Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This sort of explains a lot

Mmmmmm, delicious barbecue. No, I don't bring it up for any particular reason. I just like barbecue and the act of barbecuing. Why do you ask?

The conventional wisdom regarding Auburn's 2008 coaching staff was as simple this: The defensive guys knew what they're doing. The offensive guys, Eddie Gran excepted, did not. This is why the offense was one of the worst in the country and the defense, if not one of the best, was one Auburn fans could be proud of. Now two months or so after those respective staffs were dismissed, that conventional wisdom is still looking pretty airtight, a point driven home by Evan Woodberry's update today on where Auburn's former coaches are now.

Of the five coaches working the offensive side if the ball, not one has signed onto a college coaching staff, and only one--Gran, not-so-coincidentally--has even received so much as a confirmed interview. One of them appears to have left coaching permanently to become a business executive. One is now a high school position coach. The other three are currently unemployed, two without so much as a sniff as far as we know.

Of the four coaches working on defense, one has become a head coach at a Big 12 school. One was hired by the same coach as one of his defensive assistants. A third was retained by Auburn's new defensive-minded head coach. The fourth remains unemployed as of this time but Woodberry suggests he could also be on his way to Ames.

On one side, zero-out-of-5 have landed college jobs since being dismissed. On the other, 3-out-of-4 have, with one of them becoming a head coach. Consider also that three different coaches--Chizik, Rhoads, and Borges--who have worked with Ensminger, Knox, Nall, and Gran--are currently in a position to hire them if they wanted to. None have shown the slightest interest.

Now, some kind of acknowledgment must be made of what these offensive coaches brought to Auburn. Gran, obviously, shares some credit for making Auburn one of the most reliable producers of NFL running backs in the country. For as heat as Nall took, his lines overachieved as often as they underachieved and his work holding together a line that started three true freshmen in 2007 was solid. Whatever else you want to say about them, Ensminger and Knox were on staff in 2004 and deserve at least that much of a tip of the cap.

But given not only how terrible Auburn's offense has been since 2005 but what's transpired for these coaches since they were let go by Auburn, we don't have much choice but to conclude: Gran excepted, these were not good coaches. These were not coaches other SEC programs would employ. Top-to-bottom, this was not the sort of staff that could keep Auburn's offense competitive at the level we expect Auburn to compete at, or even a level or two below that. It was time for Auburn and these coaches to go their separate ways.

Here's the question this discussion begs: if Tubby believed it wasn't time yet, would it have been worth dismissing him, too, in order to keep the anchor of these coaches from weighing down the program any longer? No. They're still just position coaches. But his loyalty to them goes a long way towards explaining why I continue to believe that if Tubby's departure was the wrong thing from so many different standpoints for Auburn, one level it wasn't was the football standpoint. As searingly painful as it was, I firmly believe that in the end, hiring a new coach after the Season of DEATH will have been the best thing for Auburn's football program. That on one side we have Nall, Ensminger, Knox, and the revolving offensive coordinator's chair, and on the other we now have Malzahn, Taylor, and Luper has done nothing to change that opinion.


Deano "aka" Jimmy Joe Meeker "aka" Fat Elvis said...

very interesting my friend. Maybe this post says it all.

Joshua said...

Couldn't agree with you more! Do you think the talking heads around the country will take this info into consideration before blasting AU again for firing Tubby? My guess is no. Thanks Jerry.

Loganville Tiger said...

Very Well Said!! As an offensive team, we slowly fell beyond the realm of mediocrity over time. So slowly in fact that we did not notice it as a whole. We as fans based the poor play on injuries or youth our just plain bad luck. When in fact the coaching on that side of the ball may well have been the root of the problem.


Alex P in Smyrna G said...

Two points, Jerry:

1) The 2005 offense was awesome and ranked 1st in the conference in many statistical areas where the 2004 version was 2nd. However some statistics ticked backwards slightly on an absolute basis, which just means the league's defenses improved. Just wanted to make tht distinction since you point to how bad the offense has been "since 2005". The notion that the offense peaked in 2004 and has been on a decline since is a pet peeve of mine. I think it was thrown around too much and left unquestioned when Borges was let go. IMHO that is.

2) I think Nall is a fine O-line coach...that is as long as he is coaching in a system that fits his mentality and style. If it's three yards and a cloud of the dust you just ground your opponents into with a little play-action slipped in to keep the D honest, then he is excellent (see 2004-2005). If it's a nimble, finesse, spread attack, then not so much.

You are correct that his lines overachieved greatly as much as the opposite, and that the 2007 line was a real credit to him. I always liked that he would rather turn HS D linemen into colleg O linemen because they were more aggressive and tended to have a mean streak, but that aggressiveness doesn't lend itself as well to the spread.

I think he would be a great fit with a HC like Nutt or even Saban given those coach's power running tendencies. I think he's out of the biz just because he's been worn down mentally, not because he is a bad coach. He is just a bad spread coach. But I gotta say he and AU are better off going seperate ways.

Now just b/c it made me chuckle: the word verificatin for my post this time is "bongspor"

Jerry Hinnen said...

Alex P: You're certainly correct about 2005 being better than 2004. I actually stumbled on that line, wondering if "since 2005" meant "starting with 2006" or "starting with 2005" ... in retrospect, I chose [long pause] poorly.

Your take on Nall is mostly correct as well, but it is worth mentioning that the 2003 and 2006 lines badly underachieved for the kind of talent they had on hand. So even when the scheme fit what he was trying to do (the 2003 scheme was partly his, even!) it wasn't all positive for him. But you're right that the switch to the spread was probably harder on him than the other coaches.

Alex P in Smyrna G said...

To clarify point #1 in my post above: I realize the 2006-2008 offenses were atrocious.

HOWEVER, if you look at Brandon Cox's career performance, I think a clear line of delineation can be drawn at the time of his injury in the 2006 LSU game. He was a different QB after that, and CAB may have paid the price.

Another HOWEVER: I can't believe that Blake Field at 100% couldn't have effectively spelled a cripple Brandon. That is all on Al Borges.