Friday, December 19, 2008

Going too far

I'd like to make one last comment on Auburn's hiring of Gene Chizik. Anyone and everyone who has an opinion on the matter has openly criticized the hiring, and I joined in last week.

However, what I was trying to say was not that Chizik was a terrible choice -- I just think that he's a step down from Tommy Tuberville, when there were coaches (Brian Kelly and Mike Leach, specifically) who would have been a step up. Why those coaches weren't considered (or weren't interested) isn't clear, but Auburn seemed content to pick from a mediocre lot of candidates.

A column this week by Pat Forde, who I tend to think is relatively sane in terms of college football analysts, jumps way past that level of criticism and into the realm of ludicrous speed.

Not only does he give Auburn an "F" for the hiring, but he goes on to say that "this has the makings of the worst hire in SEC history."

Really??? The worst hire in the history of the conference? I agree that Auburn could have done better -- keeping Tuberville would have qualified -- but that's just a ridiculous comment.

It's funny how quickly people forget that just two years ago, Chizik was one of the hottest assistants in the country. From 2003-2007, in two seasons as D-coordinator at Auburn followed by two at Texas, his teams' statistical rankings were as follows:

  • 2003: No. 5 in total defense, No. 9 in scoring defense
  • 2004: No. 5 in total defense, No. 1 in scoring defense (Auburn finished 13-0)
  • 2005: No. 10 in total defense, No. 8 in scoring defense (Texas finished 14-0)
  • 2006: No. 22 in total defense, No. 26 in scoring defense

Those are pretty damn impressive numbers. I realize, of course, that not every great coordinator makes a great head coach, but for a guy widely regarded as an up-and-coming star just 20 months ago who is only 46 years old, has been hired for two major coaching jobs and has the track record spelled out above ... I just don't understand how you can go so quickly from that to this:

"The fact that he somehow parlayed a 5-19 record at Iowa State into a job at one of the better programs in the country is astounding ... "

What's astounding is that everything accomplished prior to his time at Iowa State has been completely forgotten. He didn't "parlay" a 5-19 record into anything -- the people in power were just willing to overlook it because they realized that Iowa State is a bad program, one that averaged 4.4 wins per season in the 12 years before Chizik's arrival.

Again, I'm not trying to defend this as a great hire -- Auburn reached past (or was turned down by) several better candidates. But I'm willing to bet that if I looked back at some of the worst hires in the SEC over the last 20 years, this wouldn't even crack the top five. Ask Alabama fans how the Mike Dubose era went -- or you could ask if they even remember the Mike Price era.

The bottom line is this: Just because Chizik didn't improve a bad program doesn't mean he can't maintain a good one.

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