Jimbo Fisher blew a golden opportunity for the ultimate clap back, and he'll kick himself about it forever
Never before, never again.
Never before have we seen an offseason war of words quite as heated, quite as personal and quite as impactful as the dialogue between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher. Even in the NIL era, Saban claiming that A&M “bought” every player in its recruiting class sent Fisher into a public frenzy unlike and we’ve ever seen before and perhaps unlike any we’ll ever see again.
Fisher, by virtue of suffering 2 losses in the first 5 weeks of the season, took some air out of the balloon that looked like it was going to pop in a violent way on Oct. 8.
But boy, did that sucker blow right back up on Saturday night.
Fisher did what oddsmakers, pundits, fans and anyone with 2 eyeballs thought was impossible. He had a chance to win the game on the final play from the 2-yard-line.
Four Alabama turnovers, 2 Alabama missed kicks, 1 miraculous Evan Stewart catch in double coverage, 1 defensive pass interference penalty to keep the game alive and 1 backup quarterback certainly helped that situation present itself.
And what did Fisher dial up? A quick out to a true freshman receiver in press coverage who was short of the goal line even if he somehow caught the low-percentage throw.
ALABAMA SURVIVES. pic.twitter.com/V3fpkMdlqs
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 9, 2022
Bad. Awful. Inexcusable.
That’s the type of play call that a man on a $95 million, fully guaranteed contract simply cannot make. I don’t put that on Haynes King, nor do I blame the aforementioned Stewart, who was brilliant late but was in a horrendous spot on that play call.
Fisher was, in many ways, gifted an opportunity to clap back at Saban. You know, the guy who Fisher said had a “God” complex and was a “narcissist.” Beating him in Tuscaloosa, even with the Tide turning to Jalen Milroe in his first career start, would’ve made A&M’s season. Again.
Think about this. Saban has only lost to a team in consecutive years twice. That was LSU (2010 and 2011) and Ole Miss (2014 and 2015). That was sitting right there for the taking, and Fisher could’ve done so with a pair of quarterbacks who aren’t even considered average SEC starters.
Ok, how about the fact that last year, Fisher beat Alabama as an unranked team in College Station, which marked the first time Saban lost to a non-AP Top 15 team since South Carolina in 2010. Fisher could’ve repeated that in consecutive years with a squad who was just trying to avoid loss No. 3 in early-October.
Better yet, Fisher could’ve been the first non-top 15 team to win in Tuscaloosa since Louisiana-Monroe took down the Tide in Saban’s first year back in 2007.
But instead, Fisher will have to settle for “closest loss Alabama suffered to an unranked team at home since Tennessee in 2012.”
Fisher said afterwards that he doesn’t believe in moral victories. That play call was like someone who was satisfied with a moral victory. A goal-line fade, while maddening an extremely low percentage in its own right, would’ve had a higher success rate than whatever that was that Fisher dialed up.
Fisher said “no” to a slant. He said “no” to a hand-off to Devon Achane, who has emerged as A&M’s best player. Fisher said “no” a tight end settling into the end zone right at the goal line like Cameron Latu did earlier in the night for Alabama.
Nope. Why actually give your team a chance to win when Alabama not only gift-wrapped countless opportunities after a young Aggie defense stood tall?
Yes, it’s easier to say those things in hindsight than in the heat of the moment when tens of thousands of fans are doing everything in their power to will Alabama to victory. But again, Fisher is too experienced to be that bad in that spot.
By the way, Fisher made sure to note in the postgame press conference that he didn’t believe in moral victories, but it wasn’t just Alabama who was dealing with injuries. After all, the Aggies were without their starting left tackle, their best receiver, Ainias Smith, is out for the year and as Fisher said, they were “also playing a backup quarterback.”
Ok, back up.
Yes, Fisher, if Max Johnson were healthy, he’s your starter. I get that. But King was A&M’s starting quarterback for Week 1 of 2021 and Week 1 of 2022 … until he was benched after ineffective play after 2 games in your stagnant offense. You don’t get to play the “backup” card for King.
Alabama? Yes, that was perfectly fair to call Milroe a “backup” when he replaced Bryce Young, AKA the Heisman Trophy winner, who entered Saturday having started Alabama’s last 20 games. Milroe was indeed a “backup.”
And to A&M’s credit, the Aggies made Milroe look like a backup. Fadil Diggs made Milroe’s inexperience evident when he forced 2 fumbles on the Alabama quarterback for failing to have both hands on the football. Chris Russell, who was excellent in the Arkansas win, blew up several plays in the backfield that forced the Tide to play off-schedule. The Aggies deserve praise for the way they flew around and prevented Jahmyr Gibbs from delivering the back-breaking plays like he did at Arkansas last week.
But if Fisher is actually trying to convince us that his team’s offensive adjustments were as drastic as Alabama’s, he’s out of his mind.
That’s not my way of making excuses for an Alabama team who has developed a propensity for these tight SEC games. In conference play since the start of 2021, Alabama found itself in a 1-score game in the 4th quarter 8 of 11 times. That’s a mix of not having those game-changers at receiver and not having an “impose its will” offensive line. Those could both be things that prevent Alabama from winning a title.
On Saturday night, though, none of that was going to save the Tide on that final play. One coverage breakdown and we’re having a much different conversation. Fisher’s play call didn’t really allow for that to even become a possibility because clearly, Stewart was the primary option.
In many ways, that felt like a microcosm for his passing offense this year. Low-percentage, high degree of difficulty. That would’ve been a challenge for a 6-3, 220-pound receiver, much less when it’s drawn up for a sub-6 foot, 175-pound true freshman. And again, that’s not a knock on Stewart. It’s a knock on Fisher.
It’s becoming perfectly clear that Fisher needs to give over the controls of his offense at season’s end. He’s not Ryan Day or Lincoln Riley. Shoot, even Lane Kiffin and Josh Heupel aren’t the lone play-callers in their offenses. They operate as CEOs, and last I checked, that formula is working.
Fisher needs a new formula. It wasn’t just about that play, either. Being held to 24 points or less in all 5 games vs. FBS competition cannot happen, and neither can scoring 20 points when your offense is gifted 4 turnovers and 2 missed kicks. Not with that level of talent in the year 2022.
It’s time that Fisher take a look in the mirror. He’s a significant part of the problem.
And if he can’t see that, well, that’s just narcissist behavior.