Florida State fans are eager to get the taste of a disappointing 5-7 season out of their mouths on Saturday as the Seminoles open the 2019 campaign in Jacksonville against Boise State.
FSU missed a bowl game for the first time since 1981 last season and had its first losing season since 1976. Six of the seven losses for FSU came by at least 19 points with the other resulting in the largest blown lead in program history as the Seminoles watched a 27-7 lead evaporate in a 28-27 loss to rival Miami.
Also witnessed in 2018 was the largest home loss ever as FSU trailed 59-0 before losing to eventual national champion Clemson, 59-10. The Seminoles were blasted by rival Florida 41-14 to end their 5-game winning streak over the Gators and the bowl streak. FSU also had to rally late just to beat the likes of FCS Samford and a Louisville team that finished 2-10 and without a win in ACC play.
Although the bowl streak is gone and FSU had to endure a losing season as rival Miami did in 2014 and Florida had twice since 2013, the disaster that was 2018 could end up being a blessing in disguise. We’ve previously discussed the situation inherited by Taggart, but instant results were expected from Taggart in 2018 and he did oversell the current state of the program.
While Jimbo Fisher’s tenure in Tallahassee was a productive one, Taggart inherited a program that had finished 7-6 in 2017 and needed to reschedule a home contest with Louisiana-Monroe just to make a bowl game. Had FSU, for instance, held on to its lead against Miami and finished 6-6 to reach a low-level bowl game. there may have been sentiments that maintaining the status quo was an acceptable feat for year No. 1 and that in time as Taggart recruited his own players and implemented his system that the issues may just correct themselves.
There’s no way to say for sure that changes would have been made, but the disastrous season certainly seemed to force Taggart’s hand to make significant staff changes. The most notable of those was offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
Briles’ track record as a coordinator speaks for itself. In four years as a coordinator, Briles has had offenses rank in the top 10 nationally in total offense four times at Baylor, Florida Atlantic and Houston and in the top 10 in scoring offense three times.
Although Briles was never found to be responsible for any wrongdoing, the last name alone is tied to the Baylor sexual assault scandal that occurred while his father, Art Briles, was head coach. Last year’s offensive coordinator Walt Bell took the head coaching job at Massachusetts, so Taggart would have had to make a new hire in any event, but had the program won six or seven games, it’s possible he may have resorted to a “safer” choice.
Also attached to that Baylor program is new offensive line coach Randy Clements. Like Briles, Clements’ track record is very, very good. Without a losing season that did not result in a bowl streak, Taggart may have allowed last season’s position coach and FSU alum Greg Frey to continue to head the unit. Other moves this offseason included firing special teams coordinator Alonzo Hamption and giving those duties to former defensive ends coach Mark Snyder and bringing in former FSU receiver Ron Dugans to coach that unit.
There is no guarantee that the new hires lead Florida State back to football prominence and it’s also impossible to say that those moves wouldn’t have been made without a 5-7 finish. But after an awful season, Taggart has done everything in his power to assemble the best coaching staff possible, even if it brings a bit of scrutiny. If Taggart can do as he hopes and get the Seminoles back to winning 10 games, playing in New Year’s Six bowls and for ACC and national championships, one losing season may end up being a very small price to pay.
Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at Mike@TheDailyNole.com.