On Monday, I put forth the idea that if Florida State doesn’t have a clear home-run coaching hire to make after firing Willie Taggart, FSU shouldn’t think it has to select a permanent replacement.
Florida State could give Jim Leavitt the 2020 season – at a bargain rate, with no large buyout and no massive up-front commitments of money – as an audition for the permanent job in 2021 and beyond. Leavitt would get a chance to prove whether he is the right man for the job.
If he whipped the 2020 Seminoles into shape, give him the keys for the next few years and THEN pay him more money.
Florida State could save some money next year, so that it could either compensate Leavitt generously if he succeeds, or offer big money to a replacement for 2021 if Leavitt fails next year. Florida State would use a one-year bridge plan to gather options and achieve some cost savings.
Here is the counterpoint: Florida State needs a home-run coach sooner rather than later. It needs a strong, prepared figure to take hold of this program and build it back.
I don’t disagree that if FSU has a home-run coach, it should hire him and ditch the Leavitt bridge plan.
However: IS there a home-run coach who will come to Tallahassee at this time, under these circumstances?
Will Brent Venables leave Clemson for the Tigers’ foremost (long-term, not 2019) competitor in the ACC Atlantic Division? I doubt it.
If Venables is willing to come, I think his body of work – the quality of the work itself, but also how consistent Venables has been this decade – makes him a home-run choice. Yet, would he coach for a Clemson rival? Is FSU truly the job he has been waiting for? Color me skeptical.
Is Matt Rhule, who made a profound commitment to Baylor when the program was depleted, going to leave Waco for Tallahassee? Maybe… but why would Rhule (above) go to Baylor, under terrible circumstances, but be currently unbeaten and then leave before he had enough time to lift the Bears to the top of the conference?
Let’s assume Oklahoma beats Baylor later this month. Would Rhule leave behind unfinished business, or would he try to conquer Lincoln Riley in future seasons?
I see Venables and Rhule as the two best coaches Florida State could reasonably get.
Should Florida State force those coaches to say no? Absolutely Administrators in charge of the coaching search have to make sure the best candidates turn them down.
This is where the coaching search becomes especially fascinating… and tricky.
Does FSU really want to gamble on P.J. Fleck? Minnesota has to play Penn State, then Iowa and Wisconsin, in November. Minnesota hasn’t played Michigan or Ohio State this season. The Golden Gophers do not have high-end wins.
If you really are interested in a home-run hire, don’t you want a coach with home-run wins? Fleck could be great, but is he at that top-tier level befitting a home-run coach? Not yet. Beat Penn State and Wisconsin first. Then, we can revisit this discussion.
Gus Malzahn? Gus at his best is brilliant, but Auburn fans could tell you that “Good Gus” occasionally appears. He doesn’t show up every season. Florida State can and should do better.
I could mention several other names, but I don’t feel I need to. Here is the bottom line: If FSU is turned down by the home-run coaches on the board, it can’t settle for a double.
If FSU can’t land a home-run coach, that is precisely why the Leavitt one-year bridge plan makes sense, in addition to the cost-savings angle.
Let’s say Baylor loses to Oklahoma and Texas this November. The Bears finish their season 10-2, but still a notch below the big boys in the Big 12. The Leavitt one-year bridge plan enables FSU to evaluate Rhule in 2020. Maybe he manages to beat OU and/or Texas and win the Big 12.
Then, FSU could hire him if Leavitt’s performance elicits significant doubts.
Apply the same method to Fleck at Minnesota. Maybe he won’t beat Penn State or Wisconsin this year, but he figures it out in 2020. Then you can hire him with more of an assurance that he can maximize talent.
In conclusion, the Leavitt one-year bridge plan is not being presented as the only plan, or the obvious plan. My emphasis is that a one-year bridge plan is better than hiring a coach one cannot be sure of.
It is better for Florida State, at the end of 2019, to use a one-year bridge plan than to hire a coach it thinks MIGHT be able to do a great job, but whose credentials don’t make him a stone-cold certainty to win big in Tallahassee.
The last coach Florida State hired fit that description. His name was Willie Taggart.
If you fire Taggart, you can’t replace him with someone similar.
If you can get Brent Venables or, someone like Rhule or Fleck, who proven themselves by winning at multiple programs, by all means do so.
If you CAN’T, a bridge plan easily beats a coach you’re not completely sure about.
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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