When you have a defense as talented as Florida State's it's inevitable that eventually another school will come calling about your coordinator.
The writing has been on the wall since almost before the summer that if the Seminole defense had another year like it did in 2011 (when it was a top 10 unit), that Mark Stoops would likely have his own head coaching gig by the following season.
Currently Florida State leads the nation in total defense and ranks in the top five in five statistical categories (rush D, scoring D, pass D and pass efficiency D in addition to be first in total). The unit is also significantly ahead of any other defense in forcing three-and-outs.
Jimbo Fisher has a surprising take.
All Aboard the Coaching Carousel
“When they come calling it will be a great thing," said Fisher. "[I think Mark's ready] and I think he’d do a great job. He has the background, a lot to fall back on with his brothers, a lot of the programs he’s been in, and then the history of where he’s at and what’s going on now and then he’s a heck of a coach on his own. Yeah I think he’s ready.”
It's not that Fisher doesn't want to keep Stoops, it's just that he understands the process of coming up the coaching ranks and the inevitablity of talented coaches moving on.
"I hope he stays here forever. As long as I’m here I want him as defensive coordinator," Fisher added. "But I also want him to reach his dreams and goals and become what he wants to be as a head football coach if that’s what he wants to do and if there’s an opportunity out there.
"I think that’s why you do well. I hope that for him and his family. And he’s earned that right, I’m sure somebody will [give him a job] eventually– maybe this year, next year, whatever.”
Fisher understands what it's like to be and assistant with ambition. He was on staffs at Auburn and LSU where he had to earn his promotions and take his chances when they came. He doesn't begrudge his own assistants for wanting the same things as he did.
And he doesn't think Stoops is the only assistant ready for the call.
“I think there’s quite a few guys on our staff who could be head coaches," said Fisher. "We have a great staff. That’s exciting to me, I like that. I was on a staff like that at LSU. It’s very productive and you know you go find other guys [when coaches get hired away].
"Let’s hope that the system we’re in and what we do helps develop head coaches, I want that. I want to be known as that because it means other top assistants want to come and people want to be here. It means you have good players, you have a good system, you organize well and you understand the big picture of what you want.”
I asked Fisher how he balances a coach's ability on the field with his ability to recruit. In the college game, they are both of great importance.
“It depends where our staff needs are, the strengths and weaknesses of our staff," said Fisher. "There’s some things I think you need to have but I have a list of every position out there– I have a list of five, six, seven guys, their strengths, weaknesses.
"And we’re constantly changing that and adding to that. Because in this business change is inevitable, because of the money everything is different. I mean it’s not like guys go somewhere and set and stay forever anymore. I mean those days are [over].”
Fisher Could Jump on Too
That could also include Fisher, himself, moving on. Before Seminoles fans get themselves in a tizzy, think about it it.
It's no secret Fisher is an SEC coach at heart. He runs a program like it's in the SEC, he recruits like he's in the SEC and he was brought up through the coaching ranks in the SEC. Right now he's saddled with a 50-million dollar buy-out option to leave a conference that is so weak it could potentially field an undefeated champion and still not have a legitimate shot of getting that team in the title bout.
Currently Kentucky is the only SEC opening, but in the coming weeks I expect Auburn and Tennessee to potentially open up and both could mount serious campaigns to hire away Fisher.
Fisher has ties to Auburn, he was their quarterbacks coach from 1993-98 under Terry Bowden. He would have a chance to go toe-to-toe with the man he coached under at LSU (whom many contend he shares a personal rivalry with) in and in-state battle that is as big as any rivalry in America.
When asked about how he would handle potential offers, Fisher responded:
"I don’t want to leave or talk to anybody, I’m happy here now and we’re not talking to anybody. We wouldn’t even think about doing that until the season’s over and we don’t have any plans on doing that."
Quickly, and you can't hold this against Fisher but it is worth pointing out: he takes much of his head coaching style from Nick Saban, on who's staff he served at LSU (as I just mentioned). Go back and listen to Saban field those same questions at both LSU and then in Miami as the coach of the Dolphins...
He left both jobs but sound bites are eerily similar.
Later on, Fisher admitted he'd likely listen to offers.
"There’s always, if somebody calls it’s like [any other] job opportunity if they called you and asked you," added Fisher. "They would have to go through the proper channels to call your AD or president or whoever it would be to say ‘can we have permission to talk?' And they’d have to give it and then ask me the thing ‘are you interested or not interested,’
"I mean just like you would [any time]. But that’s the proper way, that’s the way you’ve got to do it. I would always do that though. Straight up.”