Auburn hired its 26th head football coach on Tuesday. Gus Malzahn was the hire that would make the least amount of people angry in a fan base that had become uncharacteristically divisive over this process. For all of his shortcomings, including a deficiency which prevents him from breathing through his nose, Jay Jacobs receives a pat on the back, a tip of the cap for that.
Auburn had a chance in this process to be bold. It had an opportunity to do something that Auburn has never done. It had an opportunity to go for the jugular. One coach on the big board had eight years of college coaching experience, who boasted two BCS bowl trips and had won 74 percent of his games. It's easy to forget after the circus in Fayetteville that led us here, but there was a time just 11 months ago that Bobby Petrino was regarded as one of the four best coaches in the best conference in America. That's why I wanted Bobby Petrino to be the next head coach at Auburn. Auburn had made it clear that the bar wasn't "good," but rather that it was "excellence." And I still believe that with Petrino's work ethic and Auburn's potential, ten wins would have become the norm.
He wasn't hired. And I think people that watched me and listened to me fight for that hire over the last two weeks (months?) presumed I would have a come apart if it didn't happen. But here's the thing: Auburn hired my second-favorite candidate. And if you finish this process with your second-favorite candidate, you've done well, right?
The come apart would have happened (and did happen, on Twitter and a CaM group text thread late Monday) if Auburn had hired Kirby Smart. When Auburn hired former Georgia player and former Alabama assistant Pat Dye, it needed to emulate Alabama. It needed to approach with a "If you can't beat em, join em," mentality. But in 2012, Auburn didn't need that. There is a massive gap between where Alabama and Auburn are right now, but Auburn is still just two years removed from a national championship. Auburn has had two other legitimate chances to win one in the last 30 years. And Auburn leads the rivalry in that same time frame. Largely, that is because of a foundation built by Pat Dye. And for that, I am eternally grateful. But now? Auburn is beyond hiring a clone of Pat Dye. Kirby Smart may become the greatest head coach in America. But Auburn doesn't need to hire a 36-year-old coordinator because he has worked for the greatest coach in America. Let a MAC school hire him. Let Kentucky hire him. Auburn didn't need that, as neither a gamble nor as a perception.
So what did Auburn do? Auburn did the exact opposite of what Alabama would do. "What are you gonna do, SHOW ME my clothes?"
"HEY. Opposite ... is opposite."
I wanted to see Gus Malzahn because he has all of the personnel already in place to run things the way he wants. I wanted to see Gus Malzahn because he will likely retain very important cogs in the Auburn recruiting machine. I wanted to see Gus Malzahn because Gus really, really likes to score lots of touchdowns.
And as I wasn't even aware or had already forgotten, Gus doesn't care about anything but coaching football.
The press conference was refreshing, wasn't it? Short answers, no bull, no fluff. Just football. And Gus is both preparing Arkansas State for a big bowl game and interviewing assistant coach hires at the same time. He probably has a model plane project and a science fiction novel he's working on, too. You know who isn't going to let his players get lazy and undisciplined? The guy that likely uses "totes" and "probs" in daily conversation, not because it's trendy, but because extra syllables are time consuming and he has better crap to do.
Media types are going to hate Gus because of that. He's not going to give you an exciting quote. But when Auburn is winning football games again, I'm not going to care.
"COACH AL DOT COM HERE WHO WILL START AT QUARTERBACK IN YOUR FIRST GAME WHICH IS TEN MONTHS FROM NOW?"
"COACH AL DOT COM HERE DO YOU THINK COACH NICK SABAN LIKES LONG WALKS ON THE BEACH?"
"COACH AL DOT COM YOU RECKON BARN IS GONNA GET PUT ON DOUBLE SECRET PERMANENT PROBATION FOR CHEATIN?"
"COACH AL DOT COM HERE HOW HARD WILL IT BE TO CROOT AGAINST COACH NICK SABAN?"
Look, if Gus Malzahn can simply find a mediocre quarterback and hire a solid defensive coordinator, he can outscore seven opponents in year one. And there will be a lot of that. Finals that read 49-42. 56-38. FINE. Remember how fun it was to score points? Lots.
I wanted Auburn to be bold and hire Bobby Petrino, but deep down, in my heart, I knew this would be the hire. I think we all did. And I think we can move forward unified. I'm eager to see who Coach Malzahn hires. And I welcome him back into our Family with open arms. This will be a lot of fun.