The Mind of Mike is a scary place. Let’s delve into it and take a look at his thoughts on the firing of Florida State head coach Willie Taggart.
THE NEWS: FSU fires Taggart
First and foremost, this was a good decision despite the ludicrous buyout and the amount of money it will cost Florida State. This was a mistake, a very expensive mistake, and Taggart's hire was curious because this was a guy who didn’t have a winning record overall in college football. At Western Kentucky he was 16-20 overall and at South Florida he had one big year but was still 24-25 overall. His lone year at Oregon he was 7-5 and you can clearly state that the Ducks' program is in better hands under Mario Cristoabal these days. Taggart's recruiting prowess was one of the things that attracted FSU and recruiting has been OK, but on-field player development has been awful. And this clearly wasn’t going to work out, so why wait? Taggart was on my list of coaches who should be fired this season because of the lack of direction at the program and it’s smart for the ‘Noles higher ups to rip off the Band-Aid now.
Let’s forget the excuse so many FSU fans used when gauging Taggart’s lack of success early. Jimbo Fisher did not leave the cupboard bare. Yes, Fisher didn’t recruit very hard at all in his last year when he clearly had a foot out the door, and yes he allowed his players to quit on him, but how long will that excuse hold up? The offensive line was surely a mess, but this was a team that never seemed inspired under Taggart and certainly didn’t get better. The quarterback play was awful, there was zero excuse for Taggart to go two years without taking a quarterback in a recruiting class and players just didn’t develop as expected. Fisher is the villain in Tallahassee for sure for abandoning the program, but Taggart made his own bed with some really bad coaching and for allowing the team to play down to opponents.
Taggart didn’t get two full seasons at FSU and many will criticize that decision, but it’s the way of the world now. If it’s clear it won’t work out, end it. Why allow Taggart to continue to recruit players for his systems when he’s a dead man walking anyhow and would have been fired this time next year? FSU recruiting will always be good but it comes down to player development and coaching and the next hire could easily turn the Seminoles into a juggernaut again. I think the same fate awaits coaches like Chad Morris and possibly Manny Diaz next year if Miami doesn’t turn it around. The bottom line is that a program like FSU shouldn’t be scrambling to make a bowl game – ever. Not with their recruiting geography and blueblood status as a program.
Taggart’s firing puts many on notice, including Morris, Diaz and coaches like Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee. Win now or we will move on. Patience is not a word that boosters are familiar with, and in this day and age immediate results are not only expected but demanded.
Taggart landed the No. 10 recruiting class in the country in his first year at FSU in 2018 and the Seminoles finished No. 18 in his only full recruiting year in 2019. In 2020 FSU was No. 15 as of this writing behind Clemson, Miami and North Carolina in the ACC. Recruiting wasn’t his problem, but he didn’t hit a home run in that department, either. By comparison, FSU was No. 5 in 2017, No. 2 in 2016 and No. 3 in 2015. Fisher was an elite recruiter at FSU and left plenty of talent behind despite the way he departed. In my opinion, Florida State should always ranked among the top five to eight teams in the country.
So who’s next? How about Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, who is not only an elite recruiter but a great offensive mind. He’s part of the Dabo Swinney coaching tree, which we all know will be successful and I think he’d be a great fit at FSU. Perhaps some bigger names will be floated and they might want someone with head coaching experience, but I think Scott is a rising star. If they do want head coaching experience, Mark Stoops would be the guy I’d call first. The job he’s done at Kentucky has been nothing short of amazing. David Clawson at Wake Forest and Mike Norvell at Memphis are also good choices. And how about PJ Fleck at Minnesota? He could finally row the boat near an ocean.
Final thought. From Bobby Bowden to Jimbo Fisher, Florida State has been a proud program that had become a recruiting power each and every season. Both men won national titles at Florida State and there’s no reason to think the next coach can’t do the same thing. This is a Ferrari of a football program that should be contesting Clemson year in and year out. And I think we will be back to that sooner than later.