Auburn Needs a New Offense or a New Offensive Coordinator

LigerCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2008

OK I admit it, I was wrong. I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong, and I’ve had lots of practice doing so, especially concerning Auburn football as of late.


I admit it. I was as giddy as a schoolgirl when I heard that Tony Franklin was coming to Auburn. His offense had had more success against Auburn’s SEC opponents last year than Auburn had, and every Auburn fan knows that we’ve been one good offense away from seriously competing for an SEC or maybe even National Championship for the past few seasons.


First, I would like to apologize to Al Borges. He became a true Auburn man during his tenure on the Plains, even finding a wife and having a son during his time here. His offense was frustrating last year and in 2006 as well.


But for all its faults, it never left me embarrassed. His offense had become bland and unimaginative, but it was still an SEC-caliber offense that made few mistakes and kept the ball for long stretches of time.


What we saw last night in Nashville was embarrassing. I give all the credit I can to Vandy. They played with grit and tenacity, especially at QB. Mackenzi Adams played a heck of a game against a stout (although injury-riddled) defense. Incidentally, this makes the second loss of the season that we’ve been beaten by the backup QB.


But I’m not blaming the defense. Anytime your defense holds an opponent to 14 points, it’s supposed to be a W, particularly on the road. And especially against Vandy.


So who do I blame? As far as I’m concerned, the Tony Franklin experiment is over. I know he doesn’t have the best players to run the Spread, but really, that’s just my point.


An offensive coordinator at this level should have the ability to make the necessary adjustments for his players while working to get the players he wants into his system. Franklin has proven incredibly reluctant (or just plain hard-headed) to do that.


What’s more, for the past three games we seemed to have figured out how to get the ball moving in the first quarter, then Franklin completely abandons what was working.


That’s my problem with ideologues, they are more interested in their ideals than doing the best thing. Franklin’s goal is not really to score points or move the ball, but to run the Tony Franklin offense, the Spread. (And apparently to use Chris Todd to do it.)


Last night our offense gained 129 yards and scored 13 points in the first quarter running mostly from a two-TE, QB under center formation. But after such a great start Franklin completely abandoned that attack, moving more and more to “his” offense.


Late in the fourth quarter, Franklin went back to the QB under center formation and Tate ran for 9 yards against a much undersized defensive line. Then on the next play, Franklin returned to the Spread and we lost a yard. We ran the Spread on third and two and Tate got one yard. We went for it on fourth down from the Spread and got one yard, barely making the first down.


The offense, however, would stay Spread from there out and we hardly made any plays for positive yardage the remainder of the game.


Last week against Tennessee, we ran several formations at the beginning of the game, including using Mario Fannin in the Wildcat formation. We scored a TD on that drive, but then pretty much abandoned what had worked so well for the rest of the game, and the offense didn’t score again.


Franklin has an uncanny ability to stay away from what works. Why? Because he wants to run the Spread more than he wants to move the ball.


Don’t get me wrong. I like the Spread. I think the Spread can work at Auburn. But you have to be smart about implementing it. If our team moves the ball better against some teams under center, employing a power running game, we should do that.


I can name four reasons why that’s a smart move right now: 1) Ben Tate 2) Brad Lester 3) Tristan Davis, and 4) Mario Fannin. Probably the best group of running backs in the SEC, except for maybe Bama's group. And Bama coaches have this crazy idea that they should actually give the ball to their best players. What on earth are they thinking?


And besides four great runners, we have an offensive line that loves to line up in the three-point stance and attack defenses. I mean, why on earth would we not use power formations regularly?


I congratulate Coach Tubs for trying something new in his efforts to move the program to the next level, but at this point we need to cut our losses and get a good OC who can adapt his offense to our players rather than trying to get our players to adapt to his ideals.


I’m not for firing coaches at the first sign of trouble. I think it’s bad for the program to go through so much change in such a short period of time. But I am for admitting a terrible mistake, and fixing it as fast as possible. Franklin’s refusal to execute an offense that has been proven to work with these players, even at the cost of losing a game, demonstrates that he doesn’t have Auburn’s best interest at heart as much as “selling” the Tony Franklin offense.


I think we shouldn’t stand in his way of selling his offense if that’s what he really wants to do. Let’s let him do it full time.


Besides, I understand Coach Borges is still in town.