Just two years after winning the national championship, Auburn is looking for a new head coach. Luckily for the Tigers, there are several options around the country with impressive qualifications.
There are many names floating around in connection with Auburn, but Charles Goldberg of Al.com identifies Bobby Petrino, Jimbo Fisher, Gus Malzahn, Gary Patterson and Kirby Smart as the top candidates.
Whoever takes the job will face extremely high expectations and a brutal SEC schedule, but each of these men have proven that they do not shy away from a challenge.
Here is how Auburn should rank these five coaches.
5. Gus Malzahn
There is no doubt Malzahn is driven to advance his career. As Goldberg’s post notes, he took a pay cut to move from his position as Auburn’s offensive coordinator to become the head coach at Arkansas State this season.
Chizik’s former assistant is a well-respected coach who is known for his ability to achieve success running a fast-paced offense. His familiarity with the program will also likely create a smooth transition.
But firing Chizik suggests the program is unlikely to seek out a former assistant, and the Tigers would be smart to start over and hire a coach without such a recent connection to the school.
4. Bobby Petrino
Petrino’s success as a college football head coach is extremely impressive, but he comes with a significant amount of baggage.
The former Louisville head coach had Arkansas on the brink of becoming a national powerhouse before he was fired for misleading the university about his relationship with his mistress.
Petrino has an impressive offensive mind and was also an offensive coordinator at Auburn, but the messy end to his tenure at Arkansas should cause concern. While Petrino certainly has one of the best head coaching résumés among the candidates, the Tigers would be better off going with someone who has less red flags.
3. Jimbo Fisher
Fisher has had impressive success at Florida State, and his team is likely to cap off their campaign with a victory in the Orange Bowl. This would be an ideal time for Fisher to cash in on his success and take control of an SEC team.
Fisher is another coach with Auburn connections, and he was the quarterbacks coach for the Tigers between 1993 and 1998. He is well-versed in SEC offenses and also spent seven seasons as LSU’s offensive coordinator.
But all of the SEC’s top teams had elite defenses this season, and the Tigers would be better off hiring a coach with an impressive defensive pedigree.
2. Kirby Smart
As Les Miles and Mark Richt have proved at LSU and Georgia, respectively, coaches with offensive backgrounds can still lead top-level defenses. However, choosing a defensive-minded coach would certainly speed up Auburn’s path towards competing again in the SEC.
Smart is the defensive coordinator at Alabama and has been one of the architects of the Crimson Tide’s dominant defenses during Nick Saban’s tenure. Although he is just 36 years old, he is an extremely talented coach.
Auburn’s defense will rapidly improve if Smart takes over the program, and this is exactly what the Tigers need. However, Auburn’s top choice should be a coach with an impressive defensive pedigree and plenty of experience.
1. Gary Patterson
Patterson has been the head coach at TCU since 2000 and is an innovator on defense. His 4-2-5 defense has confused opposing offenses throughout his tenure.
While Patterson has never proved himself at an SEC school, he was able to coach the Horned Frogs to a Rose Bowl victory in 2010. He has achieved sustained success at TCU, and despite going 4-5 against conference opponents in his first season in the Big 12, he suffered two overtime losses and his team has competed in nearly every game.
Due to his vast experience and creative defensive schemes, Patterson is best coaching candidate for Auburn.