The way Jimbo Fisher handled the aftermath of Jalen Ramsey’s ejection shows the subtle ways he has evolved as a coach.
When you look at Jimbo Fisher’s record at Florida State, at the fact he’s already won a national title, when you look at his prowess on the recruiting trail — it’s easy to forget the man is only in his fifth year as a head coach.
It’s also easy to forget that the man Jimbo Fisher is so often compared with, Nick Saban, is on his fourth go-round as a college head coach. Saban had stops at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU — and even in the NFL in Miami — to get “the process” down pat. That makes what Jimbo Fisher is doing in Tallahassee all the more remarkable.
But it also makes it easy to overlook the fact that Jimbo Fisher is still a fairly young coach — all things considered. His 60th game (he is currently 45-10 all-time) will happen five days before his 49th birthday. Heading into just his fifth full season at the helm, he is well ahead of the typical learning curve for a head coach in his situation. Look at what Will Muschamp — once considered an equally promising head coaching candidate that was also staked to a prominent job with a “head coach in waiting” title — has done in his first three years as a head coach at Florida (hint: he’s 22-16).
This isn’t as easy as Jimbo Fisher has made it look. And it’s not hard to miss the fact that Fisher has been growing and evolving as a head coach along the way, either.
On Sunday, fans were treated to their first look at the 2014 team during Fan Day and during an open practice session at Doak Campbell Stadium. Fans also got to see some fireworks too, as tempers flared when Fisher blew his top at Jalen Ramsey and ejected the sophomore defensive back from practice for rough-housing.
After practice Fisher had not yet cooled off, telling reporters: “I told him not to do something and he defied me. We’ll judge from there and I’m very upset with him. It’s lack of leadership, it’s lack of character.”
Fisher then added Ramsey would decide whether he wanted to play at FSU.
That, rather predictably, sent the FSU twitterverse into a frenzy and in the process underscored why more practices are not open to the public.
In truth, the Ramsey incident was nothing special. Fisher has built a highly-competitive team with a lot of alpha personalities and — as is the case on most good teams — tempers occasionally do flare on the practice field.
The difference between this and other incidents is people saw it.
If anything it was reminiscent of a moment a few years ago — another moment that was overheard and thus became public — when another five-star sophomore defensive back, Lamarcus Joyner, essentially ended Willie Haulstead’s career during a scrimmage. Fisher lost it with Joyner, ejected him from the field and implied his long-term status at the university may be in question too. Haulstead, for his part, was never the same after that.
The biggest difference between that moment and this one? How Fisher handled the aftermath. Whereas what happened with Joyner wasn’t ever really addressed by Fisher, Ramsey’s situation was:
“He had an excellent practice. We had a great talk. I get upset and I am emotional. Jalen does too. [But] Jalen is as good of a football player as we have. One of the best ones I have been around in the secondary. He can play nickel and dime. He can play safety and play corner. He is a phenomenal player,” Fisher told reporters after practice the very next day.
“The big thing is that he is a leader on our team. He is a great kid. He is intelligent and he is smart. He had an emotional moment and got upset. I got upset. That is ball and we move on.”
There’s some nuance here that needs to be highlighted first. Fisher doesn’t typically speak with the media on back to back days and did not initially have plans to speak with reporters after practice yesterday. That changed in the morning and Fisher proceeded to eventually walk back some of the heated comments he had made a day before.
That’s important because one of the things Fisher preaches in his program is brotherhood. He wants his players to compete on the field and be brothers off of it. On Sunday, it was Fisher who broke that covenant. After Ramsey was ejected — and I’m sure if Fisher had it back he would have handled it differently — those post-practice comments should have been withheld and the issue should have been handled internally.
Instead part of the dialogue played out in the media and Ramsey was essentially thrown under the bus.
Credit Fisher for fixing his mistake on Monday. A lot of younger, more inexperienced head coaches — hell, a lot of older, more experienced head coaches — would not have acknowledged the misstep and would have let the fervor die down a few days later as fans’ and the media’s attention turned to something else. That’s essentially how Fisher handled it with Joyner three years ago. Presented with a similar situation over the weekend, Fisher took a different tact and in doing so, he definitively put the issue to rest.
It’s a move that functions to help rebuild Ramsey’s image and reputation a little bit after the shot it took on Sunday, but more importantly it’s a move that shows a level of integrity to the players in that locker-room. It shows even the head coach makes mistakes, but he’s not above owning them and setting them right. It creates a greater atmosphere of accountability.
It also shows Fisher’s evolution as a coach.
The program at Florida State — the competitive culture, the tight-knit locker-room, the “process” — took time to evolve into what it is today. So did Jimbo Fisher. It’s just happened a lot faster than anyone — except maybe Fisher, himself — expected it to.
Tags: Jimbo Fisher