Florida State is recruiting the best players, has a Heisman winning quarterback returning and received first glimpse of its championship rings Monday.
Be careful, Jimbo, of those Pasadena roses -- petals muted, fragrance faint but thorns sharpened, impervious to decay.
That sage advice comes from Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher’s predecessor, Bobby Bowden. The legendary Florida State coach whose statue greets staffers at the football offices entrance knows the spring pitfalls that accompany a national championship.
“One thing is true,” Bowden told ESPN.com Monday, “it’s easier to win one than to continue winning.”
Bowden won 304 games in 34 seasons at Florida State and two national championships. Although the Seminoles did not repeat in 1994 following his first national title, complacency never set in at Florida State. He went 42-4-1 the four seasons after the 1993 national title and reeled off 14 consecutive top-5 finishes from 1987-2000.
With Fisher getting his first taste of a national title as a head coach and Florida State’s rising seniors a combined 35-6 in their careers, the biggest question this spring is whether the program is poised for another decade-long run of national relevance.
“The big thing you try to do is prevent a letdown, prevent the kids being overconfident, taking things for granted,” Bowden said. “You need to be looking out for letdowns. You have to continue to talk and stress it to the boys and if you see it happen nip it in the butt.”
So far, so good. Through offseason conditioning, the players' efforts have Fisher convinced the 2014 team is not set up to revert to a middling ACC program.
“I’ve been very pleased. It’s been a very good offseason. I like the demeanor and mentality of our team right now; hopefully we can take it to spring practices and continue to grow, but I’m very proud of them,” Fisher said recently. “They know what to do, they know the culture, they know what’s expected and they’re going to take care of business.”
While no program is completely immune to letting its foot off the pedal, Fisher comes from the Tree of Saban, who's done better than any other coach at keeping his teams hungry. A former LSU assistant, Fisher coached under Nick Saban when the Tigers won the title in 2003. Saban, with his now infamously coined philosophy, “The Process,” has successfully fended complacency off much of the last decade. Sure, the Crimson Tide lost three games in 2010 following the 2009 title, but it took the wildest kick return since Kevin Moen trampled Gary Tyrrell to keep Saban from a third BCS championship.
In 2007, Saban hired mindset coach Trevor Moawad, who is now Vice President of Pro and Elite sports at API/EXOS. A specialist in mental conditioning, Moawad now splits his time between Tuscaloosa and Tallahassee. Fisher followed Saban’s initiative and asked Moawad to speak to his offense beginning in 2008.
In his time in Tallahassee, Moawad has shown clips of Mike Tyson’s loss to 42-to-1 underdog Buster Douglas. Tyson was ill-equipped and ill-prepared for a drawn-out boxing match having had just three of his previous 16 fights last past the seventh round.
“It won’t be Auburn like in 2010 when it found lightning in a bottle. ... The goal isn’t to win 14 games but to execute the process,” said Moawad, mimicking a tried-and-true Saban proverb. “These guys in this program know they don’t have to be sick to get better. Coach Fisher’s program is about structure and coaching and great talent, and those things are in place for other guys to step in and sustain it.”
Just keep your feet clear of any thorns.