A Long Season Ahead
USA TODAY Sports
There is a growing lack of trust… toward Coach Malzahn. For a while after the remarkable 2013 season, fans continued to be patient with Gus, thinking that it was all part of some plan and accounting the troubles of the team to factors that were out of his control. Well, no more. Scrolling through my Facebook feed today, I’ve already seen Auburn fans, both those who are typically level-headed and those who are a little too quick to pull the trigger, pondering coaching replacements. And we’re only approaching the third week of the season. Gus has a long year ahead of him, and this kind of talk regarding the hot seat certainly won’t do him or the team any favors.
I understand the frustrations. Believe me, I get it. But Auburn just played against one of the best defensive lines in college football history. And while 11 sacks is inexcusable, I believe that in the long run, this game just came at the worst possible time for Auburn. A road game in a harsh environment for a team that is still trying to find a rhythm offensively spelled trouble from the get-go.
But things typically don’t end well… for coaches that demand complete and total control. We witnessed it last season with Nick Saban before the championship game against Clemson. Replacing an offensive coordinator a week before the biggest game of a true freshman quarterback’s life was an arrogant and hasty decision. One that was made out of emotion instead of reason. Saban allowed his demand for control get in the way, which ultimately affected the performance of his team.
Gus Malzahn’s time at Auburn seems to be heading in a similar direction. Between last year’s games against Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma and this year’s game against Clemson, Auburn has averaged 200 yards of offense per game. Take out the Oklahoma game, where most of the yardage came from garbage time late in the game anyway, and you’re left with an average of 154 yards of total offense.
Chip Lindsey may be calling plays… but the playbook, for the most part, is the same as last season’s. So sure, Chip is the play caller, but it’s pretty clear that they are coming out of Gus’ playbook. Not to mention, Gus is known to come into games with a script of play calls for certain situations. Gus has never fully embraced the passing game in any of his offenses. Many thought that Lindsey would be the answer to those problems. Instead, fans are met with the same ineffective, quirky play calling that has caused much frustration over the past few years. Auburn is far too talented to have to use gimmicks to get a first down on third and short.
At this point, what will it take for Gus to realize that maybe his best option at this point is to relinquish his duties completely as an offensive play caller and allow Lindsey to take the reigns with his own system and playbook?
I’m afraid that realization will come far too late for a coach who was once considered to be the best offensive minds in the game.