Hayes: Jimbo Fisher is repeating history -- and that's terrible news for Texas A&M
We’re way past a quarterback problem at Texas A&M. We’ve reached a Churchillian level of discomfort in College Station.
“Those that fail to learn from history,” the great Winston Churchill once said, “are doomed to repeat it.”
Welcome, everyone, to Jimbo Fisher’s history lesson.
This uncomfortable implosion, this weekly looming doom that we’re all vicariously living through knowing full well Texas A&M isn’t eating $90 million, could’ve been prevented long ago.
As soon as Fisher divorced from Florida State after the 2017 season, as soon as he walked away from an empire built and destroyed — and the mess and entitled locker room he left behind — he should’ve immediately changed course.
What happened at FSU couldn’t follow him to Texas A&M, couldn’t soil a job with so much potential and so many inherent advantages that 99 percent of the FBS jobs don’t have.
But here we are, after yet another suspension of multiple freshman players, and it’s starting to look like what Fisher left behind in Tallahassee has followed him to College Station.
The product on the field has deteriorated to sub-.500 levels, just like it did at FSU. The similarities are strikingly eerie.
In 2017, Fisher’s last season at FSU, the Noles needed to schedule a makeup game against Louisiana-Monroe during Championship Weekend — a gimme putt of a game — to reach 6 wins and extend a 36-year bowl streak.
A year later, it snapped — and FSU has been to 1 bowl since.
Fast forward to this season: For the first time in Fisher’s 5 years at Texas A&M, and less than 2 seasons removed from a breakout year that included a legitimate Playoff argument, the Aggies are staring at an uphill climb to reach bowl eligibility.
With no Louisiana-Monroe in sight.
Two different coaches (Willie Taggart, Mike Norvell) have tried to clean up after Fisher at FSU, which dealt with significant locker room problems (entitlement, players not going to class, a lack of investment in team over individual) for multiple seasons after he left.
Taggart and Norvell also dealt with misses in recruiting at quarterback, including James Blackman, who admitted to me in 2018 that he learned how to play the position in high school by watching YouTube videos — and wasn’t really ready to play as a freshman in 2017 when he was forced into action after an injury to starter Deondre Francois.
For 4 years, Fisher missed on the quarterback position in recruiting (and transfers). Those misses enhanced issues in the locker room, as more losses with poor quarterback play led to more discontent.
And now here we are at Texas A&M, circa 2022. There are misses at quarterback, both high school recruits (Haynes King, Zach Calzada) and injured LSU transfer Max Johnson.
There are clearly problems in the locker room, where a second round of suspensions for freshmen from the No. 1-ranked class of 2022 — arguably the best class in recruiting history — hit earlier this week. This time, the suspensions for DB Denver Harris, WR Chris Marshall and OL PJ Williams, are indefinite, according to Chris Low of ESPN.
Low reported that the suspensions were for a postgame locker room incident after last weekend’s loss at South Carolina. Forget about what you’re reading on social media about the “incident” — the specific reason doesn’t matter.
What’s important is those suspensions come on the heels of another round of suspensions for players from the heralded freshman class — including Marshall and Harris receiving their first suspension in mid-September before the Miami game. That means whatever message Fisher is delivering isn’t hitting home.
These aren’t throwaway players, they’re legitimate freshman stars who are either starters or pushing their way into the starting lineup. Stewart is the team’s leading receiver, the same guy Fisher designed a potential game-winning play for against Alabama.
Marshall started the past 2 games, and Harris and Bouie are key contributors in the secondary. Harris and Marshall were 5-star recruits, and Williams and Bouie were 4-star recruits.
Texas A&M began this season ranked No. 6 in the nation. FSU began 2017 ranked No. 3 in the nation and had just landed the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation with 4 5-star signees.
The previous 3 FSU recruiting classes were ranked 3rd, 3rd and 4th in the 247Sports composite. Texas A&M’s previous 3 classes under Fisher: 8th, 6th, 4th.
There is, however, one significant difference: Fisher has 5-star QB Conner Weigman as his out card. The Aggies’ defense is so good (just like FSU, 2017), if Fisher can navigate the second-half schedule with the uber-talented but inexperienced Weigman, 3 wins (Florida, at Auburn, UMass) to reach bowl eligibility isn’t out of reach.
If the Aggies can get bowl eligible, that’s 15 more practices for an offense (and Weigman) that needs it. Fisher could even hire an offensive coordinator/QB coach during bowl preparation, and have the new assistant get a greater understanding of the roster — and what it needs from the transfer portal.
These are all basic, Coaching 101 moves. The problem: Fisher walks to his own beat.
He has been a quarterbacks coach his entire career and has churned out 2 quarterbacks who were No. 1 overall NFL Draft picks, and 4 first-round quarterback picks overall, thank you.
He has coordinated offenses and called plays his entire career, and he had the most feared offense in college football at FSU, thank you.
Earlier this week, Fisher was asked at his weekly press conference about his message to recruits on the future of the program. It was vintage Fisher, fighting for his way to very the end.
“We’ve got a good nucleus of what we’re doing, and that we’re only a play off in all those games,” Fisher said. “You see it, and be truthful about it.”
The uncomfortable implosion has arrived, and only Fisher can stop it.
Or be doomed to repeat it.