The Aggies wouldn’t really fire Jimbo Fisher, would they?
No, they wouldn’t. Plenty has gone wrong with Texas A&M football over the last twelve months, and probably all can be traced to Jimbo’s desk. Even so, he’s not going anywhere. If he does leave College Station, it’ll be his call and no one else’s. If you ranked all 130 Division I college football coaches in order of job security, Jimbo would be near the top, not far behind Alabama’s Nick Saban, Georgia’s Kirby Smart, and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
What gives Jimbo the sort of job security enjoyed by three coaches who have won national championships in the past half decade? As legendary television executive Don Ohlmeyer once said: “The answer to all your questions is: money.” If the Aggies fire Jimbo on December 1, he’d be owed $95.6 million, according to USA Today’s salary database. No coach has ever gotten even half that much to hit the road.
Aggies fans may not have liked that week-two loss to Appalachian State, but the idea of stuffing nearly $100 million into Jimbo’s pockets and putting him out to pasture is more than even the deepest of the deep-pocketed Aggies can stomach.
More compelling is this: have the last two weeks, with a swirl of questions about culture and accountability, caused long-term damage to Texas A&M’s football program?
Not if Jimbo can produce wins. In the end, that’s all that matters: win now and win big. Saturday’s 17–9 victory over thirteenth-ranked Miami was a step in the right direction. But it was just one small step in a brutally difficult schedule. After the game, when someone asked about it being an “ugly win,” Fisher snapped: “How is it ugly?”
Let us count the ways.
Despite benching quarterback Haynes King to start LSU transfer Max Johnson against Miami, A&M still had trouble sustaining any offense. Johnson finished with just ten completions for 140 yards—he missed a few receivers on pass attempts, and the Hurricanes defensive line pressured him. He wasn’t helped by Fisher’s decision to suspend four players, including five-star freshman receivers Evan Stewart and Chris Marshall, for curfew violations. That they would defy their coach’s rules at the end of a week in which the players’ “buy-in” had already become a matter of debate could hardly make Fisher look worse.
When Stewart, Marshall, and the others return, A&M better hope to find a downfield passing game, otherwise the Aggies may struggle to match last season’s disappointing 8–4 finish.
Without his heralded receivers on the field on Saturday, Jimbo preached pass protection. “If you’re not protecting, you can have Jerry Rice running down through there,” he said after the win. “We’ve got to do a better job protecting the pocket and some of those things. The guys that played did a heck of a job.”
Or you could have a less-complicated offense. Now that Fisher has tried two of his top three quarterbacks, five-star freshman Connor Weigman seems likely to hear his number called before long for a chance to see how he performs under center.
Fisher’s fifth season in College Station wasn’t supposed to start this way—or so we were told. After signing four consecutive top-ten recruiting classes, including the number one group this past winter, and beginning the season ranked number six in the Associated Press poll, a home loss to an unranked opponent from the Sun Belt Conference was not how fans expected football season to start. As upset as the Aggie faithful were about losing four SEC games last season and finishing a season that began with national title chatter outside of the rankings, falling to Appalachian State was a tipping point.
In the days that followed, the knives came out, with observers questioning everything from how much Fisher actually knows about football to the culture and accountability of his program. On ESPN’s College GameDay, Kirk Herbstreit offered this: “Unwarranted preseason hype. Number six—high expectations for a team that did not deserve that.
“They beat Alabama last year, they have all these great recruits, and all of a sudden, everybody thinks they’re Alabama,” Herbstreit continued. “It doesn’t work like that.”
In the most damning of a string of critical articles, this line from well-sourced Houston Chronicle reporter Brent Zwerneman stood out a few days after the App State loss: “As a longtime program insider observed, accountability and fear of authority both appear to be in low quantity in the Bright Football Complex.”
That comment was in response to linebacker Chris Russell remaining in the starting lineup despite “two different police-involved incidents in July: charges of less than two ounces of marijuana possession following a minor wreck in College Station and leaving his car on foot, and in another case, providing a false name and address to officers as a passenger in a car driven by [teammate Ainias] Smith pulled over for speeding.”
Zwerneman reported that earlier this month freshman cornerback Denver Harris, who was among those suspended for the Miami game, “posted a video of himself driving recklessly through a College Station parking garage and putting other drivers and perhaps pedestrians at risk. It’s bad enough to do it — posting a video is next level.”
A&M senior receiver Ainias Smith said: “If people aren’t locked in, it’s not going to be what we want it to be. There were times when people weren’t bought in. You could see it in practice, and it showed in the game.”
Fisher responded to that one with a very generous interpretation of the comment: “What [Smith is] talking about is not ‘bought in’ to what we’re doing. It’s just that every detail of every practice rep [matters]. When you talk about ‘bought in,’ it’s not that they’re fighting the program [or] fighting what we do. . . . It’s every practice rep needs to be a game rep. The buy-in is that every play in practice matters.”
And this from defensive back Demani Richardson: “I have to hold more guys accountable, like I’m doing right now. Starting with going to class, being in meetings every day, just all the small things.”
Going to class is a small thing? This really is big-time college sports.
Now about the coaching. Former A&M quarterback Nick Starkel told the Bryan–College Station Eagle that he was left to figure out the intricacies of the position on his own after Fisher arrived. “Only [Fisher] knows how to properly execute the play,” Starkel said. “He has to communicate that perfectly well to you, or else you’re going to be disappointed, because you’re going to do the wrong thing.”
“Comparatively speaking,” he said, the NFL has “a process for every single play. Sometimes you might lose that process in Jimbo’s offense, because you just know he wants the ball to get out here, so I’m just going to get it out there, rather than go through the process of the play.”
Fisher, the Eagle reported, said his quarterbacks “know exactly what they are doing in his system and that sometimes it’s a missed block or [a] poorly run route that can ruin a play.” He also told the newspaper he had “simplified his playbook in the past to fit the knowledge and abilities of his quarterbacks.”
That the A&M football program would be in such disarray at this point is nearly unthinkable, considering how the December 2017 news that the school had lured Jimbo away from Florida State was greeted. His original contract was a record setter, $75 million over ten years.
When A&M chancellor John Sharp was asked about the wisdom of a ten-year deal for that kind of money, he told the Houston Chronicle: “We couldn’t get him to agree to a fifteen-year deal, so this is the best we got.”
Everything was on schedule after the Aggies went 9–4 and 8–5 in Fisher’s first two seasons. Then the breakthrough came in 2020, when A&M’s 9–1 record delivered a season-ending ranking of number four in the AP Top 25. That was A&M’s highest finish in eighty years, and with a third straight top-ten recruiting class headed to campus, 2021 brought the national championship hype. That was before last year’s back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State. Then the Aggies pulled off a 41–38 upset of number one Alabama in front of 106,815 at Kyle Field.
Aggies poured onto the field at the end, in one of the more magical moments in the history of Aggies football. Suddenly A&M was back on track. The Aggies were riding a four-game winning streak before they took a 29–19 loss at Ole Miss and ended the regular season by falling 27–24 to LSU. The disappointing 8–4 record stirred some critical chatter, but Fisher smothered the negativity by signing what some analysts labeled the greatest recruiting class in history, setting the stage for his fifth season. Surely this would be the breakthrough season.
Then Appalachian State happened. One loss doesn’t necessarily mean Jimbo and the Aggies won’t be able to turn this season around and deliver the results that fans in College Station crave. But now enough doubt has crept in that every game will feel like a referendum on Jimbo’s coaching tenure. A&M has given him some of the finest facilities in the industry, and no coach has recruited better. The only pieces still missing are the wins.
Jimbo won’t be fired anytime soon, but he surely heard the boos during the Aggies’ loss to App State. Every other SEC school—and especially the University of Texas—will make sure recruits know about those jeers.
And here comes the hard part: the Aggies’ next four games will be played away from Kyle Field: against Arkansas (in Arlington), at Mississippi State, at Alabama, and at South Carolina. By the time Ole Miss comes to College Station on October 29, either Jimbo will be back in the Aggies’ good graces, or someone is going to be exploring the possibility of a $95.6 million bake sale.