TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The foundation of Jimbo Fisher's coaching philosophy began during rides home with his father after Pop Warner games. His dad would pepper him in the car with a single question: Why?
John Fisher would ask the young quarterback why did he make a certain throw? Why didn't he make different decisions?
The talks continued through high school, and three decades later Florida State's Fisher has used those father-son bonding moments to arguably become the pre-eminent quarterback coach in college football.
Fisher has had eight quarterbacks drafted to the NFL since 2001, works with reigning Heisman winner Jamies Winston and two of his former Seminole disciples are expected to start for other major college programs this year.
"There's one thing I ask them: Why?" Fisher said. "Why'd you do that? Why did you not do that? Why was that successful? Why was that not successful?
"If you can't know why you did something and why you didn't, how are you going to repeat it? If you do it well, but you don't understand why you did it, when the moment comes that you have to repeat it In the game for the championship, you can't do it because you never understood in the first place."
Fisher, 48, lists former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and Alabama coach Nick Saban as major influences, but it was his father who first peppered him with the question, "Why?"
Fisher always played quarterback through college at Salem College and Samford, but was never the most athletic. His father constantly questioned Fisher with the goal being to outthink other players.
The lessons stuck.
Fisher helped turn JaMarcus Russell into the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft when he was offensive coordinator at LSU. Former Tiger Matt Flynn is the backup in Green Bay. Former FSU quarterback Christian Ponder was the No. 12 overall pick in 2011. E.J. Manuel was the first quarterback taken in the 2013 draft. Winston is a leading candidate to win his second Heisman trophy. Florida State transfers Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker are likely to start at West Virginia and Alabama, respectively.
Fisher is the only head coach in college football that has had three quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2007, according to STATS LLC.
"I think a combination of things makes him really, really successful," said Tommy Bowden, who coached with Fisher at Auburn. "One, he played the position. He's an overachiever. He's extremely confident.
"He's a hard-nosed guy, coming from that coal-mining background with his father. ... He doesn't baby those guys."
Winston, Manuel and Ponder credit their success to how Fisher trains QBs mentally.
Fisher drills technique and fundamentals, but he holds quarterbacks accountable for everything in the offense.
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