PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Those Florida State fans who feel Jimbo Fisher is to blame for the program's recent struggles might not like what their former coach had to say about it.
"I think it's in great shape," Fisher said of the program he left behind in December 2017 for Texas A&M.
Fisher, speaking Wednesday during the Southeastern Conference spring meetings in Florida's panhandle, told reporters he believes the Seminoles are no worse off than when he left for a guaranteed 10-year, $75 million contract.
"They had draft picks, first-round draft picks," Fisher said. "They've got good players this year. I see they're picked to go to another good bowl game."
Maybe Fisher wasn't paying attention, but the Seminoles missed a bowl game last season for the first time since 1982 and finished with a losing record for the first time since 1976. Both streaks led the nation.
Fisher's final Florida State team was 5-6 at the time of his resignation. The Seminoles needed a makeup game against Louisiana Monroe, which was postponed because of Hurricane Irma, to become bowl eligible. Defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins served as interim head coach for the final two games, leading the Seminoles to a pair of victories to preserve the streaks.
|Season||Overall Record||ACC Record||Standing||Bowl||Final AP Ranking|
|2010||10-4||6-2||Atlantic Division Champion||Chick-fil-A Bowl, 26-17 vs. South Carolina||No. 17|
|2011||9-4||5-3||2nd Atlantic Division||Champs Sports Bowl, 18-14 vs. Notre Dame||No. 23|
|2012||12-2||7-1||ACC Champion||Orange Bowl, 31-10 vs. Northern Illinois||No. 10|
|2013||14-0||8-0||ACC Champion||BCS National Championship, 34-31 vs. Auburn||No. 1|
|2014||13-1||8-0||ACC Champion||College Football Playoff semifinal at Rose Bowl, 20-59 vs. Oregon||No. 5|
|2015||10-3||6-2||2nd Atlantic Division||Peach Bowl, 28-34 vs. Houston||No. 14|
|2016||10-3||5-3||3rd Atlantic Division||Orange Bowl, 33-32 vs. Michigan||No. 8|
|2017||7-6*||3-5||6th Atlantic Division||Independence Bowl, 42-13 vs. Southern Mississippi*|
* Fisher resigned with 5-6 record; interim head coach Odell Haggins coached final two games
But those streaks fell in the first year of the Willie Taggart era, leaving frustrated fans to wonder what had become of their football program just five years removed from its third national championship.
Fisher spent eight seasons at the helm of Florida State, winning three Atlantic Coast Conference championships and a national title in 2013. He won at least 10 games in all but two seasons, and his final four recruiting classes were ranked among the top five nationally.
But Fisher seemed to have mentally checked out after Florida State's season-opening loss to top-ranked Alabama in 2017. His starting quarterback, Deondre Francois, was lost to a season-ending injury in that game. Then, there was the 21-day delay between games as a result of Hurricane Irma.
Several prospective players said Fisher's staff stopped recruiting them once he had decided to leave for Texas A&M in the midst of Fisher's worst season in Tallahassee.
|Recruiting Class||Rivals Final Ranking|
* First year of early signing period
When Taggart was hired, he scrambled to salvage relationships ahead of the first early signing period in college football. Taggart said all the right things off the field, but he seemed unable to do anything right on the field, as the Seminoles finished 5-7 -- their most losses in a season since 1975, the year before Bobby Bowden's arrival.
The Seminoles often looked confused during games and were offensively anemic, despite Taggart's promise of "lethal simplicity."
Adding insult to injury, Florida State's academic progress rate -- a measurement used by the NCAA to determine how student-athletes are performing in the classroom -- is the lowest among Power 5 schools. The latest APR data available is from the 2017-18 academic year, Fisher's final stint at FSU.
Still, Fisher, who served as Bowden's offensive coordinator from 2007-09, told reporters he had nothing but love for the school where he got his first chance to become a head coach.
"I loved my time at Florida State," Fisher said. "It was an outstanding place."