Andrews' decision answers one question, raises others

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews’ reputation as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches was sealed long before Tuesday’s announcement that he would retire after 26 seasons in Tallahassee.

He has coached 18 first-round NFL draft picks. He won the 1996 inaugural Frank Broyles Award, presented to the nation’s top assistant coach. His defenses have been ranked in the top five nationally against the run in seven of the past 16 seasons. No other program has produced more top 10 rushing defenses since the 1999 national championship season.

Andrews has been a part of two national titles and contributed to Florida State’s stronghold on college football in the 1990s. He stuck around long enough to be a part of the program’s glory days, but also to be a part of its unraveling. Andrews’ decision to retire is a sign of necessary yet slow-moving change in Tallahassee.

As a long-time friend and colleague of coach Bobby Bowden, many thought the two would leave together, and they still might. Andrews’ decision opens the door for offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher to make the first real hire of his new staff, and for the changing of the guards to begin. Whether or not Bowden is the one to make that call will have an impact on the program’s future, but that decision likely won’t be made until after the season.

Andrews said in a prepared statement that the reason he chose to make this decision now -- with four weeks still remaining in the regular season -- was because there was a lot of speculation from friends, family and media. There seemed to be little doubt, though, that this would be Andrews’ last season, and that’s because he had hinted at it before. Now there’s real speculation -- questions about who the next coordinator will be and who will hire him. Questions parents of recruits will ask as national signing day approaches in February.

Questions athletic director Randy Spetman declined to answer today.

For now, though, it’s still Andrews’ defense. He’ll remain on staff through February, 2010. What this decision doesn’t change is the Seminoles’ defensive struggles heading into their key Atlantic Division game at Clemson on Saturday.

FSU ranks 101 in the nation in rushing defense, 113 in pass efficiency defense, and 109 in total defense. The Seminoles are last in the ACC in each of those categories. Statistically, it’s the worst Florida State’s defense has ever fared in 26 years under Andrews.

Fortunately for Andrews, his reputation precedes him.