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Texas A&M Football

A&M's hire of Fisher remains the 'splash' of the 2017 coaching carousel

August 31, 2022

As Texas A&M enters its fifth football season under coach Jimbo Fisher, all indications are the program is trending upward.

The Aggies are ranked No. 6 in the AP’s preseason poll. They have three healthy, talented quarterbacks. They also have a roster filled with players from four consecutive top-ten recruiting classes.

There is so much to which to look forward.

But before the 2022 season begins against Sam Houston on Saturday at Kyle Field, let’s pause to look back about five years.

It was December of 2017. Sports Illustrated published an article ranking the best college football coaching hires that year.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Jimbo Fisher enters the 2022 season with one of his most talented rosters to date.

We all make mistakes, but that article made as much of a mistake as Nebraska coach Scott Frost’s onside kick call against Northwestern.

More on Frost later.

Anyway, that Sports Illustrated piece sought to compile “splash quotient”, geography, stylistic fit, execution of the hire and instant impact to determine a top-20 ranking of coaching hires.

The author even pointed out that the grading was done on a curve. That way, smaller programs might be given credit for making a better hire — and a bigger splash — than some Power 5 programs.

Curiously, Texas A&M’s hiring of Jimbo Fisher was ranked 19th out of 20.

Efforts were made to reach the author — now an assignments editor with the Washington Post.

No hatchet job was planned. Rather, questions were intended to clarify the criteria, to determine if the article was the idea of the author or an editor and how the article was received.

The efforts went unanswered.

Perhaps that’s not surprising. We’ve all probably had professional moments we’d rather forget.

What appeared to be a curious ranking in 2017 now appears ludicrous.

Eleven of the coaches ranked ahead of Fisher have or had losing records.

Seven have been fired.

© Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
Fisher’s FSU replacement Willie Taggart was fired after just two seasons in Tallahassee, culminating in a 9-12 record.

Some — like Frost, Willie Taggart at Florida State, Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State, Chad Morris at Arkansas and Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee — failed spectacularly.

Fisher was the only coach hired that year who had won an actual championship (though Frost at Central Florida awkwardly tried to claim one).

Fisher had taken a Florida State program that managed just seven victories in three of its last four seasons under legendary coach Bobby Bowden.

With Fisher at the helm, Florida State posted 83 victories in eight seasons. Six times the Fisher-led Seminoles posted at least 10 victories. They posted at least nine victories in seven years.

Indeed, the only year in which Fisher’s Seminoles struggled was in 2017 — his final year in Tallahassee. Not coincidentally, star quarterback Deondre Francois was lost for the season to injury in a season-opening loss to Alabama.

None of that made much of an impression on the author, who ranked Nebraska’s hiring of Frost at the top of their list.

Frost had coached two seasons at UCF. In his second year, the Golden Knights finished 13-0 in 2017. As the nation’s only unbeaten team, UFC staked a claim to the national title, though Alabama was the champion.

Frost also had been a star quarterback at Nebraska. So, with the Cornhuskers seeking a replacement for Mike Riley — who was 19-19 in three seasons in Lincoln — Frost appeared an obvious choice.

But the best hire in the nation?

Four seasons later, Frost is 15-30 and in serious jeopardy of getting fired as early as Oct. 1, when his buyout drops from $15 million to $7.5 million.

Fisher, meanwhile, is 34-14 and directing a rising program.

Thirty-four victories in four seasons won’t impress any skeptics.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Hired by Oregon in 2017, Mario Cristobal is now at Miami, his alma mater.

However, consider that of the top-20 coaches ranked in that Sports Illustrated article only three posted more victories — Billy Napier at Louisiana-Lafayette, Mario Cristobal at Oregon and Josh Heupel at Central Florida.

Napier went 40-12 at Louisiana-Lafayette. That success resulted in his accepting the head coaching position at Florida.

He replaced Dan Mullen, who was ranked No. 9 in the Sports Illustrated article. Mullen also went 34-15 before getting fired.

Cristobal was 35-13 at Oregon before leaving for Miami.

Heupel was also 35-14 at UCF. He’s now at Tennessee and was 7-6 last season.

Of course, none faced the grind of playing in the SEC West.

Ten of Fisher’s 14 losses at A&M were to opponents which ended the season ranked at least No. 21. Seven of the losses came to opponents that finished in the top ten. Three were national champions — Alabama in 2020, LSU in 2019 and Clemson in 2018.

Indeed, all five losses in 2019 were to opponents that finished No. 14 or higher in the final rankings.

Fisher has also posted six victories over ranked opponents. He figures to add to that total this season, which has the potential to be his best yet at A&M.

In retrospect, a strong argument can be made that Fisher was the nation’s best coaching hire in 2017.

Certainly, it’s a much stronger argument for Fisher than the asinine one which rated him 19th.

Discussion from...

A&M's hire of Fisher remains the 'splash' of the 2017 coaching carousel

6,395 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by GSPag`
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Great read OB. Lots of programs would fire their coach today to hire Jimbo!
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Olin @ SI

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Media plays the current media role, look for ways to make money on indifferential content.

If you are an Aggie, you knew he was the perfect hire, perfect fit, he left a storied program for one that would devote dollars to what he needed to succeed.

And here we go......
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