Former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier should shoot a sympathetic tweet or text to current FSU coach Jimbo Fisher that goes something like this:
“Yo, Jimbo, I feel your pain.
Actually, I feel your quarterback’s pain.
In another day and another time, it was Spurrier who stood up and angrily shouted that SEC officials needed to do more to protect his quarterback – the great Danny Wuerffel – from the vicious “late hits” that FSU’s head-hunting defense was allowed to administer. It was the beginning of a nasty football feud between the legendary Spurrier and FSU icon Bobby Bowden, who claimed his defense wasn’t hitting Wuerffel late but was simply playing to the “echo of the whistle.”
Now it’s Jimbo railing against ACC refs who are allowing opposing defenses to tee off on FSU quarterback Deondre Francois, a freshman who has disgracefully been exposed to a constant and brutal beating this season. Fisher seethed after the loss to Clemson on Saturday night and said he believed a Clemson player should have been ejected for targeting after hitting Francois in the chest with the crown of his helmet.
Francois was helped off the field and missed the next play. In fact, Francois has been temporarily knocked out of games and had to receive medical attention three times in recent weeks – once against Clemson; twice against Miami.
“He gets killed at Miami, they don’t call it. He got killed here (and they don’t call it),” Fisher fumed in his post-game press conference after the Clemson game. “Both of them. Bad. Real bad.”
A couple of days after the game, when Jimbo had calmed down, he discussed the topic more thoughtfully and less emotionally. But his message was the same: “Officials got to call it.”
“I say this all the time: I think we’ve got to do a better job – I’m not talking about just in here but in college football – of protecting the quarterback when they’re vulnerable making throws and taking shots,” Fisher said. “I think we have to do a better of job of really emphasizing like they do in pro football.
“Late hits need to be really, really scrutinized and maybe even more severe punishments to stop people, like we throw guys out of games for head shots. If you’re going to do that and you want to protect (players) and the integrity of the game, make those penalties very severe for hitting (quarterbacks) late.”
Spurrier couldn’t agree more. He was watching FSU-Clemson on Saturday night and it brought back memories of Wuerffel getting nearly decapitated by the Seminoles in the 1996 regular season finale – a 24-21 FSU victory. Spurrier was so irate, he had a videotape made of the savage blows Wuerffel endured, and he showed the videotape to reporters leading up to a Sugar Bowl rematch with FSU for the national championship. He also made sure Big 12 refs who were officiating the title game were aware of the videotape.
The Gators routed FSU in the rematch, 52-20, for a school-first national championship.
“Jimbo’s right,” Spurrier said Wednesday when I reminded him of the irony of Bowden’s successor complaining about his quarterback being hit late. “He’s got a good point. On one play against Clemson, his quarterback got rid of the ball and yet the officials still allowed the Clemson defender to bury him in the ground.
“That’s not supposed to be legal. As one of the Big 12 officials told me before the 1996 championship game: If a pass rusher knows the ball is already gone, he’s not allowed to clobber the quarterback. Just like you can’t clobber the punter after he’s already kicked the ball, you shouldn’t be allowed to clobber the quarterback after he’s already thrown the ball. The Clemson rusher wrapped up (Francois) and planted him in the ground.”
“As a coach,” Spurrier added, “you’ve got to scream and yell sometimes to protect your quarterback.”
Actually, it shouldn’t be up to coaches to protect their quarterbacks; it should be up to conference commissioners and directors of officiating to legislate protection. If the NFL has made a priority of policing defenses from annihilating quarterbacks then why can’t college football do the same?
The savage hits that college defenders are allowed to administer to quarterbacks are borderline criminal. It’s no wonder meat-heads like Texas defensive end Brecklyn Hager feel emboldened enough to say what he said earlier this week when asked his goal this Saturday against prolific Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II.
“I say injure that quarterback,” Hager said. “That’s the mentality right now. We’ve got to take him out. We know he’s banged up, and we’ve just got to get after him.”
A generation ago, Spurrier accused FSU of trying to intentionally injure Wuerffel, and the rest is college football history.
Or at least it should have been.
But here we are two decades later.
The names and faces have changed, but sadly and shamefully, the quarterback carnage remains the same.