rival to catch.
So strap on the sneakers, Jimbo. All you have to do is chase down the Urban Meyer Express.
Say this about the work in front of Fisher. It certainly looks like enough of a load to keep a man busy. Why, even the most impatient FSU fan would allow that it might take Fisher most of the morning to complete.
For Fisher, that's part of the job, too. FSU's football decline has been seven years in the unraveling, but fans are going to be in a hurry to reclaim their glory days. Now that the major blockade to winning — Bowden — has been removed, some seem to think it will be automatic. Which means Fisher has a lot more work than he does time.
Which begs the question: Does he have a shot?
Answer: Yes, he does. This is still Florida State, and it still recruits in Florida, and it still competes in the ACC. Yes, Fisher has a chance to regain some of the momentum that has been lost to Meyer and Florida.
Think about it. To most of a nation, the Florida program must look fairly daunting. But can you imagine how it must look to a new cross-state coach who has to measure up to it? After all, the closer you stand to a mountain, the higher it looks.
Fisher must repair a program that has grown cold, and he must do it while going head to head against the hottest coach in America. He not only has to stand up to the Gators' momentum, he has to catch it first.
At FSU, that's going to be the bottom line comparison. It doesn't matter how often FSU wins. If Florida is winning more, FSU fans are going to be unhappy.
It is a strange situation. It is tough enough to replace a legend, but Fisher has to do it without any carryover from the legendary parts. The talent is not what it once was. The staff is not what it once was. The school's reputation is not what it once was. Certainly, the record is not what it once was.
So where does a new coach start?
For Fisher, as for every new coach, it starts with recruiting. It starts with convincing kids that FSU will once again be a fun place to play, that it will return to the days when it looked a little quicker, a little smarter than the teams it played against. It starts with convincing players it will be more fun to play against the Gators than for them. It starts with convincing recruits that FSU can again be a shortcut to the NFL.
Can Fisher do that? He has the reputation as a good recruiter. Still, things don't sound as if they're going well. One recruiting service has the Seminoles at No. 37 in the nation. Another has them at No. 31. Still another has them at No. 19.
Of course, you can't trust the ratings. Over the past several seasons, FSU has brought in classes that generally met with approval. And yet the athletes have not measured up. Maybe some of that has been because of faulty evaluation. Maybe some of it has been because of faulty coaching.
The result is FSU has begun to look like one of those second-school-in-the-state programs that has to work a little harder to overcome a brand-name rival. Think of UCLA as it struggles to catch Southern Cal, Texas A&M as it struggles to catch Texas, Auburn as it struggles to catch Alabama or Notre Dame as it struggles to catch Navy.
Want to know how tough it is becoming the FSU coach in 2009? It's tougher than it was in 1976, when Bowden arrived. After all, Bowden only had to show he was better than Larry Jones and Darrell Mudra. And in those days, there wasn't much happening in Gainesville. During the '70s, a three-loss season was pretty good for the Gators. At that time, none of the Florida schools had won a national title. (There are now 10 titles among Miami, Florida and FSU).
To overcome Florida (not to mention Miami and USF), a coach needs imagination and energy. He needs a plan and a touch of swagger. He needs to recruit a team, and he needs to recruit a staff. Somewhere along the way, he needs to sign a recruit or two, and win a game or two, that no one expects.
All in all, it's a Herculean task. Wait. It's tougher than that. All Hercules had to do was kill a boar, catch a deer, clean a stable, swipe a woman's girdle and fetch a three-headed dog (along with a few other chores involving livestock).
Is Fisher the man to pull it off? Already, there are those who wonder. Some FSU fans weren't happy with the way he replaced Jeff Bowden, let alone Bobby.
Still, there is enough of a cachet to the program to get Fisher in the door, and there is enough tradition, enough facilities and enough reputation to put FSU back in the ACC race.
Everything else is up to Fisher.
Oh, and Jimbo?
Welcome to the job.