Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Auburn: The Bar Is Set, Make Your Move

Chizik - Straight rocking that chain.

Oh boy. This is a tough one.

I've been reading and listening over the past two days, and yeah, the Auburn faithful ain't happy. The over-reactive 'Chizik on the hot seat' that peered it's head out back in September was something that I thought was a bit media-created and endorsed only by the looneys.

Now, not so much. I've got Auburn fans - the sane, logical, intelligent ones, mind you - expressing to me how frustrated and - here's the key - doubtful they are about whether or not they have the right head coach. That's where you find the tipping point. Once you lose the rational fan base, you've got job security problems.

What I can't figure out, however, is the way the argument is set. Here are the numbers, and then we'll go from there:

Iowa State: 5-19 (but you knew that)
2009: 8-5
2010 with Cam Newton: 14-0
2011: 8-5
2012: 1-4

That's 36-33 overall. 15-12 in the SEC.

Where everyone gets all funky - rightly or wrongly - is that many use the opportunity to discard the 14-0 with Cam. Many pundits (Mr. Finebaum included) ask the question, "But what has he done without Cam Newton?"

Well, you see the numbers above. If 2010 was eliminated from history, he'd be 22-33 overall, and 7-12 in the SEC.

Those... those are not good numbers.

Back to what I can't figure out. Do you or do you not count the Cam wins? They happened. We all saw it, and until the NCAA or Danny Sheridan come up with a man with a bag, then it's going to stay that way. Gene Chizik was at the helm, and Auburn was All-In.

Is it fair to take that away?

It seems that anybody could of won with this dude.
When it comes to that question, I believe that much of the Auburn fan base is coming to the conclusion that anyone could have won the BCS title with Cam Newton at QB. And maybe they're right - it's kind of one of those things that you could spend forever (or hours upon hours of talk radio) debating. There is a lot of discomfort about the future direction of the program, and is a guy who just happened to have one silver bullet the key to a consistently winning and competitive program?

Fair or not, this is where the Auburn fan base finds itself...

But where is this?

Well, I think I can help figure that out. How bad are things at Auburn right now? Well, check out this list of comparables...

Your baseline, with the Bizarro "No 2010/Cam Newton World". I am completing this Auburn season at 4-8. (1 out of 3 in the Ole Miss, Vandy, A&M stretch. Take your pick.)

Gene Chizik, Auburn, '09 & '11-'12
20-18 (52.6%) overall
9-15 (37.5%) SEC
No division/conference titles
No appearances in SEC title game
No appearances in Final Coaches Top 25

Syl looking Sly
1) First up, Sylvester Croom. Mississippi State, '04-'08.
You know the story, but here are the numbers:
21-38 (35.5%) overall
10-30 (25%) SEC

Conclusion: Things aren't going well for Gene, but they ain't this bad. If only he was coaching at a pre-Dan Mullen Mississippi State, Chizik wouldn't be having any worries.

2) Ed Orgeron, EhrmesssRubbles, '05-'07.
Eddy spent more time 'cruitin and not coaching.
10-25 (28.6%) overall
3-21 (12.5%) SEC

Conclusion: The Ed Orgeron experience was high comedy for everyone (and on some level, maybe even including Ole Miss fans). Gene is well above the cartoon that was Orgeron. At least Ole Miss got The Blind Side out of it.

3) Gerry DiNardo, LSU, '95-'99
32-24-1 (57%) overall
18-20-1 (47%.4) SEC
2 co-division titles, no appearances in SEC title game

Hmmm... This is where it starts to get close. DiNardo has Chizik on the percentages, and Gerry picked up a couple of co-division titles (which don't count for much, but oh well). His last two years, though, he had a 2-13 SEC record and wasn't allowed to finish the '99 season. Chizik has the national title, of course, but in terms of where the program is heading, it definitely bares a DiNardo-ish look.

4) Ron Zook, Florida, '02-'04
23-14 (62.2%) overall
16-8 (67%) SEC
1 co-division title, no appearances in SEC title game
3 appearances in final Coaches Poll ('02-24, '03-25, '04-25)

Numbers be numbers, and when it comes to these numbers, Zook's got Chizik beat, hands down. The worse news for Chizik? He was fired mid-season, when they were 1-6.

Poor Mike.
5) Mike Shula, Alabama, '03-'06
26-23 (53%) overall
13-19 (40.6%) SEC
1 appearance in final Coaches Poll ('05-8)

Oh yes I am. Couldn't leave out my boy, deer-in-headlights. And WOW - those numbers are awfully close, aren't they? In the Cam Newton-less world we are talking about here, at the end of the 2012 season, he will have a slightly WORSE record (percentage-wise) than the great Mike Shula. Chizik is unquestionably a more dominating, confident figure than Shula, but results are results. Pat Dye's "nice guy" argument is going to get put to the test, because nobody was a "nicer guy" than Mike Shula.

If Auburn fans are worried about directions, just think back to the good old days of six in a row. Now flip it.

Whether or not it's fair to remove the Cam Newton days from the equation is debatable and I'm open to those arguments. But the rational Auburn fans who are now starting to rethink this situation, maybe there is something to it.

Four out of five of the above teams made moves and benefitted from it. Florida, LSU, and Alabama all won national titles and maintained a high level of competitiveness. Mississippi State appears to finally be making up some ground. Ole Miss... well, Hugh Freeze has a lot of work cut out for him.

The key here is that those programs didn't try to wait out the "good guy" longer than the minimum. If it wasn't working, the coach had to go, and they brought in someone new. It is this post-move sustained success that Auburn is trying to achieve - and why the Auburn faithful are starting to believe that a change is the best option.

And that's why they are taking Cam away.

UPDATE 2012-10-09 11:21
Some reader feedback from Alex D.:
Regarding your Chizik blog, I agree with you 100%. I think I recently referred to 2011-present as "AU's Shula Years" the other day, but your post got me thinking...Didn't Shula accumulate those percentages while on some sort of probation that limited scholarships? I'm too lazy to look it up, but if that's true, then #5 on your list carries even more weight.
I appreciate the honesty on your level of laziness. Everyone should be so up front.

As to your point, Shula sure did. The probation was a big factor in why Francione ditched Tuscaloosa. Shula was also battling the public relations disaster that was Mike Price. I still think Shula was incapable of managing four quarters of football, but he didn't have it easy either.

I'm on Twitter, and it would behoove you to follow me. @harry_long