FSU pulled a quick trigger in firing Taggert

by Gary Shelton on November 6, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Taggart fired in a hurry at Florida State./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

For years, they were the smart team, the creative tam, the efficient team.

Florida State won against the odds. They didn't have Miami's attitude, and they didn't have Florida's advantages. What they had was great coaching -- Bobby Bowden and Mickey Andrews -- and the feisty attitude of an underdog that wasn't afraid to take a few chances along the way.

Today, they have lost that. They are just another team trying to grab ahold of yesterday.

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I hated it when FSU fired coach Willie Taggart this week. Taggart is a good man, a hard worker, and he cares about his job. But too many things conspired against him and FSU -- yes, his coaching was part of the problem -- and now, he's out after 21 games.

Was that enough time? Was it too much time? Today, you can debate it either way. But the stunning decision here was the swiftness of it. FSU administrators decided they were better off without Taggart than with him. They decided on the body without the head.

I knew Willie well when he was at USF, and to be honest, there were some questions about him here, too. After his first game -- a miserable loss to McNeese State -- I was the guy who asked Taggart if he was good enough for this job.

He was. As his talent got better, he got smarter. That earned him the Oregon job, then his dream job at FSU.

So what hurt Taggart?

-- Florida woke up. I know FSU fans don't want to here this, but when Dan Mullen went to Gainesville and Taggart to Tallahassee, the momentum shifted in the state. The Gators looked like a better bet to many recruits. They coached better. They were crisper.

-- FSU continued to slide. Yeah, the talent was better than 9-12, but the Seminoles had begun their slide under Jimbo Fisher. Look at this team, and you wonder what the ceiling was? 15 wins? 17 wins? FSU certainly wasn't a national contender based on talent.

-- The ACC got better. There was a time FSU could win simply by showing up and out-athleteing opponents. No more. Clemson has become a college superpower, but there are other competitive teams, too.

-- Fans got tired of hearing about how FSU needed to learn how to win. In their minds, FSU knew how to win a lot more than Taggert. The perception was the FSU might have slid, but not to the levels it was playing.

-- The Seminoles didn't look like a well-coached team. There were too many silly penalties to live with.

-- There were too many games when FSU had the athletes to take a lead but not to hold it. That's not the mark of a program in control.

-- If you have to make a decision, then make it. Taggart provided the final evidence against him in the loss to Miami. Beating Florida and making a lower level bowl, if those things happened, weren't going to change things.

A lot of college teams have great runs: Minnesota, Southern Cal, Penn State, Miami, Notre Dame. It happens slower than the NFL, and dynasties last longer. But eventually, the landscape changes.

And now, it is FSU that is chasing yesterday.

In the end, Taggart walks away believing he didn't have enough time. Every fired coach does.

Who takes his place? We'll see. Some fine names have been thrown out: ex-Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Memphis coach Mike Norvell, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, Baylor coach Matt Ruhle. But it's tricky. Whenever a coach is desired, alums think that anyone would walk across fire to get the job. That isn't always true.

Whoever takes the job?

He's going to need more than 21 games to change things.

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