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Gut Check Time for Gus Malzahn

By on November 12th, 2018 in Football 20 Comments »

For 10 glorious minutes Saturday night, Auburn fans were living in a dream world. The offense was clicking on back-to-back possessions and the defense was nasty again. Then, like so many things this season, it just went away. Such is life under Gus Malzahn: a couple of nice peaks combined mostly with valleys that never seem to end.

There’s really no reason to point it all out, but it’s so shocking in print. Auburn has been outscored 123–3 in the second, third and fourth quarters against Georgia in Athens with Malzahn as the offensive coordinator or head coach since 2011.  Saturday was Malzahn’s 14th-worst offensive output of his coaching career. Five of his worst 15 performances have come against Georgia. And on and on and on…

At most places that will cost you your job; at Auburn it locks you into a $32 million buyout and makes the program a really miserable place to be around. Now the death march begins. Two weeks and counting until Nick Saban decides how big a whipping to put on this Auburn team.

How bad have things gotten? Losing by “only” 17 points likely means there’ll be no serious talk of change at the top. After all, Allen Greene says Malzahn is Auburn’s coach of the future. Let that sink in and marinate.

Talk of wins will now turn to full-time speculation about who’ll be offensive coordinator next year—not that it matters. Those close to the program say Malzahn will never hand over the play calling. It could be exciting to see Hugh Freeze get the keys and run his scheme with Auburn’s talent, but it’s doubtful he’d be given complete control.

Instead of focusing on staff changes, it’s time to look in the mirror. What worked at Shiloh Christian Academy will not work consistently in the SEC. Defenses have caught up and moved on from Malzahn’s play calling. It’s time to evolve and change. It’s time to bring in fresh eyes and let them do their job unhindered.

The great coaches know how to adapt. We saw it with Nick Saban following the 2010 season. We’ve watched it with Dabo Sweeney at Clemson in his climb to the top. Malzahn’s strength is not delegation. That must change starting today. His stubbornness is legendary. Someone must get to him and force change. That person will likely be Greene.

History says next season will be better. Auburn’s best years have almost always come following four or more losses the previous year. The schedule turns favorable again in 2019 with Georgia and Alabama at home.

While all of these things give fans hope, the reality is Auburn must change fast. Its two rivals are already a lap ahead—make that two laps ahead for Bama. Another year like 2018, and it may be many years before Auburn gets back to the top of the SEC West.

20 Comments

  1. neonbets says:

    Word of the day: Desultory : ‘Marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose…Also, meaning disappointing in progress, performance, or quality. Once again, we endured a dragged-out ordeal of desultory coaching

    I’ve been living in denial supporting Malzahn. I used to not be this way, but I guess I figured that we’re stuck with him, so might as well make the most of it. No more.
    Back in Sept of 2017, I really was a clear-thinking young man unafraid to look reality squarely in the face. Suffice to say, I was not the sorry, sad, sack of a Malzahn apologist that I ultimately became. This is what I wrote about Malzahn back when I was infused with some measure of integrity, fortitude and logic:
    _____________
    Malzahn is a Cargo Cult Coach. He seems to think that ritualistic acts, such as shuffling coordinators and issuing proclamations that “we’re going to fix our offense” will magically result in the appearance of SEC Crowns and National Championships.
    Here’s a little more on Cargo Cults–which were especially prevalent in the South Pacific after WWII.

    After WWII, Pacific Islanders came to miss all the cargo and supplies that were dropped by planes or delivered by ships. in attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors, and airmen use. Cult behaviors usually involved mimicking the day-to-day activities and dress styles of US soldiers, such as performing parade ground drills with wooden or salvaged rifles. The islanders carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses.

    In a form of sympathetic magic, many built life-size replicas of airplanes out of straw and cut new military-style landing strips out of the jungle, hoping to attract more airplanes and produce more more riches.

    Cargo cults were typically created by individual leaders, or big men in the Melanesian culture, and it is not at all clear if these leaders were sincere, or were simply running scams on gullible populations. The leaders typically held cult rituals well away from established towns and colonial authorities, thus making reliable information about these practices very difficult to acquire.

    Malzahn is the guy up in the bamboo fabricated coaching tower with coconut-shell head-phones tossing out footballs made from straw and mud. It’s not clear if he’s sincere, or if if he’s simply running a scam on gullible administrators. The entire cargo cult description reads as a metaphor for Malzahn’s desultory coaching tenure.

  2. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    I often wonder how fans cant accept the facts and stats. I have my own thought, like neonbets. It’s like the old saying about a frog and boiling water.

    “Well, this week is bad, but it’s only slightly worse than last week, no need to panic”Week after week after week. And about the time the frog figures it out, gus dumps ice into the pot and the process restarts. (See amen corner last year or TAMU this year). But in the end, the frog boils.

    Heres the reality: the last few years have seen a lot of “worst of malzahn career.” And each week rivals the next.

    As earl pitts famously said on the radio, “wake up America!”

    The worst offenses and their performances ever seen under malzahn have been those entirely made of players he recruited and developed and these data points are not spread over years but over periods of weeks. Period, end of discussion.

  3. Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

    As much as I want to wring my hands and bemoan the state of things, when I look at things objectively, I can only point to the play of the offensive line as the main culprit to this disappointing season. Injuries and lack of quality depth, especially at center have been the death knell of this team and why we can’t run the ball. Sure, Chip/Gus should be employing Chandler Cox as a lead blocker more, but even then his presence on the field tips our hand on the play being called.
    We should have won the LSU game….which probably changed the entire season…and in the Tennessee game, their QB was just unconscious with the throws he was making. As bad as our DB’s can be, they were in position on most of those bombs that were caught, the Tenn WR’s just caught perfectly thrown passes.
    And Miss St. was obviously winnable as well, if we could have established the run and not kept the defense on the field so long. Besides making the offense one dimensional, not being able to run the ball lengthens the game for the defense which is why we see them get worse as the game goes on. We are routinely getting doubled up on Time of possession and that is a defense killer.
    HOPEFULLY next year, with a more experienced O Line and the favorable schedule things will turn around. Some things never change, and in the SEC you have to have dominant line play on both sides of the ball to be a champion. Much like the years we have Georgia and Bama at home, the common denominator of our Championship level seasons is when we have an experienced O Line full of upperclassmen. We need to address depth in recruiting and make it a priority to get as many quality offensive and defensive linemen as possible. Bringing is great classes of WR’s is not helping us at all. It may be sexy to add a bunch of shiny skill position players to the roster, but what makes us win is when we punch people in the mouth and run the ball down their throat.

  4. idnod idnod says:

    I’ve been looking at some historical numbers for Auburn. After 125 years of football (not counting this year) Auburn has a winning percentage of about 60%. There are some periods where the winning percentage creeps up to 70%, see the last 10 years for example. There are also bad periods that drive the percentage downward. Over the lifetime of the product, if you average it out and say 10 games per season, thats an average 6-4 record. . . .we’re right on track. Periods of brilliance followed by stretches of bumbling ineptitude. Shoot for 7-5, hope we don’t t wallow at 6-6.

  5. zotus zotus says:

    Gus Malzahn is out of his depth in this league … and, he has been ever since the Right Reverend Houston Nutt brought Gus Malzahn into this league in 2006, to (allegedly) get Mitch Mustain to play for the Razorbacks.

    Coach Nutt cut his losses quickly with Malzahn in 2006, but it didn’t end well for Nutt nor Mustain. But, that’s another story. It’s a well documented story and easy to find if one is interested in the Rags-to-Riches story of Gus Malzahn.

    But, what has happened to Auburn Football since 2008 is not a Gus Malzahn story. It is a JAY JACOBS STORY. And, shockingly — in December of 2017 — it became a STEVEN LEATH STORY.

    These are well documented stories and easy to find if one is interested in the Rise-and-Fail story of Jay Jacobs … and, the (yet to be completed) Bamboozled-and-Sacked story of Steven Leath.

    The ball is now in the court of the Auburn Board of Trustees and the Auburn Athletic Director, Allen Greene.

    No time to go wobbly now, ladies and gentlemen.

  6. meathead530 says:

    Does Gus even have the desire to improve?

    • zotus zotus says:

      meathead, the following is a question and Gus’ answer during the presser after the debacle last Saturday night in Athens.

      The question wasn’t worded exactly like yours, but even if it had been, Gus’ answer wouldn’t been much different, so this response from Gus will have to suffice:

      Reporter’s Question to Coach Malzahn: “YOU ARE 2-5 AGAINST GEORGIA, 2-3 AGAINST ALABAMA AND 2-4 AGAINST LSU. WHY THE STRUGGLES AGAINST RIVALS?”

      Malzahn’s Answer: “I’d say right now we’re disappointed in this particular game. Every year is different, every season is different and we’re disappointed we didn’t play well. We thought we had a chance to come in here and win, and we didn’t get it done. ”
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      P.S. That Gus-speak translates (roughly) to this in SNL-speak:

      “I’d say right now we’re working the land, feeling doubly disappointed, hoping for a fertile Spring.”

      So there you have it, folks, disappointment prevails in some quarters of Lee County. Over to you, Allen Greene.

  7. WDE7385 WDE7385 says:

    That first scoring drive was fun to watch. Touchdown!! Auburn!!!
    The next drive, you could see the uga adjustments starting. More tendencies were recognized, and, then, Auburn was under uga control. The rest of the game was simple. uga defense recognized the patterns/tendencies and adjusted. CGM stuck with “the plan”.
    “The plan” had success for one and a half (FG counts as half) series.
    That’s as far as it went.
    I don’t blame the players, especially defense, for getting mentally out of the game.
    Personally, I’m disgusted by the coaching.

  8. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    Now we have no gut to check!

  9. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    Gus gets paid WELL to win and push the program in a forward, positive direction. That’s not happening. A couple flashy wins is not forward progress. Consistency is. Winning the games you’re supposed to win is. That’s not happening. Why do we try to ice the pain with ‘well, next year….” Stop!! This is last year’s “next year.” Remember? Heisman QB, Best D-Line, tradition of 1,000 yard rushers!! Stidham was the second best rusher Saturday with only 10 less yards than Whitlow. We need a louder voice!! Gus has got to go. He’s had his time, his players, his way. It’s officially broken so let’s fix it!!

  10. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    I just want to say I’ve seen less trick plays on an afternoon of flag football. Does anyone have a number on how many gadget plays were pulled out?

    Do you think trick plays constitute “opening the playbook” for gus? Does he consider that being an offensive wizard?

    And yet….and yet…. despite the struggles the one thing we haven’t seen is the one gadget that has worked….Malik Willis.

  11. Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

    It is obvious that the Auburn fan base is apathetic about the current state of the Auburn Football program. Significant changes are needed or Auburn will not be able to compete against the upper echelon of the SEC. Auburn has arrived at the crossroad. I do feel that a good mobile QB and a new OC could help. At this time, it will be much cheaper for Auburn to make some staff changes than to pay out the contract of Gus Malzahn.

  12. audad says:

    What a mess. And I love neon’s WW2 Cargo Cult analogy to start the comments on this column. Excellent!! Finally some of the detractors are starting to realize that Steele is also grossly overpaid at $2M per year for a DC. Acid mentioned in his grading report for this game that a lot of the fire is gone from this team. That shows most glaringly on the defensive side of the ball where you can play with more passion and physicality. People have speculated as to whether or not Gus has “lost this team this year.” I would speculate that perhaps all of the coaches have lost their groups to some extent. There is no more swagger, no more fire, and what we saw in that WA game in week 1 is long gone. On defense the missed tackles, whiffed tackles, blown assignments and blown coverages in each game are too numerous to count any more. And after each play when they give up huge chunks guys just look clueless and it’s kind of like “well, what did you expect?” When GA had 3rd down and short, it almost looked like they started to take intentional penalties to get into a 3rd and 7 or 3rd and 8 situation because they knew their odds of converting were better. 3rd or 7 or more is probably the best situation an opponent can have right now if they haven’t converted on 1st or 2nd down.

    It won’t surprise me if the energy level is low for the Liberty game and they win by much less than they should. Similar to the Southern Miss game, which was still in doubt with 5 minutes left when they had the ball and only down 8 points. One last observation from Saturday’s game: we’ve got some receivers with some speed (even though they drop a fair amount of balls). Why would we wait until the last play of the game and when down 17 pts to try our first deep pass of the game? Maybe the $49M coach can answer that. I sure can’t.

  13. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    I don't have much to say except that, as a youngster, we were always taught that "the proof is in the pudding…" mic drop…

  14. […] Jay Coulter’s article this week, TET member Col. Angus probably best summed up the situation: “As much as I want to wring my hands and bemoan the state of things, when I look at things […]

  15. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    It’s more like gut check for fans. Malzahn will do what he has always done.

    This didn’t happen because of injuries. This happened because apparently no one was thinking about the 2018 season in the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 recruiting season.

    While we are bemoaning the offensive line and rightly so, Auburn doesn’t have a running back that is SEC quality.

    I think it can be fixed… question should be why wasn’t it already done?

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