When Auburn hires its 26th head football coach, it will likely be the most scrutinized hire in the school's rich football history. Many people close to the search feel that Auburn will have its next head coach in place no later than Wednesday.
With the increase of social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, it has meant an increase in people who have "sources" close to the Auburn coaching situation. As a result, people have been told by their "sources" that Auburn will be hiring Coach X or Coach Y.
Quite frankly, and with all due respect to the respected journalists on the Auburn beat and those people who actually do have credible sources, no one knows what is going on for sure in this coaching search besides the four men on the search committee (Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan, Mac Crawford and Jay Jacobs) who are conducting the interviews in Nashville.
Some fans will undoubtedly be disappointed with whoever is hired. Some fans will vow to never watch an Auburn game again if one man in particular is hired (you know who I'm talking about, Auburn fans). A faction of fans will talk about how Auburn really screwed this hire up, despite not knowing important details known by the committee members conducting the interviews.
During the past week, the Auburn fanbase has been divided and sounds a lot more like Congress trying to agree on a solution to the fiscal cliff than it does a group of people who are supposed to be a "family."
What a lot of Auburn fans are forgetting is that fans on both sides want what is best for Auburn. Just like Republicans and Democrats have different ideas on what's best for America, each end of the Auburn fan spectrum has a different vision for what it is best for their beloved university.
It's an opinion that we are lucky enough to be able to express and nothing more than that.
When it comes down to it, Auburn fans should not be disappointed by any of the top candidates who are supposedly being targeted to fill the head coaching vacancy.
As I have mentioned, it's hard to separate fact from fiction in this coaching search. However, enough information has been gathered to have a short list of people whom Auburn is likely targeting to be the next head coach.
Those names (we think) include Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn, TCU head coach Gary Patterson and, yes, former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino.
Take off your blinders and look at that list objectively. There is no denying that it is a strong list of candidates to lead any team. Most teams across the country would be kicking down the door to get an interview with any of the candidates.
It's obvious that Auburn is not attempting to bunt when down by five runs. It is swinging for the fences in this coaching search.
It should be noted that it is completely plausible and maybe likely that a different name will emerge and may land the Auburn job. Much like Gene Chizik did in 2008.
But working with just the names on this list, there isn't a terrible hire in the group.
If he was on any other staff in the country instead of wearing crimson, Auburn fans would likely be ecstatic about the potential hire of Smart. For some reason, Auburn fans have a fear of looking like "little brother" by hiring an Alabama coach instead of wanting to hire one of the hottest assistant coaches in college football.
He lacks head coaching experience, but to say that Smart would be a bad hire is ludicrous.
Malzahn would bring the offense that brought Auburn its first national title in 53 years back to the Plains. It is also the offensive system that this team has been built for. Auburn fans have seen what this offense can do when it is unbridled, regardless of the QB.
Patterson would bring a career winning percentage of over 75 percent to Auburn and a strong defensive acumen. His teams are always well coached, and he has turned TCU into a perennial winner in his 15 years in Ft. Worth, TX.
Who should be Auburn's next head coach?
We've talked and talked about Petrino, and there is no way that people's opinions of the man are going to be changed at this point. It's hard to look past his transgressions, but his coaching career in terms of wins and losses speaks for itself.
If Petrino can earn the approval of people on the search committee (like Jackson and Sullivan), who are we to say he shouldn't be Auburn's next coach? Former Auburn RB Terry Henley is also on a campaign to bring Petrino back to the Plains:
"I believe Bobby Petrino knows what Auburn needs & that he has already evaluated the players on the roster"-Terry Henley on @colecubeshow—Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 3, 2012
Each coaching candidate comes with his share of risks. This group is no different. We examined these candidates on Monday and pointed out the risks. However, it's easy to see why each of these men would be on a school's short list of coaching candidates.
So relax, Auburn fans. Regardless of who is hired, there's going to be a very good coach leading Auburn next year. The people who are in place to make the hire have the same feelings about Auburn that the fans do. They want Auburn to be successful as much, if not more so, than the fans.
Recent history says that Auburn hires pretty good coaches. The last four coaches hired by Auburn, dating back to Pat Dye, have had an undefeated season, a national championship or an SEC Championship.
There's no reason to think the next Auburn head coach will not have as good a chance as the previous ones to do the same.