I’m Sorry Coach

We think Coach Chizik has done one hell of a job.

Thinking about Auburn’s situation 3 years ago and our coaching hire, I was not far removed from the fan that booed Jay Jacobs as he emerged with our new Coach Gene Chizik.    Now as he begins his 4th year on the Plains I thought it was worth taking a look at his first three years to see where we are as a program.

First, let me say I was wrong.  On a lot of accounts.  My logic was sound but there were obviously things there I failed to see.

What has Chizik actually accomplished in three years:

1) National Championship.  The magnitude of this can’t be denied.  Pat Dye tried in vain for 12 years.  Tommy Tuberville came close but had no cigar to show.  Shug Jordan only managed it once.  Some of us honestly thought we’d die without ever getting the chance to witness a national title at Auburn.  Now we won’t.

2) Exceeded expectations every single season.  In looking back I saw where columnist after columnist predicted Auburn would lose to Louisana Tech in Chizik’s opener.  Most observers felt that if he could just limp into a bowl game he would have made significant strides.  With basically the same cast of characters that had fizzled in Tommy Tuberville’s last season, Auburn not only beat LA Tech, but went on to win eight games, including the bowl.   His second season?  Championship.  Chizik’s staff gets full credit for bringing in top recruits who could help right away and also for turning players like Nick Fairley into NFL-ready specimens.  Last year, when every talking head in the world pointed at a four or five win season, Chizik’s Tigers still won eight games.    The only negative is that in both his first and third seasons, Chizik went 0-6 against the teams he absolutely must beat at least half the time — Alabama, Georgia and LSU.  Those three are the meat.  Everything else is gravy.

3) Changed the face of Auburn recruiting.  Bitter disappointment over an 11th ranked class, a class which could vault into the Top Five if some of the remaining stragglers choose to come to Auburn?  That’s where we were on Wednesday.  Some, not all, were near suicidal over a class that met Auburn’s needs and brought in a talented group of players who fit the Auburn mold.  Even Chizik seemed less than upbeat.  How many two star players did Auburn sign on Wednesday.  For the second year in a row, none.  It will take time to build Auburn’s recruiting into a national juggernaut.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that Wednesday was a roadblock, it was merely another step on the right path.

4) Unified the Auburn family.  Who would have believed that Chizik could have brought a fractured fanbase together particularly when you consider how his hiring was initially received.  Throughout Tommy Tuberville’s entire 10-year tenure at Auburn there were two fairly distinct camps. The divisiveness reached as far as the Auburn administration, which never seemed to be on the same page as the football coach.  That division no longer exists.  The vast majority of fans, even those who were aghast at his hire, are on board.  The task is much easier when everyone pulls in the same direction.

5) Weathered the storm.  Chizik was calm and collected during the entire Cam Newton saga, the subsequent investigation and the media crucifixion of everyone associated with the program including Newton, the athletic department and Chizik himself.  He was resolute in his support for the team, steadfast in his support of Newton and never wavered in the face of relentless media attacks.  Not only did Chizik and the team endure, it thrived amidst that pressure to deliver the ultimate crystal “Forget You”

6) No Nonsense.  Unlike others in this state, Chizik has shown no weakness when it comes to discipline.  It doesn’t matter who you are, you don’t get suspended for a half and reactivated if things go badly.  Would a player like Eric Smith have helped the transition on the field in 2011?  Of course.  But he was not a part of the team.  Would Mike Dyer be a leading candidate for SEC Player of the Year and a possible entry in the Heisman discussion had he returned for his junior season?  Absolutely.  He’s in Arkansas now, a year away from seeing the field again.

You can’t argue with the results so far.

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