When news broke late last night that Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn had accepted the head coaching job at Arkansas State, the first thought that popped into people's mind was why?
Are things so bad at Auburn that Malzahn's willing to take a pay cut of more than 40 percent? Is there a rift between he and head coach Gene Chizik? Does Malzahn see the Auburn offense as a lost cause for the foreseeable future?
If you take the emotion out of it, the move makes more sense that it appears on the surface. Like playing the stock market, you want to buy low and sell high.
No one's stock was higher a year ago than the Auburn offensive coordinator. On the flip side, Malzahn has seen his value drop this season more than any other high profile assistant in the country.
If you hold that piece of stock at $80, you better be ready to let it go once it hits the $60 mark. Last night Gus Malzahn sold.
The upside for him is that he desperately wants to be a head coach. According to several reports, he was literally hours away from being offered the Kansas job when Charlie Weis emerged and practically stole the job from under Malzahn.
He was thought to be the leading candidate at North Carolina for more than a month when things suddenly went south. It didn't take a Philadelphia lawyer to tell Malzahn that his lack of success on the field this year and a chatty wife had greatly diminished his value to other programs.
Much is being made today about the significant pay cut he's taking to leave Auburn. Reports say Malzahn will earn about $750,000 annually; that's quite a drop from the $1.3 million he currently makes as offensive coordinator.
What if his offense continued to struggle next season? Without a proven quarterback and the possible loss of All-SEC running back, the odds were favorable that he'd have another lackluster year.
Then what would he be worth?
In the end, Malzahn saw the Arkansas State job as a chance to be the big boss and return home to where he's most comfortable. More than anything else, he wants to be a head coach. Another bad season at Auburn and that opportunity would likely be gone forever.
From an Auburn standpoint, things couldn't be much worse. Suddenly the defending national champions have lost their top two lieutenants. At a critical time in the recruiting process, Chizik must act quickly and correctly.
Talk of who will be the next defensive coordinator now becomes secondary. Auburn needs a new offensive leader now. Chizik, along with everyone else saw this day coming. You can bet he's making calls this morning.
Despite these setbacks, the sky is not falling at Auburn. Gene Chizik built this staff three years ago into champions. He'll do it again. Here's a word of advice: Ignore morons like Paul Finebaum and others who will scream from the hilltops today that the Auburn program is in turmoil.
There's no question Auburn hit a significant pothole; but remember, at no time in its history has the program had as much young talent on campus as it does today. The future is still bright.
This too shall pass.