Lazy Saturday. That's what happens when you're granted the 11 a.m. kickoff. Roll out of bed, throw on yesterday's clothes and situate yourself on the couch with a cold beverage much earlier than you should because football. The challenge, which I chose to accept, was braving this morning game and still finding a way to make it out that evening for my friend's birthday party. That was the only mission accomplished of the day, as the other was something loosely translated to "seeing my alma mater win a football game."
1. Two guys. There are two guys on this team. And I'm not going to even name them here, because I like them both a lot. I like their dads a lot. And it kills me that they are the two that stand out to me. But there are two guys, one on offense and one on defense, that stand out to me. They line up at approximately the same place on the field.
They're killing me, Smalls.
But what is the real problem? Those guys that aren't playing to the level they should in week two? Or could it be that we're in Week 2 and no one is beating them out Sunday - Friday? Kevin Scarbinsky wrote a very fair column following the game asking why coaches won't give Clint Mosley a shot at one of those two positions. GREAT NEWS! I am here to give you a definitive answer to this hot sports take! STRAP IN SPORTS FAN AND PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR MIND ABSOLUTELY BLOWN!
Because he's not very good at football.
It's that simple! There's no mystery. We've seen it. The alternative to the current starting quarterback isn't very good. So what could be an alternative? Jonathan Wallace? Well sport, here's the problem with that.
He's a true freshman. Not only is he a true freshman, he's a kid that barely got a scholarship. He was passed over by 13 other SEC schools. Did he suddenly get good enough in eight months to compete at an SEC level? It's possible. But if you make that move, you better be quite sure of it. The current starting quarterback has been deemed "the future." If you're going to pull him now, two weeks in, the best case scenario is destroying your sophomore quarterback's confidence before reluctantly giving him back the reins at some point over the next three years. The worst case is that you have a full blown quarterback carousel, with no real experience and no proven commodity.
So you stay with it. For now. It's not pretty, but it's the hand you are dealt. You don't want to hear it, and neither do I. The back up is historically the fan's favorite player. But it's not always the solution. And if poor play continues, those screams are going to get louder. And they'll be led by guys like Kevin Scarbinsky who make money by creating conversation. But this debate isn't one that needs to be discussed. Yet.
Jason Campbell wasn't Jason Campbell for a long time. It took Jason Campbell a lot of work and three different offenses to become Jason Campbell.
2. Hot seats. Which brings us to the other debate that is unworthy of discussion. Yet. I'm not sure Gene Chizik can do anything this season to lose his job. Can the seat heat up? Can it make for higher expectations in 2013? Absolutely. But anyone that has Gene Chizik on a hot seat right now has a very short memory. I've lived just 30 years, all as an Auburn fan. And those 30 have been admittedly charmed. Still, there was the bitter end of the Dye era. There was the bitter end of the Bowden era. There was a 2003 that saw me give up on Tommy Tuberville at the precise moment in the Georgia game that Bobby Lowder did.
No reasonable fan expected better than eight wins this season. And while that looks absolutely impossible after 0-2, it's not cause for extremes. I'll forgo reason and ask dumb questions that are targeted to people dumb enough to make that suggestion:
If Gene Chizik is fired at the end of 2012, what is your answer? Bobby Petrino? Stop it. Even if you have gotten over what happened in 2003, and even if you are willing to forgive his transgressions that made him currently available, that ship has sailed. And it's sailed because of those two things. Sure, he can be bought, but that's the third reason he shouldn't be.
So then who? Who were the names last time? Will Muschamp? Turner Gill? Do you want those guys? Sure, there's going to be a hot coordinator. There will be a retread. There will be a fallen NFL guy. But there isn't going to be a Nick Saban or a Les Miles. So stop it. It's easy to start down this path when you spend 1/6 of your season competing against those two guys. But you aren't getting those two guys. Meanwhile, the guy you have and the staff that he surrounded himself with gave you your first national championship in 50 years. Whether that was because he/they managed to bring in the best SEC quarterback of my lifetime is debatable, but he/they did it, and to the chagrin of everyone, they did it above board.
That buys a lot of time. And the only reason you have these wild expectations now are because of 2010. Rewind. If Chizik goes 8-5, 10-3, 8-5 in his first three seasons, are we having this conversation two weeks into the season?
3. The moment for concern. All of that said, talking you off the ledge, allow me to pinpoint one moment Saturday that was most concerning:
It's 7-3 at half. Auburn has been absolutely dominated by Mississippi State for 30 minutes. Still, it finds itself down by just four points going into the locker room. It gets the ball to start the second half. Onterio McCalebb returns the opening kick 100 yards for a touchdown. And somehow you now find yourself ahead 10-7. And you can't find the gumption, the desire, the want-to, the balls to prevent Mississippi State, the Bulldogs, the team from Starkvegas from reeling off three unanswered touchdowns? How does that even happen?
Same thing happened last week, just not to the extent -- you find yourself leading Clemson 16-13 in the fourth quarter. And you're simply owned.
That is a problem. I don't know how to fix it, and that's why I'm not paid to fix it. But to have a chance to win and to just quit is incredibly troubling. More so than inefficiencies at the two aforementioned positions, more so than an offense I still don't think we understand, more so than a defense that I think isn't as bad as people want to blame.
There's no leadership, there's no heart, there's no drive. Until that's found, it's not getting better. That is a promise.
4. The rest. I spent a large part of the rest of Saturday taking naps. From what I scanned across, I wonder if Alabama is flawed or if Nick Saban reels this team in to provide teachable moments. From precedent, I have to assume it's the latter. I think Texas A&M and Missouri, while losing, proved they are much closer to the rest of this league than we wanted to believe. Missouri didn't compete at the end, but for the majority of the contest, it felt like it belonged.
The Yell Practice/Yell Leaders thing is super kooky bizarro land. There's never going to be a time it's not weird. Texas A&M felt much more like it belonged in the conference in the offseason. Mostly because of geography. But I don't think I'm ever going to be able to accept this as normal.
That's about all I observed outside of the Auburn game. I had the fortune of spending the evening with one of my dearest friends as we celebrated her birthday at The Nick. There were televisions on football, but after that morning, it didn't really seem important. I'll circle back around to Auburn in closing:
If something drastic doesn't change in a very short amount of time, LSU and Alabama will actually hurt people on this team. And I'm not exaggerating even the slightest. Strap in for a long season, stop to smell the roses and enjoy the company around you. Because you aren't going to have much to celebrate and the drinking is going to be a salve for pain, not an enhancement for the good times. Pace yourself. Throw a water in every now and then. Start the day with coffee. Keep aspirin in the cabinet. Don't set an alarm on Sundays. Godspeed.