A Look Back at the Last 4 years. How Did We Get Here and Why?
I love Auburn football, and despite this coaching staff causing daily poundings of my head against the wall, I remain loyal and hopeful for the future. However, despite most people I know saying that the poundings are causing me to be even more damaged than I normally am, (which is saying a lot), I believe that they have lead me to several Dr. Emmett Brown/Flux Capacitor type revelations. Of course, a lot of it is speculation and everything is circumstancial, but at least to me it makes sense.
When Gene Chizik was first hired at Auburn, the sound of the Auburn family’s collective facepalm echoed throughout the state, and much of the nation. The video of the guy meeting Jay Jacobs at the Auburn airport was all over the internet. Everyone prepared for the worst, wondering what the hell was going on with this damn hire when we could have had Turner Gill, Mike Leach, or any other much bigger name coach.
Chizik showed up into town and quickly shut everybody up by doing everything right. He hired a brilliant offensive mind in Gus Malzhan, gave him the keys to the offense, and got the hell out of his way. The rest of the assistants he hired were largely applauded by the masses, and contributed to his first recruiting class being the highest ranked Auburn had seen in years.
Year one was rough, but nobody expected anything great. Tuberville’s departure left the cupboard pretty much bare, and Chizik managed to pull a winning record out of not much. There were holes in the defense, but that was largely attributed to lack of personnel, and Chizik wasn’t blamed. The offense looked amazing under Malzhan’s direction, and despite the personnel not being suited very well for it, (no running QB), things were not bad, and Auburn managed a winning season, a bowl game, and lots of hope for the future.
Year two was arguably the greatest year in Auburn football history. Cam Newton showed up and fit like a glove into Malzhan’s offense. Nick Fairly showed up and helped give Auburn the best front 4 in college football that year. Auburn was statistically one of the best offenses in the country and the defensive front 4 wreaked havoc in everybody’s backfield. The LB corps were not good, but very adequate and experienced, making the big plays when needed to win. The secondary, however, was pretty much terrible, and the most glaring weakness of the national championship team. Even though the Tigers reached the pinnacle of college football in 2010, chinks in the armor were already beginning to show, as Chizik and Roof were no doubt fighting over defensive philosophies in private. Roof wanted to blitz like he had everywhere else he had been in the past, while Chizik wanted to drop into coverage and count on his secondary to make plays. Of course, the boss’s philosophy won out, and the results were us winning the national championship with one of the worst pass defenses in the SEC and the country. This was largely overlooked because of the crystal football sitting in our trophy case, but at the time it had me worried.
Year three the wheels begin to come off. This is where the speculation begins. Chizik knows the defense isn’t going to be good with the loss of Fairly, all the upperclassmen LB’s, and more experienced secondary. so he goes to Malzhan at the beginning of the year and tells him he must slow down the offense because he doesn’t want the defense on the field any longer than they absolutely have to be. Malzhan does not like this, as it goes against his entire philosophy, but he goes along with it. The loss of Cam Newton means he now has to inject another Chris Todd type QB in the offense that is not a threat to run, thereby rendering the zone read essentially useless. Michael Dyer is gone too, the victim of drug problems. Couple all that with a defensive head coach sticking his nose into the offense where it doesn’t belong and y0u have a recipe for trouble. This trouble manifests itself in the form of greatly reduced offensive production, with an offensive coordinator hampered in his playcalling by his boss’s requests. Meanwhile, the defense is the worst in the country on 3rd down, the pass defense woes not only continue, but get worse, and this year there is no Cam Newton to bail them out. Roof and Chizik are seen yelling at each other on the sidelines during the games. Despite all this, Auburn manages to win all the cupcake games, and pull out 3 wins that they never should have had (Utah State, South Carolina, and Florida), and goes to a bowl game.
However, many like myself are screaming about problems we see. The defense is still terrible. The QB’s are terrible. We are not even close to competitive against anybody worth a damn. (Bama, LSU, Arky, etc.). Blowout losses to rivals. And most of all, WE DIDN’T SEE THE TEAM IMPROVING. We knew it was a young team, we knew we lost a lot after 2010, and we didn’t expect another 11 or 12 wins. But what we did expect was to see the young guys growing up, getting better, and becoming more competitive as the year went on. That didn’t happen. They were stagnant and in some cases got worse. The biggest problem we had in 2010, the pass defense, got worse. We were the worst team in the SEC and among the worst in the country on 3rd down. Chizik had another very highly ranked recruiting class, but instead of building for the future and playing the most talented players, he chose to redshirt everybody and play the less talented upperclassmen in favor of winning a few games right then versus taking the goodwill he had in the bank from winning the BCSNC and sacrificing a year to prepare for future competition. In other words, he refused to look at the big picture, and in doing so cost the team dearly.
Kiehl Frazier is the greatest example of this. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Frazier should have been starting the entire second half of last year. He should have been told ‘This is your team, no pressure.”, and sent out onto the field as a general and a leader. Would he have gotten his butt kicked? Probably so, yeah. Would we have won 8 games? Probably not. But so much of being a QB is between the ears, and the experience last year would have completely changed him for this year. He makes his mistakes, has his learning experiences, and then he has an entire offseason and spring practice to work on them and get better. He would have come back this year as an experienced veteran, and a leader to this young team, having been in the field of battle against the big boys, and knowing what to expect. He would be a completely different player. But, because of Chizik’s foolish short-sightedness, Frazier is having to go through that now, under MUCH more pressure. It is very likely that he is shot mentally, and his future as an Auburn QB is very much in doubt.
Enter year four, the current year. All of Chizik’s stupid, short-sighted decisions last year are coming to fruition. We are also seeing the results of what I believe is his ego being bruised. All last year, the only thing he heard about from the national media was Cam Newton and Gus Malzhan winning the National Championship. He doesn’t like that he’s getting no credit, so after Malzhan leaves, he decides he is going to move away from what worked the first two years, and try to install a pro-style offense, because he wants to prove that he’s right and everybody else is wrong. Think about it. He shows up at the Auburn campus 4 years ago, hires a spread guru, and gets the hell out of the way. The result–one of the best offenses in the country both years. Then, when his OC leaves and takes a big paycut to go to a smaller school, he hires Scot Loeffler, an unproven but NFL pedigreed offensive coach. His goal–to prove to everybody that he can make a decision that leads to winning football games.
To me, that decision was purely ego driven. He wasn’t getting any credit when Malzhan was there, so he’s going to prove that he doesn’t need Malzhan and the spread to win. Why else would someone completely abandon a philosophy that just two years ago won him a National Championship? There is no other explanation that makes sense. This was/is just another example of the incredibly short-sighted and foolish decisions that Chizik has made over the last two years.
As we have all seen this year, the results have been disastrous. Chizik has begun to stick his nose into the offensive playcalling, and things have only gotten worse. The team is not getting better. They are not trying. They don’t believe they can win. There is no player development, Chizik is still making bad personnel decisions, and we are now 1-7. Most people think we’ll be lucky to finish the year 3-9. In two years, we have gone from being the best team in the country to the worst team in our conference.
The blame lies soley on Head Coach Gene Chizik. His 5-19 record at Iowa State is finally rearing it’s head. It is become apparent that the guy at the Auburn airport that day was right. Chizik just flat out can’t coach. He makes bad decisions, has no ability to see the big picture, and lets his ego get in the way. There is no place for someone like that at the head of a multi-million dollar program.
There are those that say we should give him one more year. They are fools. This team is gone, and the recruiting for probably at least the next 2-3 years is gone. I don’t care if Chizik won the national championship two years ago. I am not looking at that, nor am I just looking at just this year. I am looking at his entire body of work. I am looking at how bad our defense, (particulary the pass defense), has been for his entire tenure. I am looking at how he ran off one of the best offensive coaches in the country, one that brought Cam Newton to campus and won him a national title. I am looking at how his foolish, short-sighted decision making has probably cost us the potential of many highly regarded recruits. I am looking at how we have been one of the worst teams in the country on 3rd down since he’s been here. I am looking at how we have been completely uncompetitive against any good teams for the last two years, with the exception of one LSU game this year. I am looking at the fact that Auburn has given up 600 yards of offense 4 times in its history, and three of those four times have come during Chizik’s tenure. I am looking at the downward spiraling trend that has plagued this program for the last two years, and I see absolutely no reason that another year of Gene Chizik is going to be anything but a continuation of that trend.
I don’t know what has happened to Chizik since his first two successful years here, but the Gene Chizik we have now is NOT the Gene Chizik we hired. The Gene Chizik we have now is an ego driven fool, desperately trying to prove that he knows more than everybody else, and failing miserably at it. He is Captain Ahab, rushing headlong down a path that everyone, even he on some level, knows is not working and leading to nothing but disaster. His news conferences are rife with mundane, cliched coach speak that says absolutely nothing other than “I don’t know what else to do.” He is not the strong and effective leader that this program and these kids need and deserve. It is time for a change.
All of this leads to one inevitable conclusion: It’s time to go, Gene. Your services are no longer required. Good luck in your future endeavors.
As of now, we should be concentrating on who takes the mantle from Chizik. Next time I write, I’ll give my thoughts on the speculated candidates. Until then, hang on. We’ve only got to deal with 4 more games of this.