A Eulogy for the Jimbo Fisher Era of Texas A&M Football

Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M football Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M football Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports /
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For whatever transpired after that point, Jimbo did give us that. He had a knack for those big moments. I remember that leading up to Florida in 2020, the whole college football world was talking about how he needed a signature win. He got it in that game. Before Alabama in 2021, the whole college football world was ridiculing him for the two early losses after starting ranked 6th. He shut that down. Before LSU in 2022, the whole college football world was prognosticating a mass exodus from the program. He stopped that.

This past year, when he needed it most, that moment didn’t come. I was sure it would. I think many of us were. But against Alabama, we got stopped on fourth down; we broke on third down in the red zone; we missed the kick; we gave up the long touchdown. Against Ole Miss, the defense wore down; we couldn’t stand strong in the red zone; the potential tying kick was blocked. The moment didn’t come.

But even if it had, he had been skating by on the back of those moments for too long.

Before the beginning of the 2022 season, as the record-breaking recruiting class was getting ready to see action on Kyle Field for the first time, I remember thinking to myself that it was finally time. It was finally time for the years of work to pay off, and for the Aggies to take a place—even if only briefly—among the elite. Texas A&M football was about to accomplish something that would make it nigh impossible for the naysayers, statistical cherry-pickers, and detractors to find a way around. They were about to arrive.

I’m noticing an unsettling correlation between my own optimism about Texas A&M football and cruelly ironic outcomes. I’ll have to file that away.

Later in that year, even as I was preaching patience due to the uncommonly high number of injuries the team had undergone, my dad expressed a similar sentiment to the one I had been having. I’m tired of A&M being the butt of the joke. I’m tired of them not being respected.

In one way or another, those came to be some of the defining narratives of the Jimbo era. Before he was hired, it was a joke that A&M would even think to approach him. This was not a program as respected as FSU; why would he leave? Then, of course, the contract and the plaque were just huge jokes; how could anyone respect a school this desperate? Even during the success of 2020, the selection committee didn’t respect what Texas A&M football had achieved; opposing fans mocked that the Aggies would even suggest they should be in. Then Jimbo himself became the joke, insofar as he could be identified with Texas A&M football’s failings. This guy gets all this talent down there in College Station and can’t even win ten games? This is why the program will never be respected.

That Texas A&M football was brought to the brink of breaking through before such a regression is part of what turned certain fans against him, I think. What he had promised, he had come very close to accomplishing before completely backsliding. The confidence he had instilled was almost immediately stripped away. The angst this created was profound, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that the solution seemed extremely obvious to any observer: stop being stubborn and modernize the offense. The hard part was done; the talent was there on campus. Why could he not just bring in an elite offensive architect to bring the potential to fruition?

Indulge me in a bit of educated speculation.

As it turns out, the same dogged determination that made Fisher such a relentless recruiter was the same thing keeping him from making that simple change. He believed in his offense, and would cling to that belief, against all odds, until it cost him his job. He would not lose a battle of wills: not on the recruiting trail and not in the realm of schematic adjustment. His assurance of his own greatness (not at all unearned, mind you) led to a lack of adaptability.

This is his cruel irony; the reason he came from Florida State was because Texas A&M football was offering him carte blanche to run the program however he saw fit. It was the outside factors at FSU that had begun to hold him back, he felt, and there is truth to that. But instead of utilizing the resources in College Station to their maximum potential, he insisted on molding them into an image and vision that he would not let go of because that’s what he knew to work. And he would make it work, at all costs. The problem was never with the system, it was with execution, or coaching, or what have you—and again, there’s a grain of truth in both. But when players are consistently unable to execute a scheme, no matter how many coaching changes you make, then it might be time to consider changing the scheme, no matter how theoretically immaculate it is. The complexity inherent in having a perfect answer to any defensive innovation predictably wrought imperfections all throughout the team.

This puzzle, intractable to him alone, began to eat at him. Things began to slip. Discipline was no longer a priority. Texas A&M football went months without a recruiting coordinator. The failure of the on-field product precipitated a vicious cycle. One Thursday in early November, it all became too much, and the Board of Regents made their move; one that would remain under wraps until after the following game against Mississippi State. Of course, because things must be this way, the Aggies, down to their third-string quarterback, notched the biggest win since the 2020 season—all but a faint memory, at this point—but it was too late. The die had been cast.

I wanted him to succeed. I was emotionally invested in it, perhaps solely due to wanting to see the detractors—of him, the school, the decision for the contract—eat crow. In this way, I was the equal and opposite of the fan who fell into bitterness towards him for his failure to make that one simple change. For both of us, the stakes were personal, and the emotional capital held in the program was transferred over to him.

I thought he could be the guy. I thought he almost certainly would be. I dreamed of championships brought about by his tenure. Those dreams are dead.

But the dream is not.