It was late November 2008 and the air was wet and cold. There was a vibe that something was about to happen down on the plains. Tubberville had just lost to his dreaded rival, Alabama, 36-0. The sheriff also had an unbelievably bad season. He went 5-7 and posting loses to teams such as Vanderbilt, 5-7 Arkansas and almost getting beaten by 4-8 Mississippi State.
Fighting his way out of the O.K. Corral would have been easier than this crumbling wet paper sack called the Auburn football program. But the local mining company owners had enough. They had enough of the poor assistants, the lies of what would be and the truth that the sheriff and his posse could no longer round up the best cattle to put out on the field.
And so the whipping began.... shortly thereafter, the sheriff crawled out of the program with a measly 6 million dollars in retribution. Severance for 10 years of mediocrity. Sure he beat his rival 7 out of 10 times, but, he only won one SEC championship during a time when the harvesting was so abundant because the other ranches were so poorly managed.
And now with his rotting corpse sitting aside at Lake Martin the town-folk of Auburn call in a new sheriff. A man who once stood on those hollowed grounds and coached a defense to a 13-0 record. A man they hope will be the salvation to put the Auburn Tigers back to their rightful place of, of, of.....well, to at least beat Alabama again and continue beating UT.
Chizik, what can be said that hasn't already been said? A national championship as a DC, a perfect season as a DC, and 5-19 team as an HC.
Chizik's perfect season at Auburn was a good one. The team was able to beat four teams with winning records that year including UT twice. The other 8 teams they played had a combined record of 34-56. This is not Chiziks fault.
Chizik then moved on to Austin to help Texas have a perfect season and win the National Championship. The following year in 2006 the longhorns had a successful season as well and Gene was noticed by the lowest team in the conference. He was ready to be Head Coaching material.
When we say the lowest team in the conference we are talking about the Iowa State Cyclones. A team whose best season ever was in 1906 with a record of 9-1. A team whose second best record was in 2000 and was 9-3. It is hard to win in Ames and Chizik certainly wasn't going to stay around and try.
Why blame him? I certainly wouldn't want to give the best years of my coaching career to a team that can't recruit and has no chance of a conference championship.
However, the previous 7 years before his arrival the Cyclones managed to have 5 winning seasons. Chizik didn't do better in his second season and Texas and OU were not even on the schedule. Other than the two victories there were at least four scheduled teams that he could have beaten in order to make a .500 record.
If Gene is a motivator that 2008 season leaves something to be desired. If Gene needs more than two years to get his defense in order then something is amiss with this great Defensive Coordinator. Maybe you just can't do it in Ames.
So, he rides into Auburn with his hat in hand. The mining company executives want it that way. And so he begins to assemble a staff.
Tracy Rocker, an outstanding Auburn Alumnus who won both the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award will come in and take over the Defensive Line.
Jeff Grimes comes from the Colorado Buffalos and takes over the Offensive Line coaching. Welcome to the SEC defenses sir, oh but then again didn't you play Alabama in 2007?
Gus Malzahn who is heralded as the new spread offense guru becomes the Offensive Coordinator. And Tedd Roof swoops in from The Golden Gofers as the new Defensive Coordinator.
A classic lineup of more mediocrity if there ever was any. The only thing that Auburn has going for them right now is the fact that they were 5-7 last season. This mediocrity just might be the underrated staff of the century. A perfect storm if you please.
Gus Malzahn is the only hire in this group that could possibly distinguish himself as pertinent. He has been at the college level for 3 years all of them as an Offensive Coordinator. He has books written on his offense and instructional videos. Wait, where have I heard this before? Tony "Otis" Franklin?
Gus' Tulsa spread offense made all kinds of mad points, 661, against teams like North Texas, New Mexico, SMU, and Rice. Tulsa's opponents combined record, including Arkansas who beat them, was 79-95. For a little perspective Alabama's opponent's combined record was 96-80. Aurburn's were 88-64 for the 2008 season. We will see what he can do now that he is back in the SEC.
His one year run with Felix Jones and Darren McFadden was pretty good. But lets face it who couldn't have done well with both of those guys in the back field. No, wait, Mike Shula. And, Aurburn doesn't have those guys in the backfield and Grimes has no offensive line.
The recruiting scenario is not so dark on the plains and if the Tigers can get the skill players they need in the next two years they may be able to paint the town red and welcome back the varmints who have been taking their pride as of late.
However, this 2009 season does not bode well for Auburn. The first game will be a winner, but after the trouble Auburn had with Mississippi State last season you just may see State pulling the win down on the plains and that is all it will take for Auburn to lose their poise and begin to crumble. They will be looking for the High Plains Drifter to ride back into town and save them but he will already be there.