No, seriously. Is Gene Chizik the most overrated head coach in the college game today?
I know – it seems like a ridiculous proposition to question whether the 2010 Coach of the Year who led the Auburn Tigers to a National Championship is overrated. Less than two years ago he was on top of the world, and now I’m wondering if he’s getting a little too much credit.
Let’s go back in time a little bit.
Before Chizik was a head coach, he was an elite defensive coordinator. This is absolutely true, and there’s no way anyone can deny that.
As the defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2002 to 2004, he led some of the stingiest and toughest defenses in the country. Auburn gave up 11.3 points per game in 2004, as Auburn went 13-0, getting screwed out of a National Championship berth. Chizik even won the Broyles Award, given to the top assistant coach in the nation.
Chizik then left to coordinate the defense of the Texas Longhorns from 2005 to 2006, and the Longhorns won the 2005 National Championship.
Obviously, the Longhorn defense wasn’t too bad that year.
So we see, the man can coordinate defense. But what about being the top dog? Leading the whole team, and not just the defense?
After Texas, Chizik got his first head coaching opportunity at Iowa State. What a complete and utter failure.
Chizik spent only two years in Ames, and he went 3-9 and 2-10; but surely his defense must have been good, right? In his last year at Iowa State, the defense was 111th out of 119 in total defense, 95th in rushing defense and 115th in passing defense. The man who would replace Chizik, Paul Rhodes (ironically coming from the defensive coordinator position at Auburn), won more games in his first season after Chizik left (6), than Chizik won in his entirety (5).
So if you’re a head coach at a BCS program and you win 5 games in two years, you’re on the hot seat, right? You are probably going to be fired, and return to a coordinator position, and your days being the head man are probably finished, right? Now hear this…
At this time Tommy Tuberville is getting ousted at Auburn – wrongfully, I might add – and one of the top coaching jobs in the country opens up. Naturally, the coach who won 5 games at a BCS school must be the most qualified man for the job, right? Well, apparently the brass at Auburn actually believed so.
Chizik went 8-5 with a bowl win in his first season at Auburn, which was the most success he had ever had as a head coach up to that point. Granted, it was all with Tuberville’s players, but still.
Then the stars aligned (and maybe some wallets opened up) and the Auburn Tigers had Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. The Tigers go 14-0, defeating the Oregon Ducks for the National Championship. Newton wins the Heisman Trophy, Fairley won the Lombardi Award. The impact that the two players had on their team simply cannot be measured.
Newton and Fairley leave, and Auburn is right back at 8-5. More mediocrity.
Now Chizik is coaching an Auburn team without a star quarterback, without a freak athlete in the middle of your defensive line, and he’s without mad scientist offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who left to coach Arkansas State.
How’s Auburn doing this season? 1-4 with an 0-3 conference record, including a loss to Arkansas, who was the coldest team in the country when they played.
Take away his 14-0 record in 2010, Chizik is 22-33 as a head coach in his career.
Without Newton, Fairley and Malzahn, it’s easy to speculate that Auburn would not have gone 14-0 and won a national championship. By now, with a consistently mediocre career like Chizik’s at an elite program like Auburn, he would be gone.
Granted, the losses this year are to teams that started the season in the top 25.
But isn’t that what national championship-caliber coaches do? Step up to the challenges and win anyway? Think Nick Saban would EVER start a season off 1-4?
I have a lot of respect for Chizik, and think he’s an OK coach. I know how difficult it is to win a title, even when you have talent like Newton and Fairley. It’s difficult keeping a team together and focused all season long to not lose a game.
But do I think he’s the most overrated head coach in the country? You bet I do.