DESTIN, Fla. - As Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher spoke about his new team Wednesday during the SEC's spring meetings, the wreckage he left behind was still smoldering 140 miles east of the Hilton Sandestin.
The 7-6 flop in Fisher's final season at Florida State turned into a 5-7 failure under Willie Taggart. One subpar recruiting class led to another. The Seminoles' short-term future is more likely to resemble its immediate past than the highs Fisher led them to five years ago.
Fisher doesn't see it that way.
"I think it's in great shape," Fisher said of FSU on Wednesday.
Except there's little great about the shape FSU is in. Attendance is down. Academically, its APR is the worst in the Power Five. The budget faces a multi-million-dollar deficit. Its two-year record (12-13) is its worst since 1975-76, and even a soft schedule might yield only seven or eight wins this season.
So no, FSU isn't in great shape. The only question is how much blame Fisher deserves for its current decline.
The answer: A lot.
Fisher will disagree because of the talent Taggart inherited. Fisher's last four classes were all ranked in the top six nationally. He lured one of the most talented running backs in the nation (Cam Akers) to FSU and landed Marvin Wilson, who has the potential to become one of the ACC's top defensive linemen this season.
"They had draft picks, first-round picks," Fisher said. "They've got good players this year. I see they're picked to go to another good bowl game."
If the 'Noles do go to another good bowl game this year, it will extend their streak to one. They didn't make one at all last year, ending an NCAA record run of 36 in a row, and they didn't make it to a good bowl in Fisher's final year, either. Beating Southern Miss in Shreveport doesn't count.
It's clear in hindsight that FSU's rally to make that Independence Bowl wasn't a fluke caused by Deondre Francois' injury, the snowball effect of the Week 1 loss to Alabama or the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. His Seminoles were rotting.
The offensive line lagged at the end of the Fisher era as recruiting misses, misevaluations and injuries piled up. Dalvin Cook was able to cover up some of the glaring holes, but the mediocrity was still there. It finally, disastrously caught up to FSU last season, when Taggart's Seminoles had one of the worst offensive lines in the sport.
FSU's effort lagged so much in the 2016 home loss to North Carolina that the 'Noles had to sign promises vowing their full effort, preparation and trust. Is it any wonder that Taggart said FSU didn't handle adversity well last year?
The intangible troubles mushroomed under Taggart, leading to six losses by at least 19 points. But that wasn't new, either. FSU got blown out at least once (often by less talented teams) in each of Fisher's final four seasons, including a 32-point rout at Boston College in '17.
None of this absolves Taggart of his responsibility for FSU's struggles. Gators coach Dan Mullen took over an unstable situation in Gainesville. He turned it into a trip to the Peach Bowl.
But it does explain the hole Taggart is trying to escape, even if Fisher doesn't see it that way.
"I loved my time at Florida State," Fisher said. "It was an outstanding place."
Now Fisher is focused on his new place, the one that's paying him $75 million over 10 years. Even if a brutal schedule (games against Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and LSU) keeps his Aggies out of the College Football Playoff mix, A&M has top-15 potential.
"I think it's going to lay the groundwork where we can go in the future," Fisher said, "which I think is sky high."
His old program still has sky-high potential, too, eventually. But for now, the program he left behind remains stuck near rock bottom.