The Case for Patience

By: wesfau2

Gene Chizik? Really?

What happened to Turner Gill? Gary Patterson? Bueller? Bueller?

Auburn fans were hoping for a “splash” hire. We needed to wow some people after firing a coach who had given an undefeated season and more wins than 90% of his peers in the last half of his decade of service to Auburn. If you’re tossing aside (or allowing to resign, you pick the version of the story that fits your own prejudices) a coach of Tuberville’s caliber, then you should have lined up your replacement and prepared for a smooth transition.

The public perception is that Jay Jacobs (or whichever shadowy Geppetto pulls his strings) botched the firing, the search, the selection and the Iraq War. His track record as Auburn’s Athletic Director does not instill confidence nor incline one to give Jacobs the benefit of the doubt, so it is understandable that the most crucial hire made on his watch thus far will be viewed with jaundiced eyes. Any coach not named Lombardi, Belichick, or Tommy Tuberville was going to disappoint a large segment of the fan base.

Once we saw the pool of names in the mix, some actual candidates and some no more than internet rumor and speculation, our expectations were tempered and we began educating ourselves on the relative merits of Gill, Patterson and the other prospects. These coaches, though lacking in star-power have fine resumes and we began to warm to the idea of one of them roaming our sidelines. Then, at the 11th hour (though, relatively, this was a brief search), we were presented with Vanilla Gene. The man spent three seasons at Auburn and I’m at a complete loss to describe him personally.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I know that his defensive units at Auburn were intimidating squads: #1 scoring defense in 2004, #5 total defense in 2003 and 2004. He coached Carlos Rogers into a Thorpe Award-winning first-round draft pick and picked up a Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year honor in 2004. At Texas Chizik helped the ‘Horns win the 2005 BCS National Championship and had two players, Michael Huff and Aaron Ross, win the Thorpe Award. What does this tell us about Vanilla Gene? The man can coach. It helps when the talent level is as impressive as it was at Auburn and Texas during his previous coaching stops, but coaching must play a role in that success as well.

This leads us to the biggest knock on Chizik apart from his star-power, or lack thereof: his abysmal record as head coach of Iowa State. Chizik posted a paltry 5-19 in his two seasons at ISU. I was barely cognizant that ISU had a football team, so I did some digging to find out how Chizik’s run at ISU compared to his predecessor, Dan McCarney. McCarney was beloved at ISU and spent 12 years coaching in Ames. His final win/loss tally: 56-85 (39.7%), with only 5 of his 12 seasons resulting in a win percentage over .500. After his first two seasons, McCarney was 5-17. ISU was McCarney’s first head coaching gig.

These numbers aren’t meant for drawing parallels between McCarney and Chizik, but to show the limitations imposed upon a coach who takes on the task of building a program at the school with the smallest athletic budget in the Big 12.
With a much richer budget and a more attractive pitch than ISU (which shares recruiting ground with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri), Chizik may enjoy more fruitful results. We just won’t know until the man gets here and puts rubber to the road. Of more import is that the wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the Auburn faithful is a bit premature and may turn to Huzzahs upon the announcement of Chizik’s selection of offensive coordinator and/or recruiting coordinator. The entire Tuberville staff has been jettisoned and Chizik has the potential to win the fanbase back with an inspiring OC and fiery recruiters.

So, I ask you, fellow Tigers, have patience and let’s see the entire staff emerge before we storm the castle. Let’s see if Chizik’s success with the defensive unit can translate to success with the entire team, school and fanbase. I won’t ask you to support Jacobs, because I cannot do that myself, but I will reserve judgment on this hire until the results play out on the field.

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