Apologist. Defender. These are a couple of words that have described my attitude towards..."/> Apologist. Defender. These are a couple of words that have described my attitude towards..."/>

Auburn Football: Why Gene Chizik is in his Last Season at Auburn


Apologist. Defender. These are a couple of words that have described my attitude towards Gene Chizik the past couple of seasons. It always seemed there were problems with the program that Chizik couldn’t control. In 2009 he had no depth. In 2011 he had only six returning starters. These excuses, coupled with Auburn’s first national title since 1957 in 2010, made it easy for me to defend Gene Chizik.

He’s been an excellent recruiter. He’s coached a Heisman winner. He even led Auburn to a BCS National Championship, for Pete’s sake. But in the SEC, that doesn’t buy as much time as one would like. And despite the top recruiting classes and national championship, it’s time for Chizik to go.

Why is this? Well, this season, Auburn’s 1-5 (0-4 SEC). The one win was a win in OT against UL-Monroe, and that win felt like a loss. The Tigers have been outscored 62-3 in the fourth quarter this season. The conditioning of these players if awful. The team is undisciplined on the field. The Tigers have intercepted one pass all season, and that was by a linebacker, Daren Bates, in the first game of the season. The offense doesn’t know what it wants to do, as the best game the offense has played is in the opener against Clemson (a game in which Auburn scored a whopping 19 points). The defense has been terrible every year since Gene Chizik took over, and it isn’t just a Ted Roof thing. Roof’s defense at Penn State this year has been pretty strong.

It isn’t just this year, too. Outside of 2010, Auburn is 17-15 overall (0-9 against Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Arkansas). The Tigers are well on their way to going 3-9 this year, which would make Chizik 19-19 outside of the 14-0 season in 2010.

There are also many internal issues. Sammie Coates made it clear that Chizik has no control over this team. There’s no leadership. There’s no team chemistry. There’s off-field issues galore. Arrests, suspensions, armed robberies, you name it. Gene Chizik has simply lost control of the program. At Auburn, if you go 0-8 in the SEC two years after a BCS title and have no control over the program, you should be let go.

This isn’t a personal attack on Gene Chizik, either. Gene’s a great guy. His personality is the best personality an Auburn coach would have. His attitude and character is perfect for Auburn. But in terms of pure coaching ability and winning, he’s failing. We can’t keep him around just because he’s a good person. Winning is kind of important to the Auburn Family, and the direction the program is headed in right now is scary.

So, once Auburn’s done taking their long string of beatings this season, what should the Tigers do? If Jay Jacobs is even the AD anymore (which he may or may not be come January), he should thank Gene for 2010, let him go, then clean house and start over by hiring an all-new football coaching staff. Who are some good options? Here’s some names to watch out for in the coaching search:

Charlie Strong – This would be an excellent hire for Auburn. Strong’s been the head coach at Louisville for three years, and he’s turned them into a legitimate football program. The Cardinals are currently ranked in the Top 15 with a 6-0 record. Their defense is stingy, as that has always been the case for Charlie Strong. Before he became the head coach at Louisville, he was the defensive coordinator at Florida from 2002-2009. His defenses at Florida were among the best in the SEC, giving up 289 yards per game from 2006-2009.

Jon Gruden – This isn’t a likely hire, but it is still a possibility. Of course, Gruden’s name always comes up in situations like these and he never actually ends up taking the job. He just signed an extension with ESPN to remain with Monday Night Football. He also turned down an opportunity to be the Miami Hurricanes’ head coach recently. However, one has to think, if Auburn could pony up enough cash to lure Gruden in, how interesting would that be? Gruden was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 1998-2001, going 38-26 and making the playoffs twice. He then went on to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002-2008, compiling a 57-55 record, making multiple playoff appearances and leading the Bucs to a win in Super Bowl XXXVII. Gruden is optimistic, young and energetic. Just his name would make Auburn a huge draw to recruits, similar to when Alabama hired Nick Saban. The guy can coach, too, so I definitely think Jon Gruden should be a top candidate to replace Chizik. Auburn would have to fork up some serious cash to lure him away from ESPN as well as other open jobs like Tennessee and Arkansas. Still, he’s probably my favorite option.

Kirby Smart – Yes, some of your minds just got blown, but I’m pretty sure this won’t happen. Kirby Smart is the nation’s best defensive coordinator, perhaps the best assistant coach in the country overall. His defenses at Alabama have been dominant. The 2011 Crimson Tide defense gave up just over 180 yards of offense per game, which is unheard of in the modern era of college football. Of course, Nick Saban had a lot to do with that. Also, Smart’s never been a head coach in college football, so that’s a negative, but there’s probably one big reason why he won’t come to Auburn: he knows first-hand how hard it could be to recruit against Nick Saban. The fact he’s coached with Saban will probably prevent him from wanting to compete with him. Still, this would be a pretty solid hire despite some question marks.

Gary Patterson – I’m not too big of a fan of this hire, but he will still probably be a candidate. Patterson’s had tremendous success at TCU, winning plenty of games and leading the Horned Frogs to a 13-0 record and Rose Bowl win in 2010. He is from a Christian school, and, like it or not, Auburn has always tended to hire Christian coaches. Of course, that’s the case with a majority of the SEC, because the SEC is located right in the Bible Belt. Of course, the main reason Auburn will consider Patterson is his 114-31 record at TCU. He’s also guided TCU all the way from the WAC to the Big 12.

Chris Petersen – He’s obviously a candidate. But he’s turned down plenty of big jobs to stay at Boise State. He’s a ridiculous 78-7 at Boise State. The Broncos win plenty of games against weak competition, but they also take care of business on the big stage, toppling programs like Oklahoma, Oregon (twice), Virginia Tech and Georgia. How likely is he to be Auburn’s next head coach? Very unlikely. He may or may not be a lifer at Boise State. You can’t really blame him, even though he’ll likely never be able to win a BCS title there.

Bronco Mendenhall – Like Petersen, Bronco will be tough to hire away from BYU. He’s gone 70-27 as head coach of the Cougars. They are almost always a team that can win 10+ games. They’re very consistent. However, he has a very outside shot of becoming Auburn’s next head coach. He seems to be content with BYU.

Pete Carroll – This is highly unlikely, but it has been floated around by some Auburn fans, so I might as well list him. He may or may not have won a national title with USC, we’re still not entirely sure. But the guy is a good football coach. He knows how to build a college football dynasty. His Seattle Seahawks are a winner as well. What makes one think he could go to Auburn? Nothing, really. I could imagine Auburn talking to Carroll, but there’d have to be a freakishly large amount of cash on the table. Also, the Seahawks would have to tank. If Seattle makes the playoffs this year, there’s an even slighter chance Carroll will even return Auburn’s call to tell them, “No.”

Willie Taggart – This coach at Western Kentucky is a fast riser. He has the Hilltoppers playing their best football ever as of late, as they’ve become one of the best teams in the Sun Belt and are even receiving Top 25 votes this season. They lead the conference in defense. The offense can score well. He’s completely transformed the program, too. Their first year in D-I was 2009, and they went 0-12. When Taggart came in, they improved to 2-10 in 2010, followed by a 7-5 season last year. This year, the Hilltoppers are 5-1. They beat Kentucky in Lexington. Their only loss is a 35-0 defeat at Alabama, and in that game, they gave up just 103 rushing yards, sacked A.J. McCarron six times and only lost the first down battle 17-14. Taggart may not be ready for a big job like Auburn yet, but then again, who knows if he is? He’s definitely a good football coach.

These are some names to watch for in the coaching search. In case you didn’t notice, I didn’t include Bobby Petrino. Folks, Petrino was hated by some of his players at Louisville. He left the Falcons in the dead of night like a coward. At Arkansas, his defenses struggled and he was fired after a scandal involving a 25-year-old girl and a Harley. Why would Auburn hire this guy? His moral fiber is severely lacking, he wouldn’t improve the defense, he’s not the best recruiter, he’s never been able to get all of his players to buy into what he was doing… I’d rather win three games with Gene Chizik than nine with Petrino. He will never be the head coach at Auburn, ever. Under any circumstances. If you think differently, no offense, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

Gene Chizik… Because of the 2010 national championship, the Auburn Family will forever love you. We’ll always be grateful for the BCS title you led us to, especially in the face of controversy. You’re a good guy and a good role model as a person. But it’s time for us to go our seperate ways. The program is going nowhere, and fast. It’s time for a new head coach on the Plains.