Florida State made a reasonable decision
Florida State has fired Willie Taggart.
Part of the official press release is below pic.twitter.com/OSMEmT7Eny
— Warchant.com (@Warchant) November 3, 2019
Who should be Florida State’s next football coach? I know you want to hear about it, but right now, let’s first process the decision FSU made to fire Willie Taggart before the Boston College-Florida home stretch.
Was it reasonable? Was it fair? Before we search for a successor, it is worth evaluating a coach firing on its own terms. It is important to do so, because the historical record demands accountability and a willingness to evaluate moves not just when they are made, but when their effects are apparent.
If people such as myself were confident in thinking that Willie Taggart would do well at Florida State when he was originally hired (not stratospherically great, but 10 wins per season and a threat to Clemson; I did think Taggart would be able to do that much), I have to do two other things as well:
A) Admit I was wrong.
B) Evaluate the decision to fire him at this point in time.
Firing coaches after two years on the job is very serious business in college football, especially at blue-blood programs. It is not a decision to be made – or taken – lightly. If a program fires a coach after two seasons, it can have a chilling effect on the marketplace. It can make attractive candidates shy away, for fear of not getting adequate support from the administration if things go wrong early in a tenure.
There are two reasons a quick-trigger coach firing can occur (within the first two seasons). One is a terrible off-field scandal which severely damages the program’s reputation and brand.
The second reason pertains to on-field results: A program has to be a disaster for a coach to be fired after two seasons.
Did FSU meet that level of ineptitude? Let’s use an important piece of context here.
We remember how great the ACC was in 2016: Lamar Jackson won the Heisman and made Louisville an extremely dangerous team. Virginia Tech looked great under Justin Fuente that season. Georgia Tech still had Paul Johnson and was still a bowl program, unlike this year.
The 2016 ACC had three teams with 10 or more wins, six with nine or more, eight with eight or more, and 11 teams with at least seven wins. ACC teams won nine postseason games.
If Florida State had finished 3-5 in that year’s ACC, and 6-6 overall, the result would not be acceptable, but it wouldn’t be cause for firing a coach after two seasons.
However, the 2019 ACC is profoundly different league compared to 2016.
Stumbling in this version of the ACC is orders of magnitude worse than struggling in an elite conference such as the 2016 ACC. If you were to say this program is a disaster after two seasons of Willie Taggart, the argument is entirely reasonable. One could debate the merits of a coach firing after two seasons, but the discussion itself is legitimate.
Let’s offer a few points of comparison: The Big Ten has three unbeaten teams right now: Ohio State, Penn State, and Minnesota. The SEC has LSU and Alabama playing this Saturday, with Georgia owning one loss and Auburn and Florida having two losses.
Finishing fifth or sixth in those two conferences would put a program on par with Michigan (Big Ten) or Auburn (SEC). Florida State does not expect to finish fifth in the ACC, but the 2016 ACC was a beast of a conference. The 2019 ACC (Clemson excepted, of course) is a cute little puppy dog who likes to play with plush toys. It is soft and cuddly.
Florida State can’t be viewed as anywhere near the top five in this year’s ACC. Clemson, Wake Forest, Virginia, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina would probably fill out the top seven teams, the top half of the 14-team conference. You could make the case that Florida State is closer to being the 10th-best ACC team than the fifth-best team.
In Year 1, okay, sure – Taggart had to get adjusted to everything.
Late in Year 2? No – this is completely unacceptable.
Who should be the next coach? We will tackle that question soon enough. For now, let’s be clear: This was an entirely reasonable move. Florida State had legitimate reason to fire Willie Taggart before the end of a second full season.
Report- Bob Stoops no longer candidate for FSU job
At FSU continues to look for a replacement for Willie Taggart, you can scratch one prominent name off the list.
— Jim Henry (@JimHenryTALLY) November 15, 2019
Reports previously were that Stoops was one of the leading choices to take over the floundering Seminole program, and that Florida State may have already extended a massive offer to him.
However, Stoops, who coached Oklahoma from 1999-2016 and won a BCS National Championship against Florida State in the 2000 Orange Bowl, wants to instead keep his job as coach and general manager of the Dallas Renegades of the reboot of the XFL this February.
Stoops had also refused to deny being interested/linked to the Seminoles job, at a public Q & A for the XFL in Dallas last week.
There is obviously a financial concern for Florida State of not only the buyout that they still owe Taggart, which is believed to be somewhere around $17 million, but the potential buyout of another established coach, plus that coach’s salary for 2020 and beyond.
We wrote earlier this week that current interim coach Odell Haggins could be an excellent short-term solution for a lot of the needs that Florida state has, including financial resources.
Haggins coached the Noles to a dramatic 38 – 31 win in Boston last week over the B..C Eagles, which has now put FSU in position to make a bowl game. They need only one more victory and play FCS Alabama State at noon Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday
It is still believed that Florida State is very interested in Stoops’ younger brother Mark, who is the current coach at Kentucky, and is the former defensive coordinator for four seasons (2009-12) with Jimbo Fisher in Tallahassee.
The Democrat article also mentions that Memphis coach Mike Norvell, Penn State coach James Franklin and Iowa State coach, Matt Campbell, are candidates that FSU will seriously consider.
Argument for keeping Odell Haggins as FSU coach
As FSU enters their second week of trying to solve their coaching vacancy situation, the best immediate solution maybe staring right at them in interim coach, Odell Haggins.
Haggins oversaw Florida State’s dramatic 38-31 win at Boston College Saturday, which coupled with his two victories as interim coach at the end of the 2017 season has already demonstrated, in a small sample, that he has promise as a head coach. FSU will play FCS Alabama State Saturday and will likely win easily and assure themselves of a bowl game, too.
As for the search, there are three important factors in the Seminoles interviewing for the replacement for Willie Taggart.
One, the leadership in Tallahassee needs to bring stability to the program. The departure of Jimbo Fisher to take a more lucrative job in the SEC with Texas A&M and then with the dismal results from Taggart, who had only coached in a Power 5 situation for one year at Oregon, have the Noles in turmoil.
Florida State needs someone who can calm and reassure players, potential recruits, boosters and anyone else, that they’re going to get back to their winning ways. Preferably, someone who’s been there.
Two, FSU has to be concerned in the short-term with recruits “bailing on them” due to the uncertainty the coaching situation. The early signing period is coming in the second week in December. And, Florida State, right now, has one of the top 5 recruiting classes for next year in the country. But that could evaporate over the course of the next 21 days, if they are not reassured.
And finally, what can the Seminoles actually afford? With Taggart’s massive buyout, believed to be $17 million or so and the fact that FSU will have to likely buyout an established head coach for more significant money, and then, pay their salary, money is definitely a concern in the short-term.
So when you analyze Haggins, who’s been an assistant coach or a player at Florida State for 30 years, he is a solid “yes” on all three of those, above.
He would clearly bring stability, as he is Florida State through and through, including being part of Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher’s National Championship staffs/teams.
Two, Haggins has been intimately involved in FSU recruiting for the last two decades. He helped hold the recruiting class together two years ago in December, when Fisher left. And, he has been instrumental in talking to recruits right now during the transition period for the next coach.
And finally, the money concerns could be alleviated, at least on a short-term basis, with hiring Haggins as the coach. He will cost significantly less to promote than the names like Mark Stoops, Mike Norvell, etc. would cost.
FSU could explore even a one or two-year option on a deal with their longtime defensive line assistant, and Haggins would probably be willing to do it for all of the reasons above. This would also be a good short term option in keeping the staff together, like offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, and potentially, elevating Jim Leavitt to defensive coordinator, if they/Haggins would like.
Again, Florida State may be able to land a proven head coach coming up and afford their buyout.
But, if they are not able to do that in short order, Odell Haggins appears to be an excellent option to continue to bring short-term stability and success that’s affordable.
And those are three “wins” that FSU needs right now, too.
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