Granted Auburn was looking for someone who could fix the offense, so Malzahn looked like a good choice. But, Malzahn mentored under Nutt and Chizik, and Smart mentored under Saban, one of the top college coaches ever. Maybe there was bias regarding Alabama and fear that Smart would bolt for Georgia, but Dye played at Georgia and coached at Alabama too. I, for one, also thought Malzahn was the better candidate at the time. I was wrong. Whoever becomes AD needs to have experience making these types of decisions, not just reaching for a familiar resource.
Those who want Malzahn fired, for the most part, are looking to surpass the 8-win plateau consistently. Besides his first year, there is no evidence Malzahn can surpass this threshold, at least not in the SEC. He has been given all the resources necessary to succeed and succeed on a consistent basis. Instead, it is Malzahn himself and primarily his inability to adapt to game situations which have proven to be his downfall.
No one is expecting a quick fix. A quick fix is not possible. It is going to take years to overcome the mismanagement of the athletic department. The only question is whether you are satisfied with 8-win seasons and losing to rivals every year or your expectations are higher. Are you willing to sacrifice some short-term gain to address the deep-seeded problems in the athletic department?
As much as I dislike Saban personally, he has shown the capacity to change when necessary. For whatever reason, most SEC football coaches do not possess this ability. The list is very long of one-trick ponies who succeeded at a lower level and found brief success in the SEC before crashing and burning. All of them were good coaches. Some of them were good people. The quality that sets a few apart is the ability to modify their approach when the situation calls for it.
As for nepotism, what more odorous example is there than Auburn? Alabama, prior to Saban's arrival. Saban changed the culture. He managed to get a lot of the deadwood out of a department which had struggled to find a replacement for Bryant for nearly a quarter century, repeatedly asking 'How did Bear do it?'. Saban brought in smart people who implemented a smarter approach. This is what so desperately needed at Auburn.
Jay Jacobs was a product of the good ole boy network which has dominated the state of Alabama in general and Auburn's athletic department specifically forever. But, times have changed. Whatever success that archaic model achieved, it is no longer working. Whether Leath can hire an AD who can overcome, I don't know. But, clearly, that is what is called for. Regardless of whether the next AD has Auburn ties or not, they need to have experience running an athletic department at a fairly high level or an NFL franchise, someone who has displayed a toughness and willingness to adopt change irregardless of the pain and turnover it causes. Anything less, and we are going to go down the same path of bumbling, fumbling, and repeatedly pissing away opportunities to succeed. And, the only businessmen which should be considered should be in the business of running an athletic department.