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The End of an Era

By on December 13th, 2020 in Football 21 Comments »

The Sun Has Set On Head Coach Gus Malzahn
(Photo by Acid Reign)

     War Eagle, everybody. A sad regular season has come to an end with the firing of Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn. I shall remember Gus as the coach that took us to the brink of greatness early on and then battled to get back there the rest of his tenure. I have to worry about the wisdom of cutting a head coach loose in these turbulent times, especially a head coach with a $21-million buyout, half due immediately. I’m hoping against hope that the administration has made this move with a good plan in mind and not as a knee-jerk reaction to various message board posts.

     I suppose the question becomes, “Who’s next?” I read with dread a post where Dennis Dodd of CBS fame claims that the top replacement candidate is Hugh Freeze, the current Liberty head coach. According to Dodd, Freeze has already been vetted for a return to the SEC by the powers that be, done during the South Carolina head coaching search last month. Here’s hoping the administration is not that morally bankrupt! Freeze set the Ole Miss program back by at least a decade for a few Malzahn-like years in the mid 2010’s.

     Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal is another top candidate. I would counter that argument with exhibit A: last season’s kickoff classic in Texas. Gus Malzahn was giving a true freshman quarterback (Bo Nix) his first start while Cristobal had future NFL rookie of the year Justin Hebert at quarterback. It seems eons ago, but Auburn actually won that game against the eventual PAC-12 champions. I can’t see Cristobal as anything more than a lateral move, if that. There’s no guarantee that Cristobal would be able to face down the Saban juggernaut across the state. Oregon was considered a contender this season but has back-to-back disappointing losses to Oregon State and Cal in its most recent games.

     As frustrating as it has been to watch the last 5 years, I’ll miss the Malzahn offense. When it’s not working, it can be quite a clown show. Then there will be games like the 56–3 beatdown of Arkansas in 2016, or the 40–17 bashing of Georgia in 2017. Who among us didn’t enjoy the 48–11 thrashing of LSU this season? Gus Malzahn will leave Auburn with the second biggest win over Alabama in my lifetime, the 26–14 win in 2017. The only one bigger was 1969, 49–26. The 2017 Georgia game ties the record in my lifetime along with the 1990 game against a 4–7 Ray Goff Georgia team, 33–10.

     What I will not miss is the Malzahn press conferences. I had gotten to the point where I dreaded reading them or listening. One was never going to get a straight story. “Our offense is a mess, and we are going to keep throwing wide receiver screens on 3rd down.” Nope, you’d never hear Gus say that, but it would happen without fail.

     So here we sit on Sunday afternoon, with the internet in an uproar on the news, wondering what is next. Auburn’s immediate future is probably a Citrus Bowl bid with interim head coach Kevin Steele in charge. I would imagine that the coaching search will be lots of speculation till a head-scratching finalist is named. That’s sort of the Auburn way. Pat Dye was a surprise choice when everyone was expecting Vince Dooley. Terry Bowden certainly came out of left field. Folks were shocked when Tommy Tuberville left Ole Miss and not in a pine box. Gene Chizik was a shocker, after going 5–19 at Iowa State. Will we get another shocker? Or will Auburn tread down the safe passageway once again and promote Kevin Steele?

     The roster of ex-SEC coaches of the last 15 years is pretty amazing. It includes Steve Spurrier, Mark Richt, Phillip Fulmer, Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Tommy Tuberville, Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn. All won SEC titles, but none stood the test of time. We live in interesting times.


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  1. spanky says:

    Good to get it over with now.

  2. PortCouncil1 PortCouncil1 says:

    Come here all the time to read the opinions from all of you as I’m sure they surpass the merit of mine. I’m a bit disheartened the message boards have been so barren of late. Interested to see if y’all think we’ll go with an up and comer, maybe? Is there a home run we could land?

  3. uglyjoe says:

    I didn’t think it would happen, but it did……if the plan is to promote Steele, I’m not sure this was a good idea. I hope there is already a plan in place. Seems to me it either has to be a home run (Urban Meyer is not coming) or a up and comer……my vote is Billy Napier; he presents himself very well, and he has done a lot with a little. Please please please not Hugh Freeze.

    • PortCouncil1 PortCouncil1 says:

      Agree on Freeze and Napier. Campbell is intriguing, as well. Bill Clark, etc. we all know the popular names on the board. Is there anybody off the conventional radar? Like you said, surely there is a plan. Personally, I’m okay with keeping it in-house. That is, hiring an Auburn man that is not included in the outsider’s’ conventional wisdom. My feeling is no one could convincingly court talent to the plains with equaled vigor and salesmanship as one that has called it home. Not going to happen, for various reasons, but I’d love for us to bring home our favorite walk-on… Kevin Greene. A dude can dream.

  4. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I’m not sure who the best fit would be, that Auburn could get. Recruiting is certainly the life blood of a program, as Pat Dye used to say. But these days you have to develop them, and put them in a scheme they can excel in. As a case in point, we could point to a certain red and black-clad neighbor school that has been the top 5 in recruiting rankings for several years, has been through a half-dozen five-star quarterbacks, and didn’t win the division this year.

    …..Likewise, Tennessee’s coach has been recruiting like wildfire for 3 years, and won’t make it to .500 this season.

  5. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ……I’m kinda wishing I hadn’t looked at the speculation, tonight. They are floating Art Briles’ name out there this evening!

  6. friedca friedca says:

    Seems incredibly shortsighted to hire Freeze considering he is pretty much Gus with baggage. Maybe if the scenario was different like we just choose to not extend Gus’s contract or we fired him without a major buyout I would be about this, but if this firing was a message hiring Freeze sends the message we don’t know what we are doing.

  7. Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

    A fact to consider: 5 of the 7 head coaches you named in your last paragraph won a National Championship during there tenure.

    *Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result is the, well you know.

    It was time to go in another direction last year, and the year before that, and so on. If we’re being honest, the same conversation was played out on this site at the end of the season for the last 5 years or so. The issue is/was he is a good egg, and has been a part of the Auburn culture for almost a decade.

    I don’t believe neither Hugh Freeze nor Jamey Chadwell can bring a NC back to the Plains, and so I hope Auburn doesn’t pursue them. Instead, I hope they make Scott Satterfield an offer he can’t refuse, his pedigree is perfect for the Auburn football program.

    Finally, Auburn has a distinctive record of firing the majority of the winningest coaches in the school’s history, including the guy that won the only National Championship in modern history. So long Gus.

    • Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

      *oops, their tenure

    • Heard D. Craig’s name pop up. An Auburn man, but not enough experience to be a head coach I sec. Freeze scares me.

  8. almightytmc says:

    Auburn>>>>>Chris Peterson

  9. almightytmc says:

    Auburn>>>>>Chris Peterson he has shown he can coach. Empty the bank for him. Wins, coaches and is a far sight better at recruiting and coaching….. back years ago when auburn announced they were getting a board to approve the new coaching hire.. I said they would act like they thoroughly searched and give it to Malzahn. Now I am saying Peterson is your man.

  10. I particularly like the idea of Tony Elliott from Clemson. He is a successful and energetic assistant coach with a bright future. Also he seems a first-class person with proven recruiting ability. My wild card choice would be Rodney Garner.

  11. If Chris Peterson left W because of anxiety and stress, I am not sure he would last too long at Auburn.

  12. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..It is definitely a pressure-cooker in the SEC West. Of course Saban is the big heating element. Orgeron has a natty. Jimbo Fisher has a natty, at Florida State. Kiffin helped Bama to 3 straight SEC titles, then won C-USA twice in 3 years. Mike Leach has been successful everywhere he’s coached. The SEC West is not for the faint at heart.

  13. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    This coaching “search” is laughable!! How is it that every time we make a new hire it’s fumbled so terribly!?
    I’ll be honest, my pick would have been Freeze. Not apologizing for that… We need an offensive guy to come in a right the ship, even if it means with Nix. I feel Freeze is that guy. I heard Cristobal.. ok, so he sounded like another good option, but an option that’s no longer on the table. I felt Steele would be fine to hire, but our defense is the problem so who would he bring in to help compete? Bobo? What? So he can Richt our already Richt’d program??
    Good Lord!!! No wonder we can’t get over the hump!!

    • Jonathon Jonathon says:

      …sorry ‘phone typing’.. our D is NOT the problem. Our Offense IS!

  14. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..My personal take is that it was dumb to fire Malzahn, only to have Steele as the top replacement candidate. Now mind you, Steele is on top on message board speculation, as well as the press. What the powers that be at Auburn are actually thinking is a whole different matter.

    …..In my opinion, the defense was not alright this past season. We got bulldozed against Kentucky, but their quarterback made enough mistakes for us to pull away. We got blown out by UGA because we could not stop the run with a 4th team walk-on quarterback for the Bulldogs. We weren’t even competitive with Bama, getting slashed apart in the middle of the secondary, and Najee Harris could have run for 200 if Bama had wanted to feed him. Texas A&M trucked us most of the game on the ground, and especially the 4th quarter.

    ……Big Kat and Truesdale are seniors, and might not be back. Are we going to be able to stand up the pounding next season, up front? What about that toast secondary?

    …..I can’t wait for the Auburn Unlimited letter in the mailbox, soon. It will tell us how we all need to dig a little deeper and contribute more. After millions were wasted to make a lateral hire (at best.)

    …..I don’t pretend to have the answer as to who to hire. My personal favorite would be Bill Clark, of UAB. I know his SEC experience is minimal. However, he proved able to unite Birmingham (who else has ever done that?) and bring the Blazers back. Maybe he could unite the Auburn fan base and boosters? Would he even take the job?

  15. friedca friedca says:

    The minute the committee was announced I knew Auburn had screwed up once again. While I was down on Gus this year, I didn’t want him gone and certainly didn’t think they would do it (I figured next year or more likely the following). When they fired (paying him the buyout) and doing it before the bowl game and well as NSD, I figured that they already had someone lined up. So either two things happened, one they had someone lined up who was using us as leverage (or not as committed to coming as they lead on) or two they had no plan in place at all.

    I don’t know what the answer is but the names that I have seen Auburn fans floating are sad. Freeze got run out of the conference in disgrace, Cristobal doesn’t seem like an upgrade, and Steele isn’t up to the job at all. Worst of all is the want Lane Kiffin, a man who has shown he is out of his league in the SEC yet keeps getting hired. I can’t think of one person I would want less on my sideline than Lane Kiffin, just a toxic, inept, despicable coach.

  16. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ……Unfortunately, I think you are right. I think Greene and/or Gogue caved in to pressure, with no plan in place. Pretty foolish, not to at least have a Gus Malzahn equivalent on tap for quick replacement.

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