Aggies' new head coach ready to take on Texas-sized expectations
Good for you, Jimbo Fisher.
One must be oozing with self-confidence to show up at SEC Media Days and entertain winning national championships before winning his first game in the league.
Texas A&M’s $75-million-dollar-man strolled into Atlanta on Monday and set the bar as high as possible for his tenure with the Aggies, showing little concern for Alabama head coach Nick Saban and the ever-present obstacles of the brutal SEC West.
“People say if you're a competitor, why would you run from it?” Fisher said without a sense of fear for his move from the ACC to the SEC. “Why don't you go find out? That's what we're going to do.”
And he plans to find out quickly. Asked to put a timetable on his ability to bring a national title to College Station, Fisher pushed the proverbial gas pedal all the way down to the floorboard.
“You have a timetable, your timetable is now,” he explained. “You want to win immediately and that's your place, but is that realistic? I don't know. Could it be? Yes. Could it not be? Yes. It's all about the process of putting things in place.”
That’s not exactly pouring water on the flames of anticipation. Coachspeak would have been the easy way out, but Fisher chose instead to be bold. Was it the smart play?
Why Fisher is right to set the bar for 2018 at an elite level
Fisher is one of four active coaches who have won a national championship (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Dabo Swinney are the others). As a member of that exclusive club, he’s awarded the luxury of carrying himself with a sense of swagger.
He also is right to speak with a sense of urgency that the other five new head coaches in the SEC may not feel in Year 1. The appetite for “rebuild” talk is non-existent when you sign one of the most lucrative long-term contracts in the history of the sport.
The former Florida State coach (83-23 from 2010-17) not only knows how to win it all on the national stage, but he also understands what it takes to compete in the SEC West after spending a combined 13 seasons as an offensive assistant at Auburn (1993-98) and LSU (2000-06).
“I think the biggest thing about it is, as I said before, the toughness, the effort, the discipline, the pride, the grit you have as a team and your ability to compete and understand that it's going to be physical,” Fisher explained about surviving in the SEC West.
“It's going to be tough. I'm not going to be good. I'm going to be hurt. I'm going to be banged. I'm going to be bruised.”
It’s hard to put a value on that knowledge, but Aggies fans should rest easy knowing that Fisher understands exactly what to expect in this league.
Additionally, former head coach Kevin Sumlin may not have been able to get “over the hump” during his time as the Texas A&M coach, but a lack of top-notch recruits was never the reason. He did not leave the cupboard bare for Fisher, and it’s possible that Fisher knows he’s sitting on enough talent to win big early against the likes of the Crimson Tide, Auburn, Mississippi State and LSU.
“It has all the ingredients that those schools have,” Fisher said of Texas A&M on the set of SEC Network’s SEC Now on Monday afternoon.
“It has a huge recruiting base, you have a commitment from the school and the administration to be good and football is very important in the state of Texas. You have all the things there to put it in place.”
Why Fisher may regret setting the bar for 2018 at an elite level
Simply put, the schedule has what most would consider more than a few landmines.
Athlon’s official prediction for the Aggies under Fisher in 2018 is a very Sumlin-esque 8-4 record and fourth-place finish in the SEC West behind Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State.
Texas A&M hosts back-to-back-to-back College Football Playoff participant Clemson in Week 2, and has road trips to play defending national champion Alabama (Sept. 22) and defending SEC West champion Auburn (Nov. 3) in some hostile environments. The Aggies also have conference road games against nine-win teams South Carolina and Mississippi State on the schedule as well. That’s a potential for five losses in games that could and should be close.
We don’t need to explain how that could turn his inaugural run as the Aggies coach into a “here we go again” season for the Texas A&M faithful if things don’t break the right way. Again, Fisher already knows.
“Going into the venues you do on the road, the travel, just the physicality of the league, you have to understand that and embrace it and run with it and take pride in coming through that gauntlet of games to be there,” he said.
“The regular season schedule of that league is second to none. I know. I lived it for 13 years. I understand what's it's like.”
Buckle up, Aggies fans. It could be a bumpy ride. But Fisher’s bold and upfront expectations at least assure us it will be an interesting one. Win or lose early, you have to appreciate the moxie.
-- Written by Nick Cole, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has spent the previous seven years covering SEC football for SEC Country, Saturday Down South and The Tennessean. Follow him on Twitter @NickColeSports.
(Top photo courtesy of @SEC)