by Todd Helmick

NationalChamps.net
October 25, 2006

The recent defeats suffered by the Florida State football nation and their current last place residence in the ACC Atlantic Division have caused anxiety for much of the FSU faithful. Just look around the web or through the daily newspapers lately and you’ll be sure to find how some form of a story has hit the headlines concerning the disenchantment of head coach Bobby Bowden. Some prominent boosters have gone so far as to call for the resignation of the NCAA Division I-A’s winningest football coach. Well, I am alum and played for Coach Bowden when the team’s great run got started in 1987, and I’m here to set a few things straight.

Calling for Bobby Bowden to resign or be forced out is tantamount to removing Vince Lombardi’s face from the NFL Hall of Fame. No way, no how, not even an option.

Unfortunately, many in the media misstepped this week when they reported that a large majority of Nole boosters have asked for Bobby Bowden to step down, portraying this train of thought as being the overall sentiment. They got that wrong. Sure, some have said as much, but most have positive ideas for change that don’t include the Big Guy’s head on a platter.

Bobby Bowden is the face of Florida State football. Hopefully he can continue to “manage” this team for another 20 years, god willing. But let’s be clear in distinguishing the difference…manage vs. coach. Most already know Bobby doesn’t make the calls on offense, defense, special teams, play selection, schemes, or QB progression…he has put assistants in place to call the chess match on Saturdays.

Clearly, scrutinizing the winning of football games by making sound football decisions as opposed to judging a person’s character is apples and oranges. Moreover, when media members – as well as boosters and fans - criticize coaching decisions, it shouldn’t be a knock on that person as a human being. I have had Bobby and all his sons on my radio shows, and I have written stories that involved talking to members of the Bowden family. As anyone would say that has had the unique chance to talk with Bobby, Terry, Tommy, Jeff and the rest, these are some of the best human beings I have ever encountered. The world is a better place with them in it.

With that said, allow this humble advice to be given by a former player: To win more games, FSU has to change what it’s doing offensively, period. That doesn’t equate to letting Bobby go. It has more to do with his son Jeff, who is the offensive coordinator, as well as QB coach Daryl Dickey and his way of grooming a signal caller. Both bring iffy résumés (listing the likes of Salem College (Jeff) and Presbyterian College (Daryl)), and while not too shabby, they fall way short in quality experience to the many better résumés Bobby had on his hiring table when ex-offensive coordinator Mark Richt left for Georgia.

Calling the FSU contingent spoiled fans carries some weight. Understanding their issues would be more noteworthy.

THE BASICS
Let’s talk X’s and O’s - Football 101. Last Saturday, FSU coaches made the call and gave QB Drew Weatherford the option of throwing a three-yard down-and-out pass to run out 30 seconds on the first-half clock with the Noles deep in their own territory. The results of this call? Interception, touchdown, and a 21-10 trailing score at the break. Hey, you can even go to ESPN.com and vote for this past week’s (Oct. 21) Pontiac Game Changing Performance. One of the choices is this 36-yard interception return for a touchdown by Boston College’s DeJuan Tribble. OK, so Drew made a bad decision and a worse throw. But, to quote Jeff from a recent interview with Rivals.com website Warchant.com on his reaction to this play after the game, “It was a safe call”. Taking a knee or running the ball via a handoff is a safe call. Throwing the ball deep is even acceptable. But opening the door for what ultimately occurred leaves one scratching their head in disbelief.

Burning early time outs for failing to get the right play called has now become par for the FSU course week in, year out. This is also about running play-action on 3rd-and-16, and about a running game based on a two second delay before moving up field. This is about a pitch to your slowest back on fourth-and-short. This is about one-receiver sets telegraphing an impending running play. This is about not being able to run the ball even when the opposing defense has their dime package in. This is about the staple of the downfield passing game being a deep Hail Mary.

QB Drew Weatherford is still doing the same things wrong today that he did wrong in his freshman season, much like how former-QB Chris Rix looked marginal (at best) for three straight years after his record setting first season. Rix arguably never improved. Drew Weatherford is Chris Rix right now. Like Rix, Weatherford seems undecided in whether to tuck the ball and run, when to look for the short dump pass to the RB, or when to take the sack. Notice the pattern? Simply stated, the coaches are confused, thus the players are confused.

Longtime FSU defensive ends coach Jim Gladden, on the staff for 27 years (one year longer than Bobby Bowden), was an associate head coach when he evaluated the performance of offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden in an effort to solve any problems with the university’s nepotism policy.

But what Gladden told me in a conversation during the summer of 2003 was that the FSU program genuinely changed that sad day Devaughn Darling passed away at on off-season workout. Jim claims you could just see the look on the other player’s faces, as if to say, “We trusted you as coaches and now look what happened.” While most of the players from that era have moved on, the looks of doubt on player’s faces (with respect to the direction this offense is headed) seem to have carried over.

The head man’s current job is to teach his student-athletes important lessons about seeing the good in life. More importantly, it is to get the recruits (and their parents) to sign on the dotted line come Signing Day. By a longshot, he has done as much better than anyone over a long measurement of time. Fire him? Might as well ask Joe Paterno to resign…

Ahem!

Remarkably, the two winningest coaches in Division I-A history are meeting similar difficulties - a combined 80 plus years of coaching soon fades into the heavens above when they go.

Bottom line? Bring in a new offense coaching staff, period. Keep Jeff as a receivers coach (much like Joe Paterno’s son Jay and OC Fran Ganter were reassigned a few years back after the Nittany Lions struggled offensively). Learn from other’s mistakes or be doomed to repeat history. That has to start with Bobby doing what Joe Pa eventually had to do - recognize that there is a problem at the play-calling helm.

As Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Well, it doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that this FSU offense, with all of its four- and five-star caliber recruits, is still in a downward spiral after six seasons under this regime.

Calling for the resignation of Bobby Bowden – that is also insanity. Calling for a new set of proven offensive assistants – that is much more logical. Unfortunately, most feel such change has no real chance of occurring due to Bobby’s loyalty and family ties. Unfortunately, we take this obvious bad with the proven good that Bobby Bowden has delivered over his tenure - success can be a double-edged sword. Even though the agony of watching this offense stumble is comparable to a drawn-out root canal, long live the king! Oh, such a painful line to walk.

Unfortunately, Bobby’s undoing will be his own if this inevitable change doesn’t come sooner rather than later. But it is his bed, and he has earned the right to sleep in it, though we FSU fans and former students sleep in it as well. Questioning authority is not a negative action when due respect is paid.