After going 5-7 in his first season at Florida State and overseeing the end of the program's 36-season bowl streak come to an end, predictably, there are a lot of Florida State fans who have already given up on Willie Taggart. If the Seminoles don't turn things around quickly in 2019, the calls for Taggart's head will only grow louder.
But as Bleacher Report's Matt Hayes chronicled in an extensive feature on Seminoles football, those blaming Taggart for Florida State's woes are probablay targeting the wrong person.
Hayes spoke with Taggart, officials in the Florida State athletic department and former FSU assistant coaches. The conclusion? The onus of the blame for Florida State's current condition is the man Taggart replaced: Jimbo Fisher.
"We were 5-6 in Jimbo's last season when [Fisher] pulled the ripcord," Florida State athletic director Dave Coburn told Bleacher Report. "If we didn't buy that hurricane makeup game, the bowl streak would've ended then."
According to those that spoke with Hayes, the problems within the program boiled down to a few critical issues toward the end of Fisher's tenure. A lack of accountability both on the field and in the classroom -- namely with Jameis Winston -- as well as recruiting misses at the quarterback position.
From the story:
Many of the issues Taggart inherited, they say, began with the coddling of Jameis Winston, the player who led the Noles to such remarkable heights under Fisher. Those issues eventually bled into a hands-off attitude with academics and placed the program at risk of not complying with NCAA standards and being ineligible to participate in championship events.
Another former assistant under Fisher tells Bleacher Report that by the end of Fisher's reign, coaches were being given one mandate: "Keep the players eligible."
When asked if that was indeed the overriding academic plan, Coburn admits, "It appears that was the case."
Florida State's latest APR score for the 2017-18 year was released in May, and it was 922, the lowest of any Power Five school. The NCAA can take punitive actions against a program -- loss of practice time, scholarships -- if a school's APR score drops below 930 over a four-year average. Florida State's currently sits at 936 but is reportedly climbing under Taggart.
As for accountability off the field, many of Florida State's problems have been well-documented. One former assistant told Bleacher Report that the moment things took a turn was when Winston showed up on the field for warmups before a game against Clemson in full equipment despite being suspended. Winston, who had already been accused of allegedly raping a fellow student in 2012 -- and had been cited for shoplifting crab legs in 2014 -- was suspended for a game during the 2014 season after standing on a table on campus and making "offensive and vulgar" comments. Fisher confronted Winston on the field before the game and told him to leave before Winston returned to the sideline to watch the game in street clothes.
"Jameis walking out on the field, fully dressed when he was suspended after such a big deal was made about the suspension and his other problems," the ex-assistant said. "[Fisher] should've said one thing to Jameis: 'Get the f--k off the field. Now. Don't show your face in our facility for a week or two weeks.' And if [Winston] gets his feelings hurt and leaves, so be it. You've saved your team-instead of losing it down the road."
The piece also documents Florida State's misses at the quarterback position since Winston left and became the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. This more than anything could explain Florida State's problems, as QB is the most important position on the field, and no program can sustain success if it isn't recruiting well.
All told, while there aren't any shocking new revelations in the story, it's an interesting look behind the curtain at what's taken place in Tallahassee, Florida, the last five years, and worth your time to read.