I have been a Florida State fan since the mid-1980s, and graduated from FSU in 1995. My college years were exactly in the middle of the Seminoles' 14-year Dynasty from 1987-2000. So yes, I've come to expect a certain level of performance out of my beloved Seminoles and from Bobby Bowden.
NC State's 24-20 victory over the Seminoles last night flipped that proverbial switch in my head. The problem with the last several years of Florida State football has not been Jeff Bowden, Chris Rix, terrible offensive lines, injuries, etc. The problem has been, and is, Bobby Bowden.
Bobby Bowden is 4-6 in his last 10 football games. And two of the four wins were Troy and Rice.
Bobby Bowden is like our elderly Grandpa who cannot and will not accept that age is getting the better of him. Even though he has blown through stop signs, pulled out in front of speeding traffic, and run over the neighbor's dog, he cannot and will not give up the car keys because those are literally the keys to his freedom, to a life. The FSU football program is Bobby Bowden's set of car keys.
For the last several years, Bowden's excuses for the increasing amount of losses have come down to a few predictable sound bites:
1- The players didn't execute
2- Other teams always get pumped up for FSU
3- We have too many injuries
I'm sure the coaching staff appreciates that their supervisor doesn't criticize them in public. That's admirable. What's not admirable is constantly pointing fingers at players for not executing. The policy needs to be total: either no one gets criticized in public (coaches and players), or everyone is fair game to get criticized in public. Singling out 18-22 year old players but shielding 40-50-and 60-something coaches is bizarre. But the reason that Bowden does this is simple: he cannot face the fact that he made a disastrous decision in promoting his son Jeff to offensive coordinator. Bobby stated in his book The Bowden Way that he won't fire a coach for performance because that means he will have to admit to himself that he made a mistake in hiring him. He is already predisposed to give an assistant coach all the time and opportunity in the world. When that assistant coach is also his son, and combined with the natural course of aging, the rationalizations for the disaster that is the FSU offense kick into high gear, and the abject refusal to make a change is intensified.
The player development on the offensive side of the ball since 2001 at Florida State has been non-existent. While the Noles still churn out high draft picks on defense, there is a dearth of development on the offensive side. But, Coach Bowden does not see a systemic problem. It's all about making the blocks, completing the passes, and not turning the ball over. If only it were that simple.
As an aside, consider this about Bowden and his obsessive defense of Jeff: one of Bobby's grandsons and his former son-in-law were killed in a car accident just a few days before the season opener in 2004. This loss devastated him to his core. Family is more important than ever to him. Keep that in mind if you really think he will demote or fire his own flesh and blood.
But, with Coach Bowden's abject refusal to make any change whatsoever and his stubborn decision to stay on as head coach, each loss will bring about more and more criticism of the son he only wishes to help. Each loss will bring more and more of the questions that now make him bristle. Each loss will ding his legacy a bit more.
Yes, Coach Bowden would love to retire as the winningest 1-A coach of all time. If he leaves after this year, Joe Paterno will likely pass him next season. Oh well. It would be much worse if Paterno passes Bowden while Bobby is still coaching.
For Coach Bowden's sake primarily, I truly hope he chooses to retire at the end of this season. And when I say for his sake primarily, I mean it--this may be the last season where he has the chance to go out on his own terms. The Noles are not going to magically get back into the Top 10 at status quo, and there are only so many 4 and 5-loss seasons that can be brushed aside. If Bobby were to make such an announcement soon, whatever happens this season (and in retrospect the last 5 years)gets glossed over. A 6-6 record? Oh well, but at least he knew when to leave. Tributes, farewells and tears will flow his way for all that he's done not just for Florida State but for all of college football.
Retirement will not be as boring as he thinks. He has a loving wife, 20+ grandkids, speaking engagements out the wazoo and plenty of golf to play. Mark Richt, Tommy Bowden and Chuck Amato will buzz his phone every week for advice and insight.
Bobby, we love ya, but it's time to hand over the keys. Thank you for all you've done.
Time gets the best of everyone