Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Works, doubleplusgood-style


All right, so the 1984 parallels are pushing it a bit. As I said this morning, if we broaden the definition of "smash-mouth" to to the breaking point of simply meaning "running the ball," then yes, actually, Malzahn's offense at Tulsa this season was "smash-mouth," seeing as how it called a higher percentage of runs than most of the SEC. And there's at least a modicum of mouth-smashing, you have to admit, inherent to the Wildcat and its removal of a genuine quarterback from the field.

But ... yeah, I can kind of sympathize with the commentators who caught Malzahn calling his offense "smash-mouth" at his press conference yesterday and heard echoes of the doublespeak Tubby used to explain how his Airraid-schooled offensive coordinator was going to mysteriously run it down people's throats. Commentators like Blutarsky, for instance, or Mr. SEC. If we take "smash-mouth" to mean what it generally means--huge offensive linemen lining up in a three-point stance and barreling over people as the fullback smacks a linebacker in the hole and the NFL-sized tailback follows, lather, rinse, repeat--then no, Malzahn's offense isn't going to resemble a "smash-mouth" offense at all. Both "smash-mouth" teams like Alabama or Wisconsin and Malzahn's Tulsa squads are looking to wear the opponent down physically, but the former do it by being bigger and heavier and simply grinding smaller, weaker opposition into dust; for Malzahn, it's the exact opposite, as his generally smaller teams looks to exhaust the opponent by running so many plays and so many formations that the opposition can't keep up either physically or mentally. Malzahn calling his offense "smash-mouth" is, well ... it appears to be a total sop, a bit of bread-and-circus for Auburn fans who liked the Cro-Magnon cut of Chizik's jib.

But it's a sop I don't really have a problem with. As Blutarsky writes:
If you’ve watched Tulsa play this year, “smash-mouth” is the last phrase you’d use to describe what Malzahn’s running.

But it’s a term near and dear to the hearts of many on the Plains, so expect it to be trotted out for everyone who wants to hear it - just not the recruits. A little talking out of both sides of one’s mouth (and Malzahn’s sat at the feet of one of the masters at that in Graham) won’t bother anyone, as long as Auburn wins.
The problem isn't in the doublespeak. It's when that doublespeak actually indicates a divergence of philosophies, a conflict of priorities--as the Tubby/Franklin tug-of-war certainly did--that it becomes a problem. As long as Malzahn and Chizik aren't experiencing the same butting of heads (and, of course, what Malzahn's selling actually works), it's all doubleplusgood.

More presser reax. The transcript makes for interesting reading, but there's not too much of substance there. If you're wondering at how many D-I programs the head coach's claim he won't "strong-arm" assistants onto his new offensive coordinator's staff would be a noteworthy statement, I'm pretty sure the answer is, sadly, one.

But I do think Chizik's revealing that he was "adamant" that Malzahn be "part of the plan" is interesting, since I think it probably helps explain why he got the job in the first place. Obviously there's no way of knowing who the other head coaching candidates proposed as their hypothetical OC's, but it must be admitted that the candidate who came in and said "I'm going to run the defense the same way I did here four years ago, and then I'm going to go out and hire Gus Malzahn, no questions asked and not taking no for an answer" probably didn't lose any points with that particular vision, either.

Nixed. As you've no doubt heard, Pat Nix is on the outs as Miami's OC after guiding the 'Canes to back-to-back finishes of 89th or lower in total offense and, more recently, what's generally believed to be the worst two-minute drill in the history of college football in Miami's Emerald Bowl loss. With Malzahn safely in at OC, Fear of a Patrick Nix Planet is at a much lower ebb these days, though I'd guess it's more than possible that Nix could come back to the Plains as a quarterbacks coach while he awaits his next coordinator's shot. His interview for the head coaching position and presence on the Pat Dye list of approved coaches means he'll be in the mix. And frankly, it wouldn't be a disaster--as long as he's not calling plays, there's only so much damage he can do, right? On top of that, Nix does have a wealth of experience by now and surely he could handle a simple position-coaching role without bringing the Spread Eagle to its knees.

Than again: Reggie Ball. And more importantly, hiring Nix over someone Malzahn might prefer would be a signal that the Dye-hards really do have an unfortunate say in the matter. As always, all due respect for what Nix accomplished in his time at Auburn, but I'd much, much prefer someone else.

Please. Tony Barnhart on the Andre Smith suspension:
(W)hy is this good for Alabama? It’s good because when the school was faced with an issue it took quick and decisive action. Coach Nick Saban suspended his best player and in the process sent out the word: No one player is bigger than the team and what we are trying to build here.
This is a sentiment I've seen in a few places, the implication being that it takes a forthright disciplinarian like Saban to make a tough decision like this, and that he should be commended.

To which I respond: Sure. Right. Someone correct me if I'm mistaken, but depending on the level of Smith's involvement with the agent, the NCAA could retroactively declare him ineligible and the game forfeited. So we're supposed to congratulate Saban on not throwing the entire team under the bus just so a guy who's clearly on his way to the NFL can enjoy one last dance in the Tide spotlight? Uh, no. Suspending Smith wasn't some kind of brave, noble choice, it was the only choice, and I sincerely believe it's the one that every damn coach in the league. Remember, this is the same coachbot who a year ago suspended D.J. Hall and then unsuspended him at halftime when his team actually found itself in danger of losing. Where were Saban's high-and-mighty principles then? The dude just went 12-1 and came within a quarter of taking a team that was 6-6 the year before to the national title game. I don't see why it's necessary to make up reasons for falling prostrate at his feet when the Tide's season seems like a perfectly legitimate reason all on its own.

Wait, did I just pay Saban a compliment? Oops. As penance, I give you this Saban sweater-centric post at DeepSouthSports, which I have to admit I enjoyed thoroughly.

Not Auburn-related in the slightest, but deeply important to me on a personal level. It looks like the Arrested Development movie would be a go, except that apparently someone is getting too big for his damn britches:
So what of the rumors that new dad Will Arnett and shiny movie star Michael Cera are the only two remaining holdouts?

"I don’t want to talk about who is holding out right now because we might still work that out and I don’t want to pressure anyone through the press," said Hurwitz. "Although I will say that Will Arnett is gung-ho, so there’s a big clue!"
Attention Michael Cera: I've loved you in, like, every single thing you've been in. You taught me that impossible is just the opposite of possible. But if you keep this from happening or let it happen with someone else soiling George Michael's shoes, dude, you are on my permanent sh*tlist. Get it together.

Aaaaaaand finally ... it appears there might be another college football fanbase who hates the New York Times sports section as much as we do.


PowerOfDixieland said...

I've heard that George Michael may have been misquoted, and that what he said was actually kind of in character. I don't remember where I read that, somewhere on the intertubes, but I agree, get your shiznit together, Cera. I don't want to see freaking Zac Efron play your part.

TideDruid said...

I used to try and reason with that DeepSouthSports guy, but his hard-on for all things anti-bama was rather annoying after a while.

As for Andre, it is somehow out there that he could still come back. Of course, not knowing what kind of contact his family had, you can never be too sure. Andre seemed pretty much blindsided, and I know the whole contact with agent thing is pounded into the players heads.

Jerry Hinnen said...

POD: Word.

TD: Oh, Erik at DSS's Saban hate is even more irrational than mine, I'd say. Yeah, I'm not surprised to hear reasoning didn't get you many places.

Smith "coming back" means another year in T-Town rather than coming back for the Sugar Bowl, right? No way that happens. A solid-gold lock for the No. 2 pick in the draft staying in school? That sort of thing hasn't happened since Leinart stuck around, and with all due respect to how awesome it must be to be Andre Smith in Tuscaloosa, it was a hell of a lot cooler to be Matt Leinart in LA, I'm guessing.