That certainly was a football game. Auburn and Mississippi State played the snoozer of all snoozers for more than three quarters, all under the cloud of rumor and supposition from people who don’t have any influence. What did we all think of the game and the end of the regular season?
There’s so much fatigue around this program. Whether that’s big picture fatigue, in game predictable playcalling fatigue, or this bunch being flat exhausted with a season where if a player wanted to see their girlfriend they had a GA/analyst up their ass about contact tracing. Regardless of its source, we are all ready for this 2020 season to end. And it has. Sure there’s a bowl game to be played that means even less than normal, but this thing is effectively in the books.
A lot of media-ish folks want to talk about a coaching change. Most of those folks are behind a paywall where championships and coaching changes are when they make their most money. Fatigue doesn’t drive subscriptions. So it’s entirely possible that a lot of rumors of the last week are simply fabrications. Or perhaps they are from sources who are telling them what they wish would happen as opposed to what is happening. Doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that this team, with all of its warts, poor development, under talented offensive line, and serious OVER IT vibes in terms of this year didn’t quit. On the contrary, they got better over the course of a game and dominated a 4th quarter one week after doing the exact opposite. I’m proud of them for finishing this season on a positive note. They have earned a major BREAK from all of this.
I can’t sit here and say that I know the decisions that the wealthiest 1% of donors to this program will be, but I would like to believe that I have some understanding on how folks at Auburn think. I don’t think that things were near as intense this past week as they were made out to be. I don’t think a 4-loss season amidst a pandemic while dealing with a $40-$70 million revenue shortfall really has those folks thinking about paying the first 50% of a $21.5 million buyout within 30 days versus trying to salvage the program as a whole and how to navigate what is at minimum a 5-year financial problem for collegiate athletics. I also don’t think Jay Gogue is the kind of president who enjoys overseeing a firing that is this costly. I have no idea what Allen Greene thinks because no one does.
Changes at Auburn carry a theme. Barfield was fired after a winless season in the SEC in 1980 with Georgia and Alabama winning back to back national championships. Coach Dye got fired after an NCAA investigation that was so minor it still makes me sick…while going 5-5-1 after going 5-6 the year prior and being shutout to Alabama 17-0 amidst them going on to win the national championship. Bowden was told he would end up being fired because he had wrecked our program and up and quit. He was 1-5. Tuberville was fired after going 5-7 in 2008 and being shutout by Alabama 36-0 in what was their statement to the nation that they were back. Chizik got fired for going winless in the conference and being shutout to Alabama 49-0 long after the team had quit due to being fractured by assistant coaches that were doing things that you just cannot do as coaches of kids in college.
This season was never going to be a championship season. This team should have been 8-2. It’s a disappointment. They regressed behind a brand new offensive line and a defense that lost what is arguably the most talented defensive lineman in Auburn’s history. Bo Nix proved he’s well on the Stan White trajectory of quarterbacks at Auburn. Tank Bigsby proved he’s got a lot of his coach in him. The team was alright when they ran more than they passed and oh my God when they passed I’d love to see the percentage where Bo had 3 seconds before HAVING to escape the pocket.
It’s a mixed bag at best. It’s very much like 2003 with less expectations up front. Tuberville probably should’ve been fired in 2003. And Petrino would’ve left us for the Falcons within 2 years. And then what? The great unknown post-Petrino actually terrifies me because of where it might mean our program could be today. If you need a hint to what it might look like, look no further than Tennessee.
All that said I don’t believe this is a “FIRE THE COACH” season. It doesn’t check enough boxes. And I don’t think we should even be talking about a coaching change, since all it does is scare recruits. I don’t think there’s a lot of reward for spending $30 million to pay off a coach and his staff and pay the buyout for a new coach. Not in 2020 during this pandemic. Not when a guy in Hugh Freeze is the best some folks can do, when he couldn’t even run the ball consistently, beat Alabama on more BS than we have, and is a legitimate NCAA liability when we already have one of those on campus (fair or unfair it’s the truth and I love BP). Is Mario Cristobal the answer to Nick Saban’s Alabama? He’s one hell of a recruiter but his development of players is questionable. How’s that worked out for Kirby Smart? Billy Napier is a really good coach who is completely unprepared for this job.
So my hope is that Gus is here in 2021. Debate whether he’s earned it all you want. There’s valid arguments on both sides. But there’s enough on this team to believe that we should expect more than 2020, and he should be held accountable for that in 2021. I don’t think there is a coach in America that can do better with this roster in 2021 than Gus can, and I don’t even want to think about what 2022 or 2023 looks like if this recruiting class implodes 4 days before National Signing Day because Auburn is making a coaching change.
Risk has to be worth reward. And in the current state of affairs it is my belief that we cannot break through the glass ceiling of being a top-tier program year over year in this league as long as a 69 year old man is in Tuscaloosa. It sucks to type that. But it’s also been proven to be true for 14 years. So is anyone outside of Urban Meyer (who isn’t coming here) worth paying $21.5 million to Gus Malzahn just for something different? I’ll never believe that it is because everyone else in this conference turns over coaches while they keep humming along.
In conclusion, thank you to Gus Malzahn and the Auburn football program for playing this fall. It was unfair to ask it of these players since they aren’t paid. I’m really glad I had the distraction on my TV and inside Jordan-Hare Stadium this fall. I needed it. It’s been a hard year. I know it has been for a lot of you too. And in terms of 2021, let’s expect more than what we expected in 2020. Demand it even. We’re Auburn after all. And maybe something magical will happen. Maybe it won’t. Regardless I think it’s far more important that we try, just TRY, to get on the same page as a fanbase and figure out what we want the identity of our program to be on the other side of Nick Saban, instead of thinking we can stop a well-oiled machine. We knew the end was near when we hired Coach Dye. It wouldn’t have worked if we had hired him in 1976. Timing is everything and right now is the time for us to appreciate this year for what it was, and demand more next year for what it wasn’t.
Long live Tank Bigsby.
It was a great night! Auburn Basketball beats Memphis! Cleveland got a taste of what to expect from Isaac Okoro after he made the game-winner in his first NBA game. Oh, and football won too.
I am happy Auburn beat Mississippi State. That’s all I got.
We won. Cool.
Tank Bigsby is, in the parlance of our times, “that dude”.
-Son of Crow
I don’t know if I’ve ever been as snoozy during a game as I was with this one. I fully expected us to punt on nearly every drive, and I fully expected MSU to do nothing because their offense flat out isn’t good. I was right on those accounts, and I almost hit the score exactly with my pick (not to brag, but I said 27-10). In the end, we didn’t really learn anything we didn’t already know — Bo Nix is not great on the road, the offensive line was a mess this year and that was compounded with injuries, Seth Williams can infuriatingly turn it on and off when he wants to, and Tank Bigsby might be the best player on the team.
Auburn disappointed this year, with only losses that shouldn’t happen instead of wins that shouldn’t happen. We never expected that 2020 would be the season of dreams, and I know that we’re all still comparing our successes to those three hours away in Tuscaloosa. We shouldn’t be, but that’s the reality of our situation for the last decade-plus.
I wrote an article on Christmas Day two years ago with a bunch of GIFs from the West Wing with Gus’ face over President Bartlett’s. In the end, the story is the same. There are forces against Gus, whether they have any real power or not. Rumor can be a very powerful force, and it’s already been proven that the rumors that many Auburn fans choose to engage in actively hurt the program with recruiting and morale.
I can’t say it any better than Josh Black did above, but this isn’t Gus’ fault. Auburn signed the ridiculous contract he’s got. Gus needs to win more and have a better team, but he didn’t swindle us out of this deal. We should be good next year, and maybe that’s enough to keep him around longer. We’ll see.