ESPN Publishes Classless Hit Piece on Ousted Texas A&M Football Coach

Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M football [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]Sec Media Days Texas A M
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M football [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]Sec Media Days Texas A M /
Texas A&M football
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M football [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]Sec Media Days Texas A M /

ESPN Postmortem on Texas A&M Football Coach Misses the Mark

I’ll go ahead and try to head some objections off at the pass here: I am not writing this article because I wish Texas A&M football had retained Jimbo. I don’t think he’s the greatest coach ever. While I’m sticking with my opinion previously published that I personally would have waited to see what happened next year, I don’t think it’s the end of the world—or even necessarily a bad decision—that they ended up letting him go.

That said, the ESPN piece that just dropped on “Why The Jimbo Fisher Experiment At Texas A&M Failed Spectacularly” is overwrought, unjustified, and does a poor job representing the man as well as the fanbase. Here’s what I mean.

"Meanwhile, Fisher’s singular focus on running his program his way didn’t endear him to many people on campus. Fisher was the decision-maker on everything, and if you questioned why something was done a certain way, you were likely to be met with an angry response, sources said."

The part about the questioning doesn’t necessarily jive with reality for those paying close attention. The following paragraph mentions specifically the team’s practice of traveling on Thursday to road games; this was often questioned by the media in press conferences, and Fisher never really responded angrily. It was outright decried by Billy Liucci many times during each of the last few seasons, seemingly almost every time he was discussing road games on Texags Radio or on a podcast—and yet Liucci still maintained inside access to the program, hosted Fisher for big kickoff events and interviews, etc. Is it possible that Jimbo once got angry with a staffer? I would say it’s almost a certainty. The guy can run hot, obviously. But this seems like a bit of a silly inclusion.

"Looking back, that 2020 season was obviously an anomaly. As issues piled up, Fisher, enabled by his contract, doubled down on doing things his way.“There was no hope that this would ever get better because what was going to change?” a staff member said. “He wasn’t going to listen to anybody else. It was just going to continue the way that it was.”"

Calling the 2020 season an anomaly is one of the less serious things you can do as a critic of this Texas A&M football program. If you were given the set of numbers {4, 5, 1, 4, 7, 4}, I don’t think that any one of those jumps out as anomalous. This follows the pattern of one of my pet peeves here: there were a lot of things about the 2020 season that were strange, but that does not diminish the accomplishments of Texas A&M football that year. Whenever people say “oh, there were so many things weird about that year!” I really want to just ask them—what in particular are you referencing? Let’s consider this counterfactual: imagine COVID never happened, or at least never affected the college football world in any way. Full stadiums, original schedules, etc. In that case, the Aggies would not have played Tennessee and Florida; rather, they would have played:

  • North Texas
  • Colorado State
  • Fresno State
  • Vanderbilt
  • @ Alabama
  • @ Mississippi State
  • Arkansas (Neutral Site)
  • @ South Carolina
  • @ Auburn
  • Ole Miss
  • Abilene Christian
  • LSU

Which of these become losses for the Aggies? Mississippi State was horrendous. So was South Carolina. Auburn was okay, but Texas A&M football defeated them—as they did everyone else they played post-UF—by double digits. Even the Orange Bowl win over UNC was by double digits. The Aggies didn’t play Ole Miss, but Kiffin had by far his worst team of his time in Oxford and the Aggies had an offense that was playing a ball-control style well enough that even one interception by the pick-happy Matt Corral would have doomed the Rebs—plus, the Aggies had that one at home. This is a 12-1 season (assuming the bowl opponent is the same). It is not Fisher’s fault that his best team—because this, even before COVID hit, was the year he had been building towards since he arrived—coincided with a worldwide pandemic. It is unreasonable to come to any other conclusion, with the exception of pitching a different bowl scenario—and even then that final game becomes indeterminate.

The point is this: it’s not due to the strangeness of that year that Texas A&M football excelled. It’s because they had a salty defense, durable senior quarterback in his third year in Jimbo’s offense, and an OL made up of all seniors except for one player who himself would end up a first round pick. All of those would have been true with or without COVID—it’s not because of the pandemic that the Aggies allowed only three total sacks in the regular season, or that Mond only threw three picks in the regular season, or that the Aggies won every single road game besides Alabama by double digits. If anything, road games were harder during COVID because of the stringent protocols (yes, the travel and general disruption of road games has more of an effect, all told, than the crowd noise); in the view of this article, Jimbo’s practice of traveling on Thursday would have only exacerbated that issue!

To be balanced, there are things here that I consider fair criticisms of the former Texas A&M football head man. The unwillingness to change much of his offensive scheme gets a lot of run here; that’s something that many Texas A&M football fans brought up time after time—and ultimately what got him fired, in my opinion. Offensive line issues come up, though this bit is strange:

"According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Texas A&M QBs were hit on 51.7% of their dropbacks in the Alabama and Tennessee games. Among the 75 FBS teams with a minimum of 50 dropbacks over that two-week span, A&M was the only school with a QB contact percentage of more than 50%. The next closest were Kent State at 49.4% and Akron at 47.2%."

Yeah, the OL is bad, but show me any other team in the country playing two of the top-10 teams in sack rate back-to-back in those specific weeks. That’s kind of cherry-picking.

Finally, the thing most reporters come back to whenever a coach is fired at a big Texas school: “he had issues with the THSCA.”

"Fisher got off to a rocky start when he first arrived in Texas and met with a 7-on-7 coach in the Houston area. This immediately raised eyebrows among the Texas High School Coaches Association, the most powerful group of its kind in the country, which had encouraged “straight-line recruiting,” going through the player’s high school coaches, rather than private trainers… Fisher was the only coach in the state in recent years not to do interviews or appear on podcasts with Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, often called the Bible of football in the state (and a publication that put Fisher on the cover when he arrived in College Station). Sources spoke of their surprise that Fisher didn’t offer a scholarship to John Paul Richardson, a wide receiver who is the son of Aggies great Bucky Richardson. Richardson instead signed with Oklahoma State and has since transferred to TCU. He had 49 catches for 503 yards last season. On A&M’s roster, only Stewart, who had 53 catches for 649 yards last season, surpassed those numbers."

Couldn’t agree more with String here. This is just unserious.

In all, there are some fair things that are said within this article. There are other things that are… less fair. It comes off feeling opportunistic and imbalanced in its presentation of Jimbo. He was well-beloved by all the players—hence their displeasure when his firing was announced! The Aggie fanbase embraced him as one of their own, until his undying passion for his offensive system started throwing up roadblocks. Aggies may be happy to see him go as a coach, but not as a man. This article does not do a fair job of showing that.

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