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December 15, 2011 by John Stansberry
Say I offer my next door neighbor $500 to cut my lawn because his yard is jaw droppingly gorgeous. Nope, the dude says, I’m perfectly happy concentrating on my own stuff. Then, a few weeks later, you get wind that the dude took $100 to cut some other doucher’s lawn down the street. You’d be more than a little confused at that turn of events.
But that’s essentially the type of situation you’ve got with Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. He turned down a $3 million a year head coaching offer from Vanderbilt just 12 months ago but this week he took up Arkansas State on its offer head coaching offer. For $800,000. It’s a head scratcher to say the least.
Coaching move takes two fairly obvious things: the motivation to leave and a destination the assistant coach in question is willing to go to. Perhaps Malzahn’s unwillingness to jump ship after last season was a combination of the two. At the time, maybe the money, as much as it was, didn’t provide the proper motivation while the destinations, in his mind, left something to be desired.
So what changed this time around? Well, first off, let me speculate about the motivation angle. I think that was due in large part to him not being on the same page with Auburn head coach Gene Chizik.
Now since they never tried to choke each other on the Auburn sideline, it’s hard to guess just how unproductive the working relationship between the two really was. Does Malzahn just flat out hate Chizik’s guts? Who knows if that’s way outside the realm of possibility or not.
In my opinion, it might not have been friction but simply a difference in opinion that caused the Malzahn-Chizik marriage to not be quite as loving as it could have been. Let’s backtrack to the first two games of this season for Auburn.
Before the offensive output completely petered out, you’ll recall that Auburn scored 42 against Utah State and another 41 against Mississippi State. The problem, though, was on the other side of the ball. It was painfully obvious that Auburn wouldn’t be able to stop anybody this season after giving up a combined 72 points in those contests.
From that point on, it’s clear that Chizik, who by trade is a defensive coordinator, wanted the offense to go into full protection mode for what was statistically the worst defense in Auburn history. That’s where the difference of opinion comes in. I’m sure Malzahn would’ve much preferred going wide open and letting the chips fall where they may. But his boss had other ideas.
Coming into the season, Auburn’s offense was already missing the following pieces from its title team: an otherworldly talent at quarterback, four offensive line starters and its two best receivers. The youngsters who replaced them essentially got no help from the defense which in turn stunted their growth. That couldn’t have made Malzahn a happy camper.
Beyond that, and possibly much more importantly, I’m not really sure we ever got the full Malzahn Experience during his time at Auburn. You can take a look back at his time at Tulsa for evidence of that.
With Malzahn calling the shots there as offensive coordinator in 2007, Tulsa snapped the football 1,126 times, a number that was tops in the nation. The following season the total snaps dipped a tiny bit to 1097 but the yards per game output actually increased from 544 to 570.
In his first season at Auburn in 2009, with everyone getting acclimated to his offense, that team showed one of the more dramatic increases in production in recent memory. Yards per game jumped from a paltry 302.3 the previous season to 431.8 in 2009.
Then came the arrival of Cam Newton last year and we all know how that turned out. But still, ever since Malzahn has been at Auburn I’ve thought something wasn’t quite right. The same pace wasn’t there like it had been at Tulsa.
Offensive snaps by Auburn in 2009? 914. That was followed by 948 during the title run. This season? Down dramatically to
The whole point of Malzahn’s offense is to dictate pace to the opposing defense and in turn wear it down. Doing that at Tulsa is what motivated Chizik to hire the guy in the first place. But during his tenure at Auburn I never thought Malzahn’s creation was allowed to run at ludicrous pace.
To me, that signals the influence of Chizik. And I while I get that he’s the head coach and that it’s his way or the highway, I tend to believe this dynamic left Malzahn feeling a little handcuffed. After three years of that, I think that environment created the motivation to jump ship.
As for the destination part of the equation, that’s much more complicated. Despite numerous head coach openings at BCS conference schools it’s been clear that Malzahn wasn’t quite the hot property he was after last season.
Sure, Auburn’s fall in production has a little to do with that, but I tend to believe the guy is still a highly respected football mind.
This post was edited by bradthedad on 12/6/2012 at 10:34 PM
Over? Did you say over? It's not over until we say it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell NO!!!
The guy that wrote that article is a total egomaniac. He molests sheep and worships Jason Miska in his spare time. And, well, he's a friend of mine so, I hate giving him any credit, so I won't.
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