For the seventh game in a row Auburn could not get out of it's own way taking two steps backwards for every positive step gained. Whether it is a missed tackle, penalty or turnover, Auburn has found a way to self-destruct, which points to a poorly prepared and coached team. Though the game was competitive and went down to the wire, one should not lose sight of the level of competition faced this Saturday. This Auburn team lost to a 2-4 Vanderbilt team that did everything it could to give away the game as the Tigers have slowly transformed into one of the worst teams in school history. Other than special teams, is there a position on this team performing better since the start of the season? Even during a losing season, a team can actually improve in some aspects but it would be difficult to make a case here in regards to Auburn.
At 1-6 on the season, Auburn could still become bowl eligible but the odds of this happening are as good as me winning the lottery and I don't play the lottery. You have to hate it for the young men that suit up to play the game because they are simply a byproduct of a failed system for the most part. One could argue at the end of the day, the players are responsible for execution but persistent poor execution is often the result of poor preparation and coaching. In some areas the youth movement has been the culprit for poor performances but should this be an issue in year No. 4 of the current coaching staff? I have no doubt the coaches have worked diligently to resolve some of the problems but it doesn't mean the solutions implemented are the right ones. This team did not fall apart overnight for it took several years to get to where they are now.
Sometimes a team must bottom out before they can expect to rise up again and I fear this is the case for the 2012 Auburn Tigers. We will likely see continued personnel changes but it won't likely make much difference until development and schematic issues are addressed. It's equivalent to placing a band aid on a gunshot wound. You have to win to develop a winning environment and the same can be said about losing. Once a team develops poor habits and begins to lose, its often difficult to pull out of the tailspin. The concern now falls upon a coaching staff that steered this team into the wrong direction and might not possess the ability to take control again. In reality, we are seeing the final product on the field but have been blind to the issues behind closed doors.
Inside the Numbers...
* During the 2009 season, Auburn completed 10 TD passes on first down during 13 games. In Auburn's last 20 games, the Tigers have thrown just one. Auburn's current pass-rating on first down is 14th best over the past 21 seasons.
* Auburn currently has a pass-rating of 81.3 on third down, the worst rating by an Auburn offense over the past 20 years.
* Though Cassanova McKinzy had a solid performance in his first start, Daren Bates had his least productive game this season. With Bates making the majority of calls this week, it's possible the extra responsibility might have slowed Bates productivity just as it did for Jake Holland.
* 80 Percent of Clint Moseley's pass attempts were within 10-yards of the line of scrimmage against Vanderbilt. Though he completed 11 of his 13 passes on first and second downs, he averaged only 5.2 yards per attempt.
* Auburn's defensive line accounted for a season low, 8.7 percent of the team's tackles. The previous low was 18.8 percent against Arkansas.
* Once again, Auburn lost the tackle for loss battle with 10 tackles for loss on offense and only 4 on defense. During their last 18 games, Auburn has won the TFL battle only 2 times.
* Prior to today, Auburn had compiled a 27-3 record since 1992 with a plus-3 turnover margin, including 13 straight victories.
* During the first 4 games of the season the Auburn defense had allowed 6.5 impact plays (15-yds or more) per game. During their last 3 games, they are allowing 9.7.
* Auburn's offense has either a turnover or loss of yardage every 5.6 snaps.
* Since 1992, Auburn's TD percentage inside the red zone is 60.4 percent. This season, Auburn's TD percentage inside the red zone is 29.4 percent, the lowest percentage during this time period.
* Prior to Gene Chizik inserting himself in the play-calling on offense, Auburn went "3 & out" 25 percent of the time. They are now going "3 & out" 40 percent of the time.
* The last time an Auburn had only 1 offensive series that netted at least 30-yards during a game was the 2008 Alabama game.
* Corey Lemonier has 1 tackle during the last 2 games.
* The secondary has been responsible for 49.7 percent of the team's tackles this season. Against Vanderbilt, the secondary accounted for 62.3 percent, a season high.
* Since Clint Moseley has replaced Kiehl Frazier, 52.5% of his pass attempts have been within 5-yards of the line of scrimmage. With Frazier as the starter, 48.5 percent of his pass attempts were intermediate to long range attempts, compared to Moseley's 25.5 percent.
A 1-6 start will definitely open the door for staff changes for 2013 but how bad does it have to get to make a complete change? For those making that decision, the question should not be whether or not Gene Chizik should be retained but whether or not they believe Chizik can turn the program around. I believe it's imperative that Chizik produce a short-term yet detailed plan on how he would correct Auburn's issues before considering his future as Auburn's head coach. The concern is not the current state of the program but how it arrived here. Before anything can be repaired a sound diagnosis must be completed to determine the correct solution.
This is my fear of retaining Coach Chizik at this point. Though I believe his intent to build the program into a contender was present, all of Auburn's shortcomings fall upon his feet. If he was too short sighted in the first place to recognize he was losing control of the program, how can we now expect him to find his way? If you were the victim of a botched surgery, would you allow the same doctor to correct his mistakes or seek the assistance and guidance of another surgeon? This is not about whether or not Gene Chizik is a good man but whether or not he is the right fit to lead Auburn's football program. He brought Auburn a national championship and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts. He was also paid to maintain a high level of consistency, something he has failed to accomplish.
If the decision is made to retain Coach Chizik but with major changes to his current staff, what are the odds of him making home run hires with 4-5 new coaches? What assistant coach would be willing to step into a situation, where it could be a one and done situation if the team struggles again in 2013? Money can be a huge motivator but established or proven assistants also want job security and the comfort of knowing that they will be given time to make all the needed repairs and changes. This could be an obstacle difficult to overcome with a lame duck in place at head coach. Again, taking this option would require the assurance that Gene Chizik truly recognizes the team's primary issues and how to address them. Is there anything in his work history that would indicate he can do this?
At this point, the team can only play for pride the remainder of the season but it's obvious certain folks will need to come to an important decision regarding Auburn's future. I'm grateful I don't have to make that decision because there are no guarantees on any decision made. I've seen enough Auburn football in my lifetime to know that Auburn can and will overcome this season with or without Gene Chizik calling the shots. This thought alone brings some comfort but until changes are made, it will be difficult to be excited about Auburn football in its current state. You don't have to be an expert or coach to know this isn't close to Auburn football and the players are deserving of better leadership. As fans all we can do right now is support the players as they continue to battle through this nightmare of a season.