Florida State’s Bobby Bowden: Coaching Genius Or Not?
Posted by William Kristoph
Bobby Bowden. What do you think when you hear those two words? Great coach? Great man? Good ol’ boy? Not in charge?
It depends.Â Seminole fans, in general, cheer Bowden’s name when it’s spoken and they’re quick to tell you how great Coach Bowden is at what he does. They’ll spout off about what he’s built at Florida State University and how the football program was almost killed off 30 years ago because it was awful.Â Nole fans are quick to come to his defense about anything other than his son Jeff Bowden, and most call him one of the best “closers” in recruiting to ever live.
But is he really a coaching genius like I’ve heard from a lot of fans, Seminole or not?
What defines a genius? Is it a statue? Is it a field named after him? Is it the amount of money brought in to a program or the amount of talent he can recruit? Is it an innovator is his field?
According to Wikipedia a genius “is a person of great intelligence, who shows an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work.” I can’t comment on Bowden in fields other than football, so basically the question that remains is does Bobby Bowden fit that definition on a football field?
No He Isn’t
He doesn’t use his roster well - How many QBs haven’t worked out at FSU recently? Xavier Lee, Adrian McPherson, Jared Jones… the list gets very long.Â How many times has the 2nd string running looked better than the 1st string? How many times were slacking Wide Receivers given the job?
Over the years a few great college football players can make any man look like a genius. Chris Weinke was basically an extra coach on the sidelines. Charlie Ward was the best all-around athlete at FSU, and Peter Warrick was head-and-shoulders about his collegiate competition.Â Many coaches could win a ton of games with talent like that.
His assistants did much of the work – Mark Richt and Brad Scott coordinated the best offenses in FSU history.Â Richt has brought Georgia back into the national spotlight. Even a better point, when FSU lost an embarrassing BCS Title game to Oklahoma, it was Richt who didn’t have a backup plan for the 2nd half, evidently neither did Bowden.
He ran a very traditional offense - The I-Formation isn’t exactly rocket science. It’s flexible, and lets you take what the defense gives you. When times are tough, Bowden heads straight for it. Brad Scott realized and coaxed Coach Bowden into letting him use the “fast-break” with Charlie Ward, to showcase his talents and maximize the FSU offense. Bowden didn’t invent an entirely new offense, doing so would push him over the edge of genius immediately.
It’s always been Mickey’s Defense – Defense win championships, and Mickey Andrews has been in sole control of that unit forever. When the Noles are good on defense, they’re in a ballgame. Only 1 game immediately comes to mind when the offense bailed out the defense (Weinke vs. GT’s Joe Hamilton at Doak), whereas the defense has shut down teams in the 2nd half so many times I lose count. (Miami in 1999, Florida in 1998, Texas A&M in 1998, Ohio State 1997).
Yes He Is
The stats don’t lie – Football is a team sport, yes, but Bobby Bowden is the head of a dynasty that finished in the AP Top 5 for 14 straight years. That’s not easy to do, and it means your team won a lot of big games. It means, if nothing else you oversaw everything, handled all of the player “issues” that arise over a season and had Boosters and fans loving every minute of it, happy to open their checkbooks. Bowden’s success helped grow Florida State University as a whole. It’s a case of trickle-down economics actually working.
He’s bright enough to have brilliant assistants around him – Bowden, although not always at the direct helm of the offense or defense, is bright enought to hire guys that take care of business. The downfall of FSU Football in recent years, was because he didn’t admit that he hadn’t surrounded himself with the best available staff. Sorry Jeff, you might have been bright enough to get a big buyout, but you couldn’t run the offense like Mark or Brad (Jimbo is to-be-decided).
He designed some of the best trick plays use in college football - A genius innovates, and if there’s one spot that Bobby Bowden innovated it was trick plays that work. Puntrooskie? Check. Warrick Dunn throwing passes? Check. Peter Warrick lining up everywhere? Check.
Alright readers, I want to hear comments. This is meant to get a discussion going. I don’t argue that Bowden is a winner, a good man, or a good coach. But is he really a Football Genius? Did he just take advantage of also-bright coaches around him? Was he a genius in the 70s, 80s and not in the 90′s and 00′s? Leave comments, let me know!