Let’s 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.
A 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 761.
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. Therefore, why wasn’t his proverbial door bell ringing more?
Maybe, JUST MAYBE, it had something to do with that now legendary video that surfaced of his wife Kristi. I’ll let Kevin Scarbinsky provide the details:
Two days before Auburn lost at Arkansas in October, Malzahn’s wife was the featured speaker at The Summit, a weekly luncheon hosted by Senior Pastor Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark. In a videotaped question-and-answer session with Floyd, she made some controversial comments on various subjects.
On now-suspended running back Mike Dyer: “He has a little bit of an attitude. He carries himself with a little confidence we have to kick around every now and then. But he’s a great kid.”
On former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton: “He is cute. Pretty boy. I love him, but don’t tell Gus.”
On college athletes: “If you’ve worked with 18- to 22-year-old individuals, most of the time they’re not the most intelligent people out there anyway.”
There’s nothing defamatory, and she’s clearly trying to be funny in her comments on Newton, but those aren’t the kind of remarks you usually hear from a coach’s wife. Especially when her husband wants to impress schools in search of a head coach. (AL.com)
I was wondering why Kristi unfollowed me on her Twitter account a few weeks ago and it turns out that she shut it down because of flack from that glorious video. Unfortunately, it’s been taken off of YouTube and I can’t find it on the Summit web site. Trust me, it was just that good.
I’m not saying the powers that be at North Carolina or UCLA are going to grill a head coaching candidate over his wife’s sanity during an interview. But if there’s something floating around that shows that she’s clearly batshit nuts then I’m sure they’re going to take that into account.
With that being said, I’m positive Arkansas State saw the same video. But they’re not going to be NEARLY as selective as a BCS conference school. In Malzahn they have a known commodity who is only a year removed from coordinating the offense for a BCS title team. Big deal if his wife is a nutbag, how many times does a Sun Belt team get that opportunity?
Sure, it’s a pay cut, and in a bad economy it’s hard for folks to fathom a guy willingly taking a decrease in salary. But in Jonesboro he gets to run his offense whatever way he wants to run it. Then, after institutionalizing Kristi, he can get back onto the coaching market in a big way in a couple of years. Hell, makes sense to me.
I still can’t get over the gloriousness that was Jim Harbaugh’s postgame handshake with Jim Schwartz this past Sunday. If you missed it, Harbaugh’s Lions had just escaped with a hard fought 25-19 win over Schwartz’s Lions when all hell broke loose:
There’s so much BLESSED stuff going on in that clip. Did you catch Harbaugh flash his belly at the :23 second mark? That should’ve been our clue that something goofy was going to happen a few seconds later when he got to Schwartz.
Chris Chase of Yahoo! pointed out that Harbaugh could very well have been rubbed the wrong way by Schwartz earlier in the game over a disputed Lions touchdown. Could that have contributed to his exuberance? I’m of the opinion that it could very well have. As for Schwartz, here’s how he explained his own actions:
“I went to congratulate Coach Harbaugh and got shoved out of the way,” he said. “[I] didn’t expect an obscenity at that point … you’re excited and things like that, but I think there’s a protocol that goes with this league.” (Yahoo!)
C’mon, Schwartz, don’t be an asswipe. You prance around the Lions’ sideline like a smug bastard, which means you’re essentially Wayne Fontes with a little more control at the dinner table. Remember, your franchise won’t stop being totally crappy until you guide it to a playoff win. The last Lions coach to do that? The aforementioned Fontes, in 19fucking92.
Turning back to the other player in the saga, it’s well chronicled by now that this wasn’t the first time that Harbaugh has experienced some postgame goofiness with an opposing coach. The following clip was from back in 2009 when his Stanford Cardinal team had just finished dispatching USC:
Carroll was more than a little butthurt that Harbaugh had gone for a 2-point conversion with 6:47 to play…when Stanford was up by 27. But let’s not pick on just one guy here. No, there are plenty of others who’ve put quality entries into the Pantheon of Horrible Sports Handshakes. From all the way back in 1995, here’s Rutgers coach Doug Graber getting the redass with Penn State’s Joe Paterno for, you guessed it, running up the score:
The Pantheon also includes this gem from a few years back, when Lee Corso tried to shake A BLIND KID’S hand before the start of the Rose Bowl:
My personal favorite in the Pantheon? This mother effing GLORIOUS attempt at a handshake between Kevin Love and Wes Johnson of the Timberwolves last season:
I’m amazed that more brawls don’t break out during postgame hockey handshakes, as was the case when North Dakota faced off with Minnesota in 2008:
Texas head coach Mack Brown had a fascinating take on postgame handshakes during yesterday’s Big 12 weekly coaches teleconference:
“I’ve been a proponent of not shaking hands after the game for a long time. Some coaches don’t like each other to start with, so you have to walk down there and tell him ‘good luck’ before the game, and you don’t want to. After a game, some guy may have run up the score, (or) some guy gets beat on the last second. I have felt for a long time those TV cameras love it because they run and get right in the face hoping somebody’s going to mess it up.”
EXACTLY, Mack, l’m hoping you get into a midfield brawl with Art Briles or Tommy Tuberville in front of multiple cameras. Hell, we’re all like that guy from “Superbad,” we’re PRAYING to see a fight:
Before you read the details about my emotional roller coaster ride this past Saturday, let me first share what my thoughts were regarding Auburn’s chances coming into this season. In a nutshell, when you lose more starters than ANY other team in the nation, including the Heisman AND Lombardi winners, things aren’t going to be altogether smooth the following year.
So I knew full well going into Auburn’s opening day tilt with Utah State that the team would experience some growing pains in 2011. Still, I thought there would be enough juice to beat the Aggies by, oh, 17ish points to start the campaign off on the right foot.
As we all know now, I was horribly wrong. But a few minutes into the game, before the upset alert was sounded, I was still pretty damn calm and rational. I can prove it because not even an Auburn game can make me give up my addiction to Twitter:
I didn’t get that upset when Utah State went up 7-0. That’s because Auburn answered with a nifty 56-yard catch and run by Emory Blake to knot it up. But then Utah State tacked on two straight scores to go up 21-7. Keep in mind they were doing so with the aforementioned true freshman, Chuckie Keeton, making his first start at quarterback. If you were on Twitter, you could actually read my discomfort starting to set in:
Now let me point out the fact that I usually strive to be an enlightened sports fan who doesn’t let the trials and tribulations of my team get the best of me. Usually. You see, despite my resisting it, even I can become that surly bastard who starts looking for someone to blame:
The tweets above were me blaming the defense. Here’s the part where I started getting irked with the offensive coordinator who happens to be coming off of a season in which he won the Broyles Award:
Yup, a shaky season opening half from Auburn against a WAC team is apparently all it takes for me to start channeling my inner asshole. And my shenanigans kept on going in the third quarter, despite Auburn having come back to take a 28-24 lead:
At that point in the game I had blamed players and coaches, so shit, why not start blaming other people on Twitter?:
So how did I take it when Auburn’s lead dissipated in the 4th quarter? Naturally my irritation shifted to desperation, and people actually started worrying about me:
Hey, that’s a funny joke @IdrinkJAGER made right there. But I was too despondent to laugh:
So let’s again run down the people I had blamed up to the point where Utah State took a 38-28 lead with a scant 4 minutes left in the game: Auburn players, Auburn coaches, assholes on Twitter. That’s when I added God to the list:
That last one makes me guilty because right when it seemed like all hope was lost, God intervened. How else do you explain Barrett Trotter leading Auburn straight down the field to cut it to 38-35, the subsequent onside kick being perfectly executed and Michael Dyer punching in the winning score with :45 seconds left?
Talk about a wild ride. So how did I process yet another Auburn comeback? With vulgarity, naturally:
As for the rest of the season, I’m sure it will result in me bottoming out several more times. But you can take pleasure in my pain by following me on Twitter. That’s because even when I sink to my lowest depths, I’m still good for a dick joke or three.
June Jones is a lot more awesome than you’ve ever given him credit for. Look, I’m not implying that you’re an asshole for not having grasped this concept before now. On the contrary, you’re actually taking the time to read my site, so in my estimation you’re like the exact opposite of an asshole (whatever that may be).
So don’t get defensive, I’m just singing the praises of a guy for whom more praise should’ve been sung a long time ago. Here’s why:
1. This glorious picture
In the pantheon of great hair/goatee combos, June Jones’ statue should be right beside that of Kenny Powers:
I suspect that back in 1979, when that glorious picture was taken, Jones was frequently mistaken for being a member of Electric Light Orchestra. It’s only fitting that he spent his NFL career being a backup quarterback because having to don a helmet would’ve ruined his entire look.
3. Dude got in Jeff George’s face
Let’s be brutally honest, Jeff George might have been the biggest insufferable shit the NFL has ever seen (well, in the non-Bill Romanowski Division, at least). After being drafted first overall by Indianapolis in 1990 he spent the next four seasons leading that franchise to a 14-35 record.
After that, it was June Jones who picked George up off the scrap heap and put him in charge of his Run and Shoot offense in Atlanta. The result? George was able to revive a dying career with a 3,734 yard/23 TD effort in 1994 followed up by a 4,143 yard/24 TD showing in 1995.
So how did George see fit to repay Jones? By arguing with him on the sidelines during a 33-18 loss to the Eagles on September 22, 1996. That’s right, in full view of a nation full of football fans. Jones reacted by suspending his ass for the rest of the season. In my book, any guy who forced George to sit out nearly a whole season is a great American.
3. The guy came back from nearly being killed
While coaching Hawaii in 2001, Jones wrapped his car around a concrete pillar near the Honolulu International Airport. He suffered head injuries, internal bleeding, a bruised liver and, get this, a TORN AORTA. How ugly was that crash? Bad enough that news outlets were writing his obituary:
Meanwhile, the two local papers prepared for the worst. “Everybody was getting together special sections because they thought he had died,” says UH beat reporter Stephen Tsai of the Honolulu Advertiser. (ESPN the Magazine; October 1, 2001)
In the decade since he nearly lost his life, Jones has fashioned an 80-51 record at two non-BCS stops (Hawaii and SMU), and keep in mind that includes a 1-11 record when he took his lumps during his first season at SMU. Now that is friggin’ coming back strong.
4. He took Hawaii to a BCS bowl
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can already predict your reaction, which is something along the lines of Hawaii having been about as deserving of a BCS bowl bid in 2007 as I am of winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2011. But whether that team was worthy or not is kinda beside the point in this context.
This is Hawaii, a school with a thin local recruiting base that’s stuck out in the middle of the Pacific. In the three seasons before Jones arrived, the program had a combined record of 5-31. So you see that with all things considered that Sugar Bowl appearance was pretty damn impressive.
5. He put the paddles on the chest of SMU football
By now, even the youngest of bucks who were born in the early 90’s has seen the “30 For 30″ feature on SMU and knows the program went belly up in the 80’s. So with that you cats who just became legal drinkers finally had a back story as to why SMU became such a woeful afterthought in college football.
But seeing Mustang football die like that was strange to those of us who actually witnessed the program’s Pony Express glory days. It really was a death penalty in every sense of the term. Since football returned to SMU in 1989, the program has had SEVEN seasons of one or fewer wins.
Jones was responsible for one of those 1-win seasons after he took over for Phil Bennett in 2008. But since then he’s done the unthinkable in leading SMU to three postseason appearances (two bowls and one C-USA title game). Folks, this is a reclamation project on par with what Bill Snyder engineered at K-State back in the 90’s. How blessed is that?
You’d be a silly sort of douchebag to argue that Butch Davis isn’t a good football coach. He first stepped into the national conscience as part of the Jimmy Johnson staff that revived the fortunes of a Cowboys franchise that was on life support in the late 80’s.
He then picked up the pieces of a Miami program that was in disarray and used that as a springboard to jump back into the NFL, this time as head coach of the Browns. He came back to the college game and appeared to have North Carolina on the precipice of something great before a whirlwind of scandal finally did him in earlier today.
His failure to build a championship program in Chapel Hill when it appeared he was on the verge of doing so pretty much sums up his career. He’s a very good coach who just hasn’t been able to take the next step into being great.
Davis’ tenure with the Browns provided a nice tease for that fan base when the team earned a playoff berth in his second year on the job. But he was eventually forced to resign with an overall record of 24-35.
But it was his time in Miami that provides the cruelest example of what I’m talking about. He spent six years building the program’s swagger back up after the NCAA had kicked its teeth in. His final team in Coral Gables ended up finishing 11-1 and ranked #2 in the polls.
After Davis left for Cleveland and handed the keys over to Larry Coker, Miami returned to its championship ways by fielding what was arguably the most talented team of the last 20 years. Davis laid the groundwork but it was Coker who ended up accepting the trophy.
When I look at the totality of the Davis’ career I’m reminded of the lyrics from that crappy 80’s song by Howard Jones, “No One Is To Blame”:
“You’re the fastest runner but you’re not allowed to win.”
However, with this latest chapter now closed, it’s hard for me to paint Butch Davis as a victim of circumstance who’s always been blocked by cosmic forces bent on keeping his hands off crystal footballs. After all, he consciously hired John Blake to be part of his staff at North Carolina.
Think of it this way: if you bring Wile E. Coyote into your organization, stuff’s gonna get blown the eff up, usually by means of explosive devices purchased from Acme. That’s just what the guy does.
In the case of Blake, if you bring him onto a coaching staff, you’re going to get a guy with a deft recruiting touch. You’re also getting a guy with a reputation for being a loose cannon (ask Michael Irvin or Troy Aikman) who worked for two college regimes (those of Barry Switzer and Jackie Sherrill) that were brought down by allegations of cheating. Not playing by the rules? In the aftermath of the scandal at UNC, we can all see that is exactly what John Blake does.
So when I look back over Butch Davis’ latest failed attempt to hoist the hardware that seemingly lesser contemporaries such as Les Miles already have, I’m reminded of a line from the seriously underappreciated flick “The Contender”:
“Who doesn’t want a shortcut to greatness?”