While the debate surrounding Taggart's short stint with the program will continue until FSU finds out a replacement -- hello Bob Stoops -- the writings were on the wall in the two seasons that he was at the helm.
Taggart's tenure was an unmitigated disaster from day one. While Taggart inherited an abysmal program left in shambles by the departure of Jimbo Fisher, the former head coach did little to change the culture surrounding the program that won a National Title just six years ago.
That said, let's take a look at what led to Taggart's firing, and why FSU made the correct decision.
He Lost Control of the Locker Room
Florida State has always had a "bad boy" stigma -- both on and off the field. Whether it was Deion Sanders embracing the persona or Jamesis Winston's behavior on campus, FSU has been unable to escape a negative image that follows the program like a shadow.
While Fisher failed to corral his players during his tenure, Taggart had the opportunity to install a new set of traditions and values that could've washed away the sins the plagued FSU's program. Unfortunately, Taggart was unable to change the culture, which led to him being unable to control the "men" that played for him.
As CFB Analyst Kirk Herbstreit noted: "That program is done." Herbstreit made the comments following FSU's humiliating loss to Miami -- a team they haven't beaten since 2016.
“I want to get this off my chest,” Herbstreit said. “I’m done with Florida State. I don’t want to talk about them anymore. I hate the way they represent themselves. Their current roster needs to go back and watch the Bobby Bowden Era. Because it wasn’t about talking trash and fighting. That’s all they do. They’re the most undisciplined team you’re gonna watch And they’re a terrible team. They need to focus more on execution and less on chirping. All they do is chirp.”
Fowler then chimed in: “Here they play the ‘Canes. If you can’t get inspired about playing your rival at home. You’re 4-4, both teams 4-4 and chance to salvage…”
Herbstreit: “They’re inspired, but they want to fight.”
Fowler: “They wanted to wrestle, yeah.”
Herbstreit: “They should get into the UFC, get out of football and go fight people. That’s all you guys want to do. Fight. It makes no sense to me. I can’t imagine, Willie Taggart who’s one of the classy, gentlemen, great guy. I can’t imagine what he’s dealing with that culture, trying. He’s trying to steer the Titanic. Forget just winning games and trying to execute defensively and offensively. Florida State, they’ll knock a guy out, hit a guy after a 20-yard gain on 3rd and 15, and blow a guy up and just stand over top of him, talking to him. It’s like, bro, it’s a first down. They have no awareness. I’m just done talking about them.”
Herbstreit then threw the haymaker.
“They’re done,” Herbstreit said. “That program is gone.”
All in all, FSU never seemed inspired under Taggart and certainly didn’t get better. The quarterback play was awful, the offensive line was a mess, Taggart failed to take a quarterback in a recruiting class and, most importantly, players just didn’t develop as expected. Fisher may be the villain in Tallahassee for abandoning the program, but Taggart made his bed with some really bad coaching and for allowing the team to play down to opponents.
He Failed Against Rivals
Though a National Championship is the ultimate goal, the barometer of success for most college coaches rests on how well they perform against their biggest rivals. Taggart performed poorly against teams he was expected to be competitive against.
His record against FSU's biggest rivals:
In a day where boosters, administrators, and politics have their say in the direction each college program goes, being winless against your biggest opponents will get you canned immediately. While Clemson is at the top of their game and Florida State was not expected to beat them last year of this season, FSU was favored against an under-performing Miami this past weekend.
He was Never a Great Head Coach
Objectively, Taggart was not a successful coach in college football. To date, his overall record stands at 56-61. At FSU, Taggart posted a 9-12 record in two seasons. Many, however, will place an asterisk next to this record, blaming Taggart's lack of success on Fisher (which is completely wrong).
So let's be fair to the pundits. Let's assume that Taggart got the short end of the stick and was hindered with a bare cupboard. What about his career before FSU?
At Western Kentucky he posted a 16-20 record, finishing 9th, 2nd, and 5th in one of the weakest conferences in college football. At South Florida he had one big year (10-2) but was still 24-25 overall, losing the only bowl game he ever coached in. Meanwhile, his lone year at Oregon he was 7-5, finishing 4th in the Pac-12.
With that said, it can be argued that each program Taggart coached at is better today than they were under his direction. You can clearly state that the Ducks' program is in better hands under Mario Cristoabal these days -- currently ranked #7.
Plain and simple: Taggart was a failed coach who couldn't cut it at an elite program, let alone an average one. While many loyalists will criticize the school's decision to cut ties so soon, in reality, a short leash is the way the college football world works now. The Georgia Bulldogs let go of one of the most successful coaches in recent history (Mark Richt) because he couldn't win the big game.
Taggart not only couldn't win the big game, he couldn't win over his locker room.
That's a recipe for disaster.