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From the Eagle’s Nest

By on December 2nd, 2016 in Football 25 Comments »

With the Iron Bowl behind us, I can safely say my frustration with this offensive coaching staff is at an all-time high. Obviously, the injuries to Sean White and Kamryn Pettway contributed to the Tigers’ struggles on offense, but the game plan presented was yet again head-scratching and inept. As soon as I saw Chandler Cox take the second offensive snap of the game for Auburn, I knew we were in for a long day. 

The limited action seen by John Franklin III provided a much needed spark, but the coaches remained steadfast in their almost spring-game’esque approach to play calling. There were limited shots taken down field, the bubble screen made a handful of appearances, and though the score was tight at halftime, Auburn never had Alabama in any serious position of fear. Even with two Jalen Hurts interceptions, Auburn’s offense never legitimately threatened to hurt the Crimson Tide. 

In many ways, it’s sickening—to be so inferior to your biggest rival. Auburn’s two most recent head coaches (Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn) are just 2–6 against Alabama. After a decade of dominance that included 6 consecutive victories, Auburn has fallen woefully behind in the battle for supremacy in the state of Alabama. I feel especially bad for the defense. One of the most impressive units in Auburn history will have to walk away from a season with only the wonder of what could have been. 

I would never openly call for a coach to be fired—and I am not doing that now—but right now the facts are that Auburn has failed consistently to compete with its two biggest rivals: Georgia and Alabama. Now, I won’t sit here and pretend like I can competently say exactly what needs to happen in order to reverse that trend, but it is something that needs to be seriously examined by Auburn’s Athletic Department and this coaching staff. 

Nothing would make me happier than to see Gus Malzahn accomplish just that. The very best possible situation for Auburn is for Gus Malzahn to regain his offense’s consistency. I’m just not sure how he will be able to do it. Outside looking in, he seems to struggle mightily without a dynamic, dual-threat quarterback. That kind of talent isn’t the easiest to come by. And it would be hard to argue in favor of his talent development at that position in his time with Auburn. 

Can Jarrett Stidham save Gus Malzahn’s job? That’s the hottest topic on Auburn message-boards of late, and I’m admittedly intrigued by the potential talent the former Baylor quarterback brings to the table. But at the same time I’m annoyed that we are even in this position in the first place. The coaches, I think,  still do not genuinely know what Woody Barrett brings to the table, and we’ve seen the level of play Sean White is capable of when healthy. I don’t like being in the position of having to woo someone that the coaches may not even trust in a year with the football. 

And speaking of that—trusting players with the football is another point of contention for me with this coaching staff. I think they could stand to benefit greatly from not holding so many guys back. Young players making mistakes and gaining invaluable experience is how you build strong, championship-caliber teams. Auburn’s young wide receivers were criminally under-utilized this season even when Sean White was healthy and playing well. Any defensive coordinator in the country prepping for a game against Auburn is not at all fearful of the passing offense we bring to the table. The amount of talent and athletes at the wide receiver position simply does not match the output. 

Bottom line: I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. And I absolutely cannot believe Auburn has likely gained an invitation to the Sugar Bowl on January 2nd. The players deserve it. The coaches do also, but they absolutely have to make a statement regarding the state of the program heading into the 2017 season. Gus needs to be feared again, and it is now his duty to re-establish himself as the offensive guru revered by so many. Another anemic offensive performance will only fuel an offseason of doubt and ridicule—and Auburn deserves much better than that.


  1. ausouthal says:

    The thing that makes the Malzahn offense work is when a defense has to play the whole field!!!! I would love to see a % of how many of AU plays were within seven yards of the line of scrimmage and under. You will have a tremendously hard time defeating a good SEC defense if you are just relying on overpowering them on the line of scrimmage. Even the mighty saban has resorted to spreading the opposing defense out. When you do spread teams out they have to respect those players on the outside to make plays. How many times as an AU fan did you actually have confidence we would make a play with our receivers?

  2. zotus zotus says:

    Dear Derrick Roberts,

    Most of the many Auburn folks I know are frustrated or disappointed or worse.

    Of course, they all in their own way, have struggled through the “Chizik Era.”

    Now they all, in their own way, are trying to struggle through the “Malzahn Era.”

    One way or the other — they all in their own way — are getting to the last step of struggling through the “Malzahn Era.” That step, of course, is “Acceptance.”

    Last week, long time TET contributor “Tiger on the Mountain” said it best.

    From now on, I’m going to call it the TOTM Doctrine … and, I am going to quote it every time I find a person — talking about the “Malzahn Era” — and is stuck somewhere between the steps of “Denial” and “Acceptance.”

    If you don’t know the TOTM Doctrine, commit it to memory. I believe it will serve you well down the road.

    “This is Auburn under Malzahn’s leadership. It will not get better. The offensive masterminds have proven that they cannot develop offensive talent, cannot design and implement a winning game plan. I am not sure how much more time they are supposed to be given to prove that they can. It’s done. I wish them all the best; I just wish them all the best anywhere not the loveliest village.”

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      For perhaps the first time ever, I cannot disagree more with TOTM – At. This. Point.

      2017 will be year five for CGM at which time every player (I think) on the roster will be his recruits.
      If we are at this same point this time next year, then yes, I will then be in agreement. I think every coach should have 5 years. As for saving Gus’ job, that’s his responsibility and he has that task on his plate. No player should be expected to save a coach’s job.

      Of course, we are frustrated and disappointed. But, unlike the team, some fans have apparently given up.
      Should there be some changes in some manner? Absolutely. There has to be and, like most TET members, I don’t know what, exactly, those changes need to be.

      This team last year played in Birmingham in perhaps one of the least desirable bowl games possible. One year later and this team will be playing in NOLA in the Sugar Bowl.
      And yes, even given the play calling and coaching we’ve seen this year, this team deserves to go if invited.

      • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

        You know, I get why many would disagree with my comments (zotus, dude:-‘doctrine’? really??..).

        But honestly, I have hard time understanding why a team who only achieved 9 first downs in the Iron Bowl is getting a look at the Sugar Bowl. This same team, failed to outscore a mightily struggling Georgia team. These losses are not on the defense. The defense could have won the Iron Bowl by taking those turnovers and scoring defensive touchdowns….but this isn’t ironman football, and nothing good comes from asking the defense to do the offense’s job. Ever heard the phrase: “you keep your side of the street clean, and I will keep mine clean”?

        When you have an offensive guru as a coach, getting first downs, heck, repeated first downs within a single offensive series should not be the perennial problem that it is, has been, and will be. Related: it is damn near impossible to score more points than the other team without first downs. On the lucky moments that we got the ball within Daniel Carlson’s kicking range, we knew (come one: we ALL knew) that was our best chance for points. It is maddening.

        Much respect to you ATL_AU_FAN, I simply disagree…..#fistbump

        • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

          It’s all good!! I simply said I disagree “at this point”. I’m with giving him that fifth year. (Of course, it doesn’t matter what TET members think, I believe he’s going to have next year regardless.)

        • zotus zotus says:

          TOTM, I quoted your pithy comments about one of the hottest Auburn football questions of the last couple seasons because I thought your post worth quoting.

          That hot Auburn question on the table, of course, is:
          a) “Can Malzahn Find His Way Back???” … OR:
          b) “Can you just stick a fork in the so called ‘Malzahn Offense’ at Auburn, because it’s done???”
          With RE to your (I’m assuming non-rhetorical) question to me: (zotus, dude:-‘doctrine’? really??..).

          Here’s my answer: If I would have spent 2 seconds picking the word that I would use, instead of the 1 second that I did, I probably would have typed in ‘THE TOTM CONTENTION’ instead of ‘THE TOTM DOCTRINE.’ (But, whatever word that I might have come up with, there would have been no offense intended.)


          P.S. FWIW, if I would have spent a few more seconds, mulling over my comments — before I hit the ‘Submit Comment’ button — I could have added some of the hundreds of quotes that I have read on the subject.

          Here are a couple:

          1) The Jay Jacobs Contention: “Gus Malzahn has one of the best Offensive Football Minds in the country. Gus Malzahn is going to be at Auburn for a long, long time.”

          2) The Lee Corso Contention: “Gus Malzahn is as good a football coach as you’re going to get at Auburn.”


    • Tiger Tiger says:

      zotus, Auburn DID get better this year under Malzahn’s leadership. The LSU, MSU, Ole Miss, and Arky games were pretty awesome. Auburn’s defense improved under Malzahn’s leadership because Malzahn hired Kevin Steele. The offensive line did a solid job under Coach Hand. And our receivers were better this year, under Coach Burns. RB’s did great, too, as usual at RBU, even though we lost our 1’st, 2’nd and 3’rd string guys before the season started.

      We had zero chance of winning the Iron Bowl with our two best offensive players hobbled at 50% capacity, and no backup QB.

      I still believe firing Malzahn now would be a mistake. Bring in a brand new coaching staff, and things could get much, much worse. But sure, a new OC would be nice. We DO need someone to help out in the QB-scouting and QB-development department.

      I’ll be disappointed if we win less than 9 games in 2017.

  3. neonbets says:

    Cognitive Dissonance–The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

    Kind of abstract, I know, so let’s give a real-world example.

    Tom is a die-hard Auburn Tigers football fan. Tom loves the Tigers, but he’s extremely frustrated about the team’s offensive struggles this past season. Tom thinks that the Tigers should spread out opposing defenses by throwing the ball downfield to the wide-receivers, AND Tom wants Sean White to be the starting QB.
    Tom is experiencing ‘cognitive dissonance’.
    Like all cases of cognitive dissonance, Tom is in a state of profound frustration. Making matters worse, Tom doesn’t understand that the reason he is frustrated is because Tom is holding incompatible beliefs in his head at the same time. Tom compensates for this by lashing out at the coaching staff. “These coaches… If only they understood the game like I do. They would then know how important it is to throw the ball downfield. And why don’t they throw the ball downfield? Because Gus has blind loyalty to Rhett, and Rhett doesn’t understand this game. Not like me, anyways.”

    And that concludes today’s lesson on ‘Cognitive Dissonance’.

  4. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    This was a good year folks. 8-4 with a probable trip to the sugar bowl despite injuries to the two most important skill players on the team? The only true disappointments this year was the debacle of the Clemson offensive game plan and the loss to Georgia. Win those and this was a great year with a probable trip to the playoff, but even so it was still a good year.

    Enjoy the enjoyable parts and forget the rest and I bet you’ll have a merry Christmas! War Eagle.

  5. 8-4 looks better than last year. With better coaching and non-injuries we are even better. So it’s on to the Sugar. Maybe we get lucky against Oklahoma, but if coach does it right and we have Sean and Kamryn, we win anyway. At least we are going somewhere decent. Last year’s birmingham bowl was the pits, although we won the game. After all those miserable years of playing second cousin to the other team, I contend the football powers were trying to embarrass Auburn by sending the Tigers there. I have to admit, Auburn’s record wasn’t good, but come on! birmingham bowl?

  6. Tiger Tiger says:

    Auburn is going to the Sugar Bowl is because….12 other SEC teams are worse than Auburn. Give us exactly one month to rest and get healthy, and I think Auburn will put up a good showing. War Eagle.

    And I’m hearing some grumbling about us likely getting pitted against mighty Oklahoma this year. Look, if that’s the way you feel, you’re welcome to skip the game and hang out in Legion Field.

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      I choose not to hang out in Legion Field.. Crap, it isn’t even a stadium; it’s only a “field”…

      Nope, I’m happy to book our trip to NOLA… In fact, we were just there in August and I’m happy to go back! The “better” half and I love NOLA and we make the trek there at least once a year.

      Not on board for a Sugar Bowl invite? So be it. We will be there. AND, WAR DAMN EAGLE on the way.

  7. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    And, no, I am NOT pulling for an Alabama win; only a really bad Florida loss…

  8. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    All of you are way ahead of me. I am still getting over the Georgia loss. That one hurts more than the Bama loss. I believe we could have bbeaten Georgia with Franklin or JJ at qb for the entire game. SW’s pick 6 was FATAL!!!!

    Was our Bama game plan to get to the 35 yard line and kick field goals? I scratch my bald head on that game.

    The Sugar Bowl. Who would have thought that on August 28th? Maybe OK State will win today.
    I would rather play them than OU.

    P, S, Condolences to Opelika. I thought they would be State Champions this morning, Ramsey won !

  9. WAR-EAGLE says:

    To the coaches: Defense: Good job, but you had unbelievably good talent. If you can accomplish even the same amount without Carl and Montravios next then you get a high five.

    Offense: Work on Tightend passing/running game. Work on OFFENSIVE LINE PASS BLOCKING. I’ve been saying it since week 3 and I am a homer wannabe coach. You can not keep calling pass plays and not block better than that. It’s the reason for his injury (imo) and it makes you look inept. So just work on the o-line pass blocking, and all of your other problems get much easier to address.
    3rd: QB: may the best man win. However, if the o-line is way better on pass blocking I’ll take that over an unproven QB

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      You’re wanting OSU to win and here I am thinking that OU might be easier for the AU defense. To be honest, I haven’t kept up with either team at all so I really don’t know. As I type this the game is tied at 17 at the half.

      • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

        …..I feel like we have a better chance against Oklahoma’s defense, but we would have a better shot of shutting down Okie State’s run offense. Mayfield and that passing attack worry me!

        • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

          Valid point as well. Maybe we should have done a Championship Saturday open thread today!

          • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

            …..I'll watch on and off, this afternoon. I have a few things more to get done, today. I do plan to sit down tonight and watch Auburn play UAB.

            …..That game is on a network I'd never really heard of, called beIN. Low and behold, it is on my cable guide (Charter, channel 715), but apparently it's only available on the highest tier. Supposedly, the game is being streamed off of beIN's facebook page. I'll give that a try.

  10. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    domaucan1 says:
    December 3, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Comment for the Eagle’s Nest:
    Irregardless of what anyone may think of Our Auburn Tigers Football Team, the LA/MS War Eagle Express is heading to the Big Easy to cheer on our wonderful Auburn Men to victory. (After over half a century, from Shug to Malzahn, WHAT else would we do?) Anyone who cares to join us, “come on down!”
    And, NEVER forget, WIN or lose,
    WAR EAGLE !!!
    GO BIG BLUE !!!

  11. JayTS says:

    Eight wins was the magic number everyone kept throwing out at the beginning of the season.
    Gus has achieved that. Auburn is the second best SEC team.

    If we hadn’t screwed up the Georgia game, everyone would be singing a much different tune today. Yeah, it sucks that we weren’t really competitive against Bama, but they didn’t blow us out, either, and they had us in Bryant Denny and our two best offensive players were injured. Pettway was nowhere close to 100% and spent most of the game as a decoy.

    I certainly have some gripes with the playcalling this season, but I’m nowhere close to wanting to show Malzahn the door. He’s had more success against Saban than any other coach in the SEC.

    The reason everyone is so mad now is that we saw what this team was capable of when healthy and firing on all cylinders. The reality is we just did not have the depth on offense to play like we did against Arkansas every week. By Amen corner our offense was very banged up. We were considering putting Rudy Ford at RB, who hadn’t played the position since high school.

    It’s the UGA game that makes this season hurt the most. That, and the fact that the worst playcalling this coaching staff has ever shown likely cost us the season opener against Clemson.

    I’m not saying this coaching staff is perfect and I’m happy with everything. I’m not. But there’s a whole lot of gray area between “everything is fine” and “fire everyone.”

    We’ll be healthy by the Sugar Bowl. We have an opportunity to get revenge for 2004, win the sugar bowl, and end up 9-4 as the second best team in the SEC. How many of you would have gladly taken that at the beginning of the season?

    Until you can show me a coach that we have a realistic shot of getting who will be objectively better than Malzahn at coaching while also maintaining the level of recruiting that he’s brought us, I don’t think any good can come from hitting the reset button.