I never thought I’d say it. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it certainly isn’t an easy statement to make after everything Bobby Bowden has done for Florida State University.
But it needs to be said. It needs to be said because Seminole fans care too much to watch Bobby Bowden’s empire—the program he worked so hard to build—crumble and fall.
Bobby Bowden should step down at the end of this season.
It is time for Florida State to embrace a new future, and it is time for Bowden to finally celebrate his place among college football’s legendary coaches.
Believe me, no one wanted it to end like this. The fact is Bobby Bowden deserves much better than this, but sometimes reality gets in the way of our happy endings.
Everyone knows what kind of coach Bobby Bowden was in his prime. Everyone knows Florida State was a dominant team that enjoyed one of the greatest runs in the history of college football, but for the first time, I feel like Florida State’s history is worth more than its immediate future.
Bobby Bowden and defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews are set on getting Florida State back to where they used to be by doing the same things they’ve always done.
But too many things have changed since then. Playbooks are thicker, recruiting is more complicated and more competitive, and the players themselves are different.
When Bowden started coaching at Florida State in 1976, Peyton Manning was a newborn, Queen Elizabeth II sent the first royal e-mail, and the New Jersey State Legislature voted to legalize casinos in the shore town of Atlantic City.
More importantly, Bowden himself has changed. After Saturday’s loss to Boston College, the man who used to hate losing, the man who was responsible for FSU’s killer instinct in the '90s, now says losing is just part of the game.
The man who said he would step down when FSU started losing, now says he’ll evaluate himself after the season and make a decision when he sees fit.
I don’t blame him. Giving up everything you’ve ever worked for must be terrifying. Facing the reality that the program you built from scratch might now be better off without you is a tough pill to swallow.
The fact is Bowden is working to get back to the good ole days while every other team is working toward the future. Every other team is one step ahead, and that won’t change—not Saturday, not next season, and not the season after that.
Bowden and Andrews have rolled with the punches for a long time. The fact that they made it this long in the cutthroat world of college football is a tribute to their character, their coaching and to Florida State.
But nothing lasts forever, and the times have finally passed them by. Opposing teams have decades worth of film to break down Bowden’s tendencies and Mickey Andrews’s defense.
This season, Miami, USF, and Boston College have all exploited Andrews’ man-to-man defense and base coverage schemes. Andrews, however, says he’s calling all the right plays. He says his players are making too many mistakes and missing too many assignments.
Bowden says his players are young and learning as they go. He says the other teams are just making more plays. He says his staff will have to watch the film and figure out what’s going wrong. He says it all comes down to blocking and tackling.
But it’s all been said before, and this season, it looks like FSU’s problems stem from a much bigger picture. No disrespect to Bobby Bowden or Mickey Andrews, but Seminole fans are tired of all the excuses. They want to see results, and that’s something they haven’t seen for a long time now.
Bowden may be too proud to admit it, but opposing coaches are simply putting their players in a better position to win. Opposing teams are making their adjustments long before they sit down to watch film of yesterday’s game.
Sure, Florida State still has the athletes to compete, but that’s the problem. The Seminoles are just competing—they’re not winning. They’re not even winning the games they’re supposed to win.
They lack discipline. They aren’t playing with confidence, and it doesn’t look like they’re playing with a whole lot of pride or passion, either.
Unlike FSU’s national championship teams, it seems players no longer expect to win—they just hope to.
To me, that falls on the head coach. More often than not, attitude reflects leadership.
It’s the head coach’s job to bring everyone together, to solidify the team’s vision, and to make sure his team is ready to play week in and week out. It’s his leadership that has to carry his team through the good times and the bad.
Because at the end of the day, whether you’re playing with five-star recruits or third-string walk-ons, you have to make the most out of what you have. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are teams out there that seem to be doing a lot more with a lot less.
It’s not like Bowden hasn’t had a chance to right the ship, either. Florida State has stuck with Bowden through the adversity, through the six-loss seasons, and through all the heartbreaking losses to in-state and conference rivals alike.
“I think enough is enough,” said Jim Smith, chair of FSU’s board of trustees, and I agree.
Change is never easy, but Florida State cannot pursue the future until the program lets go of the past.
Bowden knew this day would come, and he needs to hand over the reins after this season—even if it’s a season earlier than he had planned.
Granted, Fisher’s offense has struggled at times this season, and many have questioned his play calling and whether or not he will even make a difference as head coach. I would argue that the offense has come a long, long way since Fisher’s arrival, and I don’t know that Fisher has as much control as people think right now.
Seeing the before and after of Fisher’s presence at practice and on the sideline, I am confident in his abilities and I think his impact will be much more visible when other coaches—coaches who think they too should be the head coach—are no longer looking over his shoulder.
Besides, if Christian Ponder’s play is any indication, Fisher has to be doing something right.
But whether or not Fisher is the long-term answer, right now, he is the future. He is young, he is driven, and in my opinion, he deserves a chance to show FSU what he can do.
He will not, however, be another Bobby Bowden, and Seminole fans need to come to terms with that up front. The longevity and success of coaches like Bowden and Joe Paterno may never be seen again.
Thanks to Bobby Bowden, Florida State can always cherish a rich history of tradition and college football glory. Thanks to Bobby Bowden, Seminole fans can reminisce about FSU’s two national championships, the year their team went wire-to-wire as the top program in the country, and the 14 straight seasons the Tribe finished in the top five.
For all those things, they will be forever grateful.
Seminole fans can also say Bobby Bowden was as good a person as he was a coach. They can say win or lose, their coach was a class act. They can honestly say “dadgummit” was the worst word that ever came out of Bobby Bowden’s mouth.
And finally, in the twilight of his career, Seminole fans can say Bobby Bowden refused to give up, and that was his biggest flaw.
Bowden’s legacy will live on in Tallahassee, and his impact will continue to influence Florida State University on and off the field for generations to come.
After all, Seminole fans don’t want to rid themselves of Bobby Bowden—not by any means. They just want Florida State to close one great chapter and start writing another.