The Chizik method

Published 11:41 pm Friday, January 23, 2009

Here’s a tip for making a good impression the first day as the new boss. Fire everybody. Seriously. Can them all and tell them they are welcome to submit a resume.

Sound bizarre? Not if you are Gene Chizik. It makes perfect sense to him.

The move, made by Chizik over a month ago after accepting the job as Auburn’s new head football coach, came back to bite him in a big, big way this week.

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Linebackers coach James Willis was brought back into the fold after being handed his pink slip and a severance package by Chizik.

Reportedly, the university wanted the severance package back after picking Willis back up.

The short of it is that enough damage was done through Chizik’s mishandling of the situation to make Willis, an Auburn alum, an easy mark for Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, who suddenly found himself in the market for a linebackers coach.

Now, Willis, regarded as one of Auburn’s prime recruiters, will take his talents across the state to the Tigers’ biggest rivals. Ouch.

Chizik has yet to step onto the field for competition and has already suffered his first loss to the arch-rival Crimson Tide.

Now, desperately in need of a win of any kind, Chizik’s brilliance has shown through yet again.

Pop quiz: You have just inherited one of the worst offenses in the conference a year ago to pair with a defense that is losing a handful of key players to the NFL draft. What do you do? OK. Fair enough. There is not enough information to answer the question.

What do you do under those circumstances if you are an overzealous moron who is completely in over his head? Exactly. You refuse to give a scholarship to the punter who booted his way to being third-best at the position in the conference and the 26th-best in the nation.

It’s only logical, right? You have questions on offense and questions on defense — why not shun the guy who averaged 42 yards per kick last season?

Chizik did himself no favors when he let Clinton Durst, a walk-on who had been promised a scholarship by the Tuberville regime, walk away.

Note to Auburn fans: When the offense is backed up next season and the Tigers are in desperate need of a strong kick to flip field position, do not be surprised if the special teams unit fails to deliver.

Or maybe Chizik has just played too much NCAA Football on his 360. Quick, it’s fourth-and-20; what do we do? Uh. Fleaflicker. They’ll never see it coming.

Besides, clearly Chizik and his staff needed the extra scholarship to land another recruit nobody else wanted.

Face it, the guy is absolutely in deeper than he can possibly handle. His record of 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State, a mark that was a dropoff from the program’s 11-13 mark over the previous two seasons, did very little to endear him to Auburn fans who have been spoiled by the success of the suddenly-unemployed Tuberville.

That fact — coupled with the popular perception that athletic director Jay Jacobs passed up more qualified candidates in order to hire Chizik — add up to Auburn’s head man being under a pretty unforgiving microscope.

That’s bad news for Chizik. What’s worse? Another 5-7 campaign on the Plains is not entirely unfeasible.

The Tigers open with West Virginia, a nice christening for the new head coach. The schedule also has him going on the road to face LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia, plus he still has to tangle with the resurgent programs of Ole Miss and Alabama.

But hey, if Chizik can beat Ball State, Furman and Southern Miss while finding a way to stun two other schools on the schedule, he will have doubled his win total as a head coach. You’ve got to have goals, right?

But given the way his tenure in Auburn has started, Chizik may well see a crowd comparable to that of Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony lined up outside Jordan-Hare calling for his dismissal.

Unfortunately for Auburn fans, it is about to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

In such situations as the opposition is entirely overwhelming, most guys would punt. That, apparently, is not a concept that has registered with Chizik just yet.