The media, as well as Auburn fans, have been tough on Gene Chizik after starting out 0-2 in 2012. Some fans have already called for his midseason firing two years after winning a national title. A firing is certainly not out of the realm of possibility at season's end, but it is highly unlikely.
Gene Chizik is the right man for the Auburn job, for now. You probably want an explanation, so here you go.
On January 4, 2006, Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik walked off the field at the Rose Bowl as a member of the BCS National Champion Texas Longhorns. That would be his last game as an assistant coach. Any program that hired Chizik would have been thought to have made a home run hire.
Iowa State University hired the 2004 Broyles Award winner in the spring of 2006. We know what happened there. This is where Chizik earned his tagline of "5-19."
In Iowa, Chizik was trying to build a winning program in a place that has a rough history of producing winners. The Cyclones have an all-time winning percentage below .500.
Chizik decided to start building the Iowa State program from the ground up. "Going young at as many positions as possible was the best route for our long-range plan for making Iowa State a winning program," Chizik said in his book, All In.
As we all know, the winning did not happen under his charge. Chizik went 3-9 and 2-10 as Iowa State head coach in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Still, the Iowa State administration believed in Chizik so much that they gave him a two-year contract extension after the 10-loss 2008 season.
Current Iowa State Head Coach Paul Rhoads is thankful for the foundation that Gene Chizik laid. On the Cyclones' Week 2 depth chart, there are 30 players who are redshirt seniors, seniors or redshirt juniors on offense and defense. Chizik recruited some of those upper-classmen. Others were brought in via the junior college route by Rhoads. The Cyclones are 2-0 on the young season so far. They are coming off a big win against intra-state rival, Iowa.
Many pundits have marveled at the job Rhoads has done in his short time in Ames. Chizik can be thanked for some of that.
The background of what happened to Chizik at Iowa State is important. It needs to be understood because we are watching it unfold again in Auburn, AL.
Gene Chizik was hired as the Auburn head coach in December of 2008 after Tommy Tuberville "resigned."
Looking at the Tigers' current depth chart, it is obvious that youth is not just an excuse. It is a fact. There are nine seniors on the Tigers two/three-deep depth chart. There are 14 juniors and 26 others are below junior standing.
The nine seniors are from Chizik's first recruiting class that he only had a month and a half to recruit. The remaining players are all Chizik's and were part of top-10 recruiting classes.
A common complaint is that Chizik is not developing his players. Chizik obviously knows how to coach players. He has coached three Thorpe Award winners as a defensive coordinator. The fundamentals that are practiced have not translated to the field to this point.
Chizik should bear some blame, no doubt. Players should also learn to play like they practice. It will be interesting to see how much fundamentals improve over the course of the rest of the year.
2010 was a magical year for Auburn. It was highly unexpected, though. No one knew Cam Newton would have arguably the greatest single college football season ever. No one expected Nick Fairley to develop into a Lombardi Award winner. Everything aligned perfectly for Auburn to win a national championship.
All along, coaches knew that 2011 and 2012 would be thin years for the roster. Just two days after Auburn won its first national title in 53 years, Chizik said, "The foundation is still continuing to be built" (via Charles Goldberg, al.com).
Chizik should be allowed to work his five-year plan of rebuilding the Auburn football program on the field.
Along with his plan, there are intangibles that Chizik brings to the Auburn sideline.
He has leadership skills. In 2009, Chizik took a team that was divided in 2008 and brought them together to win eight games, after only winning five the year before.
In 2010, Auburn went through a tumultuous NCAA and media investigation into the program. The Tigers had every right to be distracted, but Chizik kept them focused on the goal. It led to a BCS National Championship.
In 2011, Chizik took a team that lost 26 players to the draft and/or graduation. The experts thought this team would struggle to get to bowl eligibility. They took their lumps but ended up winning eight games.
Contrary to the belief of everyone that does not wear orange and blue, Gene Chizik has been able to run a clean program and steer clear of any NCAA violations. The perception of the Auburn football program is not the reality. It seems as though every single NCAA story is about the Auburn program, but each one has been a misfire.
The Cam Newton investigation did not even turn up a secondary violation after months of digging by the NCAA and the media.
The "HBO 4" did not bring any evidence of pay-for-play against Auburn. Countless other rumors have come up but have not led to any NCAA investigation or punishment. As other schools in the SEC have gone on and off of probation, the Auburn football program has not been handed any punishment from the NCAA since 1993.
In honor of full disclosure, there are some worrisome issues that have occurred under Chizik's watch. The worst occurred in the spring of 2011, when four former Auburn players committed armed robbery along Wire Rd. Chizik removed those players from the team immediately.
He has removed other players from the team that have not lived up to the standards that he set for the program. They include, but are not limited to, BCS Championship Game Offensive MVP Michael Dyer and heralded quarterback recruit Zeke Pike.
However, Chizik has held each and every player that has gotten into trouble off the field accountable for their actions. There isn't much more that can be asked of the head coach.
Please do not misunderstand this article. It is not meant to make excuses for Chizik. It is simply meant to offer a different viewpoint of what everyone has heard since last Saturday.
This Auburn football team will take its licks this year. They already have. It may be tough for Auburn fans to watch at times, just like against Mississippi State.
Chizik will be out of excuses in 2013, and if he gets Auburn off to a slow start again, it may well be time for a change.
For now, allow Chizik to work his plan. Patience is not in the fan's dictionary, but it is what is required of Auburn fans right now.
One thing about sports is that things are never as good as they seem and things are never as bad as they seem. Remember that during the good games and bad games you see Auburn play this year. There will be some of both.
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