It wasn’t so long ago–right before the ’08 season kicked off–that Auburn fans were praising theiry head coach and arguing that he was the best coach in the SEC. They even argued that he was one of the top 5 coaches in the country. Better even than Nick Saban, they said, en masse.
Just look at his record, they cried. He’s averaged ten wins a season over the past five seasons, won one SEC championship, and beaten cross-state rival Alabama six consecutive years.
Oh, how times have changed. Now those same fans are calling for a change. It seems Tommy isn’t quite the coach they thought he was. Either that or they’re as fickle as the weather.
But the fact is that Tuberville is the same coach now as he’s always been. He’s good–not great. Tommy took a look at where his program was, what they’d accomplished, and decided it was time to make a change. Ten wins a year wasn’t good enough. One SEC championship in his ten-year tenure wasn’t good enough. And yes, they beat Alabama six straight years, but it was an Alabama team crippled by NCAA sanctions, suffering through a gloomy era.
Along came Nick Saban and suddenly the focus changed. People weren’t talking about Auburn’s dominance any more, they were talking about the return of the Tide to prominence. Suddenly Alabama had a stable of stud recruits, had in fact whipped Auburn on the recruiting front, and the future was looking less bright on the Plains. And, worse, in Auburn’s greatest era ever, the Golden Age on the Plains, LSU was suddenly the perennial favorite to win the West. Another team constructed by Auburn arch-rival Nick Saban. And now Nick was busy building a beast in Tuscaloosa. Things were coming to a head.
So Tuberville opted to make the change, betting in his riverboat gambler style that the spread offense was what they needed to get them over the hump and into contention for the SEC or maybe even the BCS championship. He did it because he wanted to score more points, as he pointed out in this press conference:
If we wanted to win eight, nine games, sometimes maybe win 10, we could have stayed with the two-back offense. But it’s hard to consistently pound and pound the ball. People were ganging up on us with eight, nine, 10 people in the box. Last year I can count on one hand how many big plays we had over 15, 20 yards. It’s tough to win just trying to play smash-mouth. Hopefully this offense is going to help us be able to score from long distance a little more often.
And there’s the dirty truth that, in retrospect, might be the death knell for Tubs. He wasn’t content to be in contention every year. He wanted to stir the pot, change things up, score more points, and…still be in contention every year, but with a different offense.
Enter Tony Franklin, to the ecstasy of the Auburn Nation. They racked up 423 yards in his first game, last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, against Clemson, the Auburn of the ACC. But those yards were gained in the hands of a seasoned senior quarterback, a point that Auburn Nation seemed to fail to realize was relevant, until this season, when that same offense was in the hands of JUCO transfer Chris Todd and limp-armed Kodi Burns.
Suddenly, Franklin’s vaunted offense seems frozen in time, unable to complete a pass, and the only success they enjoy comes when they line up in a two tight end, two tailback set, which is so not the spread offense Auburn Nation was promised.
But at this point, Auburn Nation would embrace a return to the days of bruising power football. They’re ready to chuck the “spread eagle,” and Tony Franklin–and maybe even Tommy Tuberville–off the nearest cliff they can find.
That’s a far cry from where we were just six quick weeks ago, when Auburn Nation was praising their head coach as the best in the SEC and one of the top 5 coaches in the entire country. Now, despite a winning record (4-2), it seems the blinds have suddenly been lifted from the eyes of the Aubies and they see Tuberville for his mistakes rather than for his triumphs, or, another way of saying it would be they they see him for the tattered many rather than for the tainted few.
The tainted few, you say? Well, sure. One SEC championship in ten years is a dubious accomplishment. Beating Bama for six straight years while they didn’t even have a full roster…sure, it’s an accomplishment, but again, tainted. And what else has he accomplished in his Auburn tenure? He’s averaged ten wins the past five seasons, and the scrapped the formula that accomplished that impressive feat. Along the way, Tommy’s had some impressive wins, but for every win in the Swamp or victory against Georgia, there’s been a loss against a team they had no business losing to.
And now coacheshotseat.com lists Tommy as the sixth most-likely coach to be fired.
Curiously, in his most recent press conference, Tuberville noted that they would stick with the spread offense, that they were dedicated to making it work, and that they could “see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The day before that press conference, former AU coach Pat Dye had a similar observation in an interview on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network: “You know what’s goin through the Auburn folks’ mind, they lookin’ down the road… There’s a light down there an it’s a freight train comin.”
That freight train is called the Crimson Tide.
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