Chizik key piece of AU’s puzzle, not the staff

The breathless panting after Auburn’s hiring of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is a repeat of the media’s orgasmic reporting over the hiring of Tony Franklin. In today’s Mobile Press-Register, Paul Finebaum called Malzhan a “highly respected offensive coordinator.” On his radio show Tuesday afternoon, Finebaum said the Auburn staff looked “formidable.”

I guess Finebaum didn’t ask Houston Nutt what he thought of Malzahn—Malzahn was a poison on the Arkansas staff. Doubt that? How has Nutt fared without Malzhan (pre-Malzahn and post-Malzahn)? Who could doubt that Ole Miss was the third best team in the SEC this season? Nutt’s team defeated Florida in the Swamp and demolished Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. The lesson? A staff must be of one heart and one mind; a leader must provide that. Nutt’s staff is better without Malzahn. That says more about Malzahn than Nutt.

Malzahn will need to be controlled by a strong leader. Does that sound familiar? Tony Franklin’s personality wasn’t able to be controlled by Tommy Tuberville—Tuberville was the definitive example of hands-off. When you have strong personalities in subordinate positions, it necessitates strong leadership to subjugate individual desires to the corporate purpose.

Franklin couldn’t be subjugated to the greater Auburn good and it wrecked the chemistry of what had been a successful Auburn staff. Tuberville’s hand slipped off the wheel ever so slightly and we all know what happened. The ship heaved-to and lost all its momentum.

Firing Franklin didn’t restore the wind to Auburn’s sails. The ship luffed into the headwinds coming out of Tuscaloosa.

Keeping with the sailing terms, Gene Chizik’s hiring created a mutiny in the Auburn ranks that required seasoned veterans like Pat Dye to come forward and lend their authority to the embattled new skipper. Dye went so far as to throw red meat to Auburn supporters by blaming Auburn’s problems on the great Satan in Tuscaloosa.

There is no doubt Chizik’s title says he commands the Auburn ship. But does he? I’m not pointing to outsiders who meddle like Dye or athletic director Jay Jacobs or boosters. The real test of Chizik’s leadership will be his ability to handle strong personalities in his subordinates.

He failed his first test as a head coach. Odds are he’ll fail at Auburn too. And the coaches he hired only increased the odds of a meltdown. That is unless he rises to the challenge in a tremendous way, and nothing on his resume or in his personality shows that capability. Anyone who genuflects the way Chizik did to get the job is not a leader. He is not powerful; doing obeisance to meddling outsiders isn’t a way to build respect. And what coach can lead without power or respect?