The Swag Factor: Meditations on Willie Taggart
4-8, that’s my prediction for a Florida State football program on life support to close out its most embarrassing season in decades. Drastic? Hyperbole? Maybe. But to those who are dismissive of the Noles’ major issues, calling them mere “rebuilding” or “rebranding” kinks in the system, I say we need to deconstruct the program, not “rebuild” or “rebrand” it. Clearly, Willie Taggart is not the right person to coach the Seminoles. At all.
Full Disclosure: as an alum of FSU, from the beginning, I was concerned about Taggart’s hiring. This is a guy who spent just one season as head coach of the Oregon Ducks. The result? An unremarkable 7-5 season. His career record as head coach currently stands at an awful 51-56 (soon to be 51-58.) Florida State football is a brand — it sells swagger and success; two things Willie Taggart severely lacks.
Watching Taggart pace the sidelines, looking wide-eyed and scared, is a painful exercise. I understand FSU is Taggart’s dream job, but he’s a nightmare of a hire. He and his entire staff need to go, and the school would be well served to dismantle everything and start from scratch, learning from the many miscues and sorry escapades of this season.
What’s wrong with the Noles this season?
To be fair, the regression in brand and culture began well before Taggart set foot in Tallahassee. It actually began the moment Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston slipped, fell and fumbled, unprompted, during the 2014 Inaugural College Football Playoff against…the Oregon Ducks. The laughter that GIF created still reverberates across Tallahassee.
Since that embarrassing loss, former head coach Jimbo Fisher tried for a few half-hearted seasons before jumping ship. Who could blame him? Football is a huge point of pride at FSU. When most people think of FSU, they think of the football program. That it is such a point of pride means immense pressure to deliver sustained success.
Which brings us back to Taggart. The future of the Seminoles is indeed on the verge of collapse. Practically leading the nation in penalties? Check. Incompetence and clock mismanagement on the part of the coaching staff? Check. An overwhelmed head coach and lack of motivation or discipline? Checkmate.
It’s almost as if Willie Taggart takes to hiding under his desk every day instead of actually showing fire, intensity, and yes, swagger. Where is the confidence FSU used to possess? Where is that Deion Sanders legacy? Apparently, it’s been shoved into the “turnover backpack” — an absurd attempt at uniting and motivating the team that Taggart and company conjured up, presumably during a game of tiddlywinks they used to distract themselves from addressing the many problems their football program faces.
If this piece sounds exasperated and frustrated, that’s, well, kind of the point. If Taggart can’t pump some adrenaline into his players, maybe the printed page will. On an individual level, I’m sure Willie Taggart is a wonderful human being. But this is Division I NCAA athletics. Taggart must be held to a high standard. And he knows it. The man isn’t stupid by any means, he just isn’t the right person for this job. Florida State athletics would be better served to let him go sooner, rather than later.