The Florida State Football team is currently experiencing its worst start in program history. They are 0-4 after the first month of college football and remain the only winless team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The most notable loss of the 0-4 start came at the hands of an FCS program, Jacksonville State. This was supposed to be a season that many believed would be a turning point for Florida State.
Head coach, Mike Norvell is in his second season with the Noles, but it is hard to count last season, considering what the team had to deal with because of COVID. Florida State finished last season with a record of 3-6, but Norvell was still able to put together a decent recruiting class and bring in some high-profile transfers. Despite being able to attract talented players, the team still remains at the bottom of the ACC. So where did it all go wrong?
The Seminoles have not had a winning season since 2017, under coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher was a prodigy of the late, great Bobby Bowden who single-handedly brought FSU to the upper echelon of college football. Under coach Jimbo Fisher, the Seminoles won a National Championship in 2013 and made a Rose Bowl appearance in the following season. The next year, the Seminoles began to fall off from National Championship contention, and Jimbo Fisher was simultaneously seeking a bigger contract. Fans and boosters alike were unwilling to pay Jimbo the money he was after, so he took the head coaching job at Texas A&M. The Noles hired Willie Taggart to fill those shoes after Jimbo left for the Aggies. This is where things fell apart for them.
It did not take long to realize that Taggart was trying to install a culture that did not fit the mold that Bobby Bowden had created. He wanted to make the game fun and wanted the players to play loose, and preached a “lethal simplicity” style of offense. Come to find out, “lethal simplicity” loosely translates to bubble screens and halfback draws on third-and-long. Furthermore, the culture he strived to install deteriorated into unprepared, selfish, and uninspiring performances on Saturdays. Mind you, this is all with high-level recruits that eventually made their way into the NFL and are excelling at the next level. This list includes guys like Cam Akers, Derwin James, and Brian Burns. Ever heard of them?
When Taggart’s tenure at Florida State was all said and done, he finished with a record of 9-12, and 0-5 against the school’s biggest rivals (Florida, Miami, and Clemson). This is only six years removed from winning a National Championship. The simple solution to this would be to fire him and move on, right? Well yes, but it is not that simple.
Florida State bet big on Willie Taggart when they hired him to take over the program. He was hired on a six-year deal worth $30 million. Based on his history of bringing programs out of the mud, it seemed like the right idea at the time. After not even two full seasons, Taggart was relieved of his head coaching duties in Tallahassee, but the man signed on the dotted line, so that money is still owed via a buyout. The Seminoles will not fully rid themselves of the ghost of Willie Taggart until the year 2024, when his contract expires.
Looking ahead to today, Florida State finds itself in a similar predicament with current coach, Mike Norvell. Like Taggart, Norvell was also hired on a six-year deal, but this time around it is worth $26.5 million. If it weren’t for already striking out on the hiring of Willie Taggart, Norvell’s days in Tallahassee would probably be coming to an abrupt end. Taggart and Norvell’s combined contracts have the Florida State football program stuck between a rock and a hard place.
To be successful in college football you need two things: money and recruits. It is safe to say money is a bit tight for the Noles right now, and the current product on the field is not going to make boosters overly anxious to give more money. The slight glimmer of hope that Florida State still has is recruiting. If there is one thing that Norvell has already done a much better job of than Taggart did, that is in the recruiting department. For the upcoming 2022 freshman class, FSU already has one 5-star commit, and nine 4-star commits.
Despite the team’s struggles in recent years, the name ‘Florida State University’ still very much means something in the world of college football. The only option they have to dig themselves out of this hole is patience. They need to focus on bringing in the right kids and getting the most out of them. It may be a while before Florida State has realistic National Championship aspirations, but there is a path to returning to their former glory.
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