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Shadow Days – Auburn’s Post-Chizik Era Begins

It is imperative for Auburn to make a homerun hire.

“Did you know that you could be wrong and swear you’re right?” – John Mayer, Shadow Days

John Mayer’s track, Shadow Days, bears no similarity to Auburn athletics, but this opening lyric lines up perfectly with where Auburn’s football program now finds itself. Gene Chizik banked an enormous amount of trust when he led Auburn to the BCS National Championship in 2010, and it was just enough to buy him the time necessary to destroy his own creation. Never has the pendulum of fate swung more swiftly or violently, and looking back, Chizik’s “glory days” in Auburn were almost over before they started.

The 2009 season brought promise and hope to a fan base that desperately needed something to be proud of, and the new regime delivered in a big way. Offensive records were broken and Auburn was not the laughing stock it had become in 2008. There were moments of ridiculousness (Auburn’s rushing attack against Mississippi State, Chris Todd throwing multiple 50+ yard touchdown passes) and moments that made you proud of being part of the Auburn family (Kodi Burns anyone?). What a difference a year made for these Tigers. 2008 was avenged and a warning shot was sent to anyone listening that Auburn wasn’t dead, but very much alive and ready to compete at the highest level. That year’s Iron Bowl all but guaranteed a return to glory for the Tigers, and it came much sooner than most expected.

2010 will forever be remembered as one of Auburn’s greatest and most magical seasons, but it was not without tribulations. On the field the Tigers caught every break, but off it, they were pelted by accusations of cheating and soliciting the services of Cam Newton. In the end, Auburn had the last laugh by winning the BCS National Championship. Against all odds, Gene Chizik steered the team through the roughest seas imaginable. Unbeknownst to the Auburn family, he had also set the program on a course for self-destruction at the worst possible time.

2011 officially started the downward spiral of Gene Chizik. Auburn entered the season with lowered expectations after losing many of the contributing players from the Championship team of 2010. Auburn fans knew that the team would struggle, but it was clear from the opening game against Utah State that this would be a season of trepidation. Many expected this team to preview future success for the program and for young talent to begin shining in certain moments, but what they got was a mixture of underachievement and apparent lack of coaching. Progress was miniscule at best, and in many aspects the team regressed.

The Tigers limped to an 8-5 record which included a bowl victory over the Virginia Cavaliers, but there were red flags all over the program. Sophomore running-back Michael Dyer was suspended for the bowl game and released from his scholarship shortly thereafter. Quarterback Barrett Trotter would also be absent from the team prior to this season after deciding not to return for his senior season. Auburn would also replace both the offensive and defensive coordinators for the upcoming season. The entire framework that had made the 2010 team so strong was now either dismantled or directly contributing to the struggles of the Tigers.

The 2012 season speaks for itself. A wildly talented roster underachieved ten-fold and even when playing well seemed to be doomed by a flawed philosophy. It is apparent that none of the talent from the previous 3 classes has been developed and the Tigers better resembled an upstart program rather than a storied SEC program loaded with blue-chip studs this previous season. Gene Chizik took all of the resources gained from his 2010 championship run and made every wrong move with them. What he left in his wake is a program in much worse shape than he found it. “This place was great before you got here.” Remember that, Gene?

We now enter the post-Chizik era in an extremely vulnerable state. The vaunted SEC Western Division looks to only get stronger in the years ahead, and Auburn is on the brink of slipping to the bottom of it if the current administration does not get the next coaching hire right in a big way. Many fans and alumni are concerned that Jay Jacobs will once again provide a lack-luster hire and for good reason. He has done little to nothing to justify his continuing involvement with Auburn athletics and, considering his heavy interest in the football program, should be associated with the blame laid upon Chizik’s undoing of it. The right hire could propel us into a new era of success, but the wrong one will set us back tremendously. This is the volatile situation Auburn football now faces. After the most exhausting 4 year stretch ever, the Tigers have yet another daunting obstacle to overcome in order to get back on the right track.

In Shadow Days, John Mayer proclaims that, “[his] shadows are over.” Hopefully Auburn’s aren’t far behind. 

28 Comments

  1. restless6 says:

    Nice article. Very well done.

  2. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    This article articulates better than I’ve seen elsewhere why it is so important to get this hire right. Uuuggghhh

    • MyAuburn myauburn says:

      Easy TOTM, the stress level coming through your post is obvious…..Just keep saying, All is Well, All is Well

      • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

        …..as I’m rocking in a dark corner, right?

        It’s kewl. It’s kewl. I’m okay..

        • MyAuburn myauburn says:

          You should come out of the fetal position every now and again…prevents cramping.

        • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

          Ditto,

          Great piece D.R. Probably the best summation of what’s taken place on The Plains for the last five years that I’ve seen anywhere.

  3. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    Nicely done.

    Auburn is nowhere near as bad as it seems, yet nowhere near as good as it can be. Recruiting talent with anyone in the country can be done at Auburn. That has been proven by Chizik and his staff. Gone is the Tubberville excuse of “we won’t ever be able to recruit like that”

    A proven winner is needed, and a proven recruiter. Mixed with the facilities and support of the AU family, and another run at glory is within grasp right now at AU. I firmly believe that.

    WAR EAGLE!

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      Everything happens for a reason. This could be a positive thing for Auburn. I think Fisher, Patterson, Petrino, or Petersen would thrive in this situation.

  4. YankeeTiger says:

    I’ve been reading this blog since 2008, when started dating my girlfriend (now wife) who was a 2006 grad. Coming from New England, I knew a lot about the Patriots, and pretty much nothing about college football. As my wife has impressed upon me the gravity of Auburn football, this blog’s excellent writing and thoughtful analysis has helped me fill in some of the gaps.

    Let’s hope that the next coach shows the class that Chizik always seemed to show, most notably during the media-driven Cam-gate. I look forward to following you guys through the next phase of Auburn football.

    And that’s a really good JM tune.

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      I lived in Boston for nearly three years. Love the Sox and Pats. Spent quite a few hours I’m the Cask & Flaggon and in Shay’s Pub across the river.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Thanks YankeeTiger for being a long time reader. We hope to hear from you again.

  5. Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

    Why do I feel like Auburn is the neighborhood tramp who left her nebbish husband and is flirting with everyone elses husband, but is destined to hook up with the alcoholic wife abusing divorcee who just wants to get laid?

    We are better than this. We are one of the top revenue producting programs in AMERICA! We are competing in the NFL Lite and our primary rival is the biggest “challenge” any coach would want to take on. Auburn is every bit the program that LSU is, and we are acting like Arkansas or South Carolina. I mean what big time coach wouldn’t LOOOVE to be the guy to put Saban in his place. Is there nobody out there that wants to do that? We should be wooing Pete Carrol, Greg Schiano and Chip Kelly. I know that sounds crazy but, those guys have won big at the college level and are looking for the challenge of the NFL. Carrol and Schiano are doing OK but lets face it they will be out of a job in a few years there. Chip Kelly should definitely be contacted if he is “available”. What better dragon to slay than Saban and the SEC itself.
    I know its crazy…… but we are better than having to settle for Bobby or Jimbo.

    • Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

      I completely agree Col. I hope that Jacobs and Co. realize that. That is the part that worries me.

      • MyAuburn myauburn says:

        I have a lot of confidence in Bo, Pat, and Mac. With them leading the search committee I feel we will get the right guy. Jacobs, not so much.

      • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

        Its like we “believe” everything Alabama says about us….little brother etc. We act like we don’t deserve the best therefore we don’t get the best. Alabama, perceptually, is no better than us to the rest of the country, other than the fact they have a Championship legacy from 40+ years ago. Thats like Harvard claiming they are football nirvana in the 60’s. Obviously not true, but they did dominate in the early 1900’s.

        Alabama may deluded about themselves but they honestly believe they are “Ala-by God- BAMA!!— the greatest program ever!!” Outside of the South, when you play word association and you say “Alabama” – the response is – Racist, Redneck, ignorant, hicks, backwards, oh and ROLLLLLTIIIIIIDE!” Thats just what the word conjures up. Not fair but true. I live in DC now, so I know of what I speak. People up here don’t even know where Auburn is, hell people in the Carolinas and Florida don’t know where Auburn is. they just know we are in the SEC. And we have a self image problem??? Jacobs and Gouge need to get out of their comfort zone and REEEALLLY look around. We are our own worst enemy and we can’t let others define us. Our institution is as great as any in the SEC and we should be damn proud of it, and just because Darth Vader plots to destroy us 365 days a year, doesn’t mean we can’t find a Luke Skywalker or even a Darth Maul to smite his evil ass!!

        • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

          Spot on Colonel.
          When your right, your right.

          DC huh? I always thought you lived in the Atlanta area and had to deal with a lot of Dawgs on a daily basis. That’s a long trip to watch a game on The Plains.

        • audude audude says:

          Well said Col.

        • DCWarEagle says:

          Col –
          I too live in DC – Oh, the folks up here know all about Auburn from Tracee Hamilton (Wash. Post) and ESPN – bastions of the free press that they are – and others. We’re the school that cheats. We are reminded at least once a year how we are one of the most penalized institutions in College Sports. How much are we disliked? When we won out Natty, (I believe it was) Ms. Hamilton that wrote an editorial about how the championship doesn’t really mean anything these days – couldn’t even relish what Auburn went through and overcame during the season. THAT’s the image Auburn has to overcome outside of our own community. Everyone knows we bought Cam – even though there’s not one shred of evidence towards it – AND as rightly pointed out in another post here on TET – know one cares or did squat about MS St. who admitted they started down that path.

          I could go on and on … but since I don’t comment much … it would probably spew-out like a dam bursting so I’ll stop. I wish good luck, courage, and divine guidance to our search committee to find the right fit for our next Head Coach.

          War Eagle to all the faithful out there!

          • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

            Yeah, we don’t get much of a fair shake in the media. DC or anywhere for that matter. Probably because of all the disinformation that Bama feeds into the machine from their journalism school.

  6. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    “You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going because you might not get there.” Yogi Berra

    Pat and Bo and Mac know where they’re going and I have to believe they will help Auburn get there. It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!

    WAR EAGLE !!!

    GO BIG BLUE !!!

  7. restless6 says:

    Tail number N1926A has been to Jonesboro, Arkansas and Ft. Worth Texas. Arkansas on the 28th and Texas on the 29th.

    Thoughts?

  8. restless6 says:

    Not me. Gus is not the answer. The stink of the Chizik is on him.