Graphic courtesy of Gartner Research Process
“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
Estella, in Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
2013 was only possible because of the depths of what Auburn experienced in 2012. Part of the charm of last season was that the level of expectation was so far below the level of achievement. By mid season most fans were in a continuous state of euphoria after every game. We were then treated not just one but two fantastic once in a generation endings to rivalry games that sent fan excitement into the stratosphere.
But what about next year? What can we expect out of this coaching staff and players after the success of 2013? Is it fair to set the expectation of the 2014 SEC championship and inaugural College Football Playoff on the shoulders of this team or are we courting disappointment by giving in to unbridled optimism?
Using My Cafe Malzahn analysis, I’ve gone back in time to see what this coaching staff is capable of by comparing what they have achieved in previous situations when they coached a second year with the same team.
One should always be cautious in predicting the future with evidence from the past
I took a look at Gus Malzahn’s previous performances in the second year at each of his previous stops in his collegiate career and saw some interesting improvements from year to year.
While Gus Malzahn was employed in 2006 as offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2006, he transferred to the University of Tulsa under Head Coach Todd Graham. In 2007, Tulsa led the nation in yards per game. But what is intriguing is what happened the second year, 2008
That equates to about a 12% average improvement across all four indicators. This was after a full recruiting season and a year to implement his system on the existing offensive personnel.
Coach Malzahn’s next ‘second year’ team was Auburn in 2010, and we all know what happened in that instance.
This shows a 16.7% increase across all measured aspects. Quite an achievement. Even averaging the totals shows a 19% improvement in scoring, a 14% improvement in yards per play for an overall average improvement of 14.4%.
What would one expect from this coaching staff in 2014? Taking all the number into account, I came up with this:
This would match all four criteria from Cafe Malzahn for a championship level team.
But wait a minute, you say, Gus Malzahn isn’t coordinating this offense, Rhett Lashlee is?
I thought about that too, so I looked at the only time Rhett Lashlee was an offensive coordinator WITHOUT being on Gus Malzahn’s staff. In 2011, Rhett took a job as offensive coordinator for Samford University in Birmingham.
How did he do? Well, let’s look at the improvement over the previous year,…
That was a 28.6% improvement over all four categories, resulting in the first winning season for Samford in five years and only the second winning season since 2000. After Rhett left, the head coach at Samford was so impressed with the offensive style, he kept it virtually the same and has improved his win total every year since Rhett was his OC, reaching the FCS playoffs in 2013.
That head coach was also instrumental in offering Gus Malzahn the head coaching job at Auburn, along with fellow Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson. He is after all, the epitome of an Auburn man.
“I wanted to go in the direction of a fast-paced offense,” Sullivan said. “With Rhett’s background of working with Coach Malzahn and with the type of offense they run, I thought this was a good fit. He has a tremendous knowledge of this offense, and he is a fine, Christian person. He and his wife recently had twin boys and we are excited to welcome them to our Samford family.”
War Eagle Pat, and thanks for doing your best for Auburn University once again.