How stressed out is Jimbo Fisher these days? It seems like in every interview he sounds not like the coach of a defending national champion, but rather a dog backed into a corner snapping to get out. Each media appearance his nerves appear a little more frayed, his temper a little more heated, and his answers a little more terse.
It’s not difficult to see why. Fisher spends more time in his interviews defending Jameis Winston, Florida State University and the football program than he does talking about the game at hand. During a recent radio appearance on “Mike and Mike,” it took until the 10:30 mark of an 11-minute segment for the coach to answer a question about Notre Dame.
Beyond reporters, Fisher now feels the need to fend off former players who comment on his program. Recently Bo Jackson offered up the following less-than-genial assessment of Winston.
“He isn’t handling himself very well …. I really don’t know who is giving this young man guidance …. Jameis Winston needs to make some changes in his life. Because it’s affecting him now and it’s definitely going to affect him down the road.”
Fellow Heisman winner Herschel Walker also addressed the Florida State quarterback when discussing player accountability with Paul Finebaum.
“I know this is not the time of Bo Jackson or Herschel Walker, this is a different time,” Walker said. “But what is not different is right is right and wrong is wrong. What Jameis has done is wrong. You can say you are innocent until proven guilty, but one thing that is funny to me is that where there is smoke there is fire.
“You want to talk about the rape case, I do not know about the rape case, but I do know the young lady never recanted her statement. You want to talk about the crab leg situation. What I do know is the video tape showed him walking out of the store without paying for it. You want to talk about him getting on the table, students were there videotaping it. But now this comes up again and they are “oh he didn’t do it” He may not have done it, but you have to look at it and see what his word is worth.”
“He represents the alumni at Florida State and if he graduates, then that is how you want to leave a legacy? Florida State is a better institution than that. Jameis is a young man that needs some guidance and someone to sit down and talk to him. The coaches got to do that. The head coach there needs to say, ‘You know what, football is important, but when you get into pro football, you might not get slapped on the wrist like that. You might get thrown in jail.’”
The common thread between Jackson and Walker: accountability and guidance. Which all circles back to Fisher. Not only is he standing behind a podium (or on a phone line) sticking up for his talented and embattled quarterback, the narrative has shifted to defending himself. That’s where the extra strain, higher pitch, and quicker pace in his voice comes from: parrying criticism that has now slid from player onto coach.
During his “Mike and Mike” segment, Fisher spoke directly to the statements of Jackson and Walker.
“Bo grew up with Jameis in Bessemer for 18 years and never spoke to him. So why would he speak to him now? He never knew Bo and Bo lived in the same neighborhood, so Bo can ‘wash his hands,’ that’s fine.”
“Look at the facts of everything that’s going on. The kid has made mistakes, but he’s a tremendous young man. For Herschel, that’s wonderful.”
To the duo:
“What Herschel and Bo think. I have no disdain … we’re moving on down here, that has no effect on us.”
Unfortunately for Fisher, as media scrutiny intensifies, each week will become less about chasing a repeat on the field, and more about surviving the PR maelstrom off of it.