During Mark Richt’s final press conference at Georgia, the man who days later would be named the new coach at Miami expressed a desire to return to calling plays.
“I miss coaching quarterbacks. I miss calling plays,” Richt said.
To some head coaches, calling plays is in their blood and difficult to relinquish. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher understands why Richt is anxious to regain control of his offense.
“It is hard because that’s what you cut your teeth on,” Fisher said Tuesday, adding that if something goes wrong, “You take the bullets, your tail is on the line.”
Richt and Fisher once sat in same seat as offensive coordinators and play callers for legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden; Richt for seven of his 11 years as a full-time assistant at FSU and Fisher for three years before succeeding Bowden.
Richt continued to call plays during his first six years as Georgia’s head coach before handing the duties over to Mike Bobo in 2007. But after nine years away from the front line, Richt is ready to jump back in and will be his own offensive coordinator at Miami.
Fisher, whose No. 9 Seminoles have started preparing for their Dec. 31 Peach Bowl game against Houston, called plays at LSU under Nick Saban and Les Miles before coming to Florida State. When asked when he first was handed play-calling responsibilities, Fisher chuckled.
“When I played quarterback,” he said. “I always had an opinion about something. I was very opinionated. I was a pain for some coaches.”
Fisher actually got his play-calling start in 1999, his only season at Cincinnati and his first year as an offensive coordinator. The next year he joined Saban’s staff at LSU.
In 2007, Bowden hired Fisher after his son - and offensive coordinator - Jeff, resigned amid doubts over his ability to run the offense and call plays. Jeff left voluntarily when his dad was feeling the heat for not firing his son.
Bowden handed the entire offense over to Fisher and the Seminoles improved in each of his three seasons as the coordinator, jumping from 330.3 yards per game in 2006 to 421.4 in 2009.
Bowden since has praised Fisher for his “brilliant” offensive mind.
Fisher compared coaches who allow their coordinators to call plays to “Generals who command from the back,” and those who handle the responsibility themselves to “Generals who command from the middle of the troops.”
He then added, “Some will say the greatest ones are in the back and some will say the greatest ones are in the middle of it. Who you are as a person and what your style is has a lot to do with it.”
Fisher understands why some head coaches delegate play-calling duties, citing the responsibilities, on and off the field, that come with running a program. This year, Fisher has allowed co-offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, who also coaches the quarterbacks, to call plays at different times. Sanders has been an offensive coordinator at Tennessee and Kentucky.
“There’s a hundred things,” Fisher said about being a head coach. “It’s like calling a play. The play itself, there’s so many things that go into play calls. Like in a program, there’s multiple things going on. What do you have to prioritize to get right? Can you walk away from it?”
Unlike Richt, who walked away and found out how much he missed it, Fisher is not ready to surrender play calling, at least not yet.
“It is a difficult thing to give up,” he said.