The Highs and Lows of Auburn Football in the 21st Century
Is there really any comparison to the highs and lows that our Auburn Tiger football team has endured since 2000? As we began the 21st Century, we finished the 2000 football season at 9 – 4 (6 – 2 SEC). We won the West and were under the guidance of Tommy Tuberville. It was our first winning season since 1997!
By the time we eclipsed the first decade in the 21st Century, we looked fairly good overall with a 106 – 39 record and 6 – 3 in bowl games. Of course we all know how we ended that decade, on the highest of highs with Cam Newton and Gene Chizik.
Fast forward another five years and here we sit, puzzled, often bewildered by a lot of questions that are not so easily answered. Maybe it’s because we’ve been to the National Championship game twice since 2010 but have also seen repeated letdowns after those magical seasons. Both seasons after our trips to the NC were 8 – 5 with even worse results two years removed (3 – 9 in 2010, firing Chizik) and 4 – 3 thus far in 2015. There’s no real target on Malzahn’s back to be fired at the end of this year (just yet). But as I’ve heard before, when things go south you fire coordinators, and if they still decline then it falls completely on the head coach. Malzahn is in a pickle.
A real head-scratcher is that we do not lack talent. At least according to our recruiting rankings we have been top notch in acquiring some of the nation’s top talent. To capitalize on that note, Tommy Tuberville, Gene Chizik, and Gus Malzahn have had around 44 players taken in the NFL draft. These coaches could/can get players into the locker room that came in with great upside. Obviously, Gene and Gus had and are having their fair share of issues getting consistent play out of them.
Plenty of folks like to use the “young” term when talking about why there’s a drop off. I don’t buy that. Maybe with players that aren’t highly rated blue chip prospects, but the guys that come in and can play on Saturdays as freshmen or redshirt freshman are fully capable of being key elements on either side of the ball. You could convince me if we fielded an offense or defense made up of 11 freshman starters and all of our rotation guys are freshmen as well. That will never happen.
What is it we lack? Consistency, yes. Talent, no.
I know it is tough to be a program that is consistently in the top 25, competes year-in and year-out for conference titles and always has its sights on playing for the National Championship. Those teams/programs are few and far between.
We, unfortunately, share a state with one of those ‘every x-amount of years’ type programs. I think that has benefited us in recruiting, but we haven’t had a head coach in place that has pieced the whole puzzle together. I’m not talking about going undefeated every year. I’m talking about consistency, competent consistency. We cannot accept runs to the National Championship followed by a gradual, multi-year decline. Those are the highs and lows that are unique to Auburn Football in today’s day and age.