I look at a football regular season kind of like a war with 12 battles. The Tigers have lost two battles, which is hard to take and frustrating. I have been exactly where Coach Malzahn is and I know what he is feeling from a standpoint of there being pressure to win. He has to handle it in his own way and then live with the results. As a head coach you have to make tough choices at times like these and you get the best input you can from your players and assistant coaches and try to make the right decisions.
When I was coaching at East Carolina we started a season 2-3 and everybody was frustrated, but we got the ship righted and won 16 in a row, including some wins that were monumental for East Carolina against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
We had a similar situation when I was coaching at Auburn in 1984 when we were rated way too high considering the players we had coming back and the schedule we had to play. We lost the opener to Miami and then lost to Texas. Both were really outstanding teams.
Bo Jackson got hurt against Texas, but we won six in a row and came back and had a respectable year. We had a chance to win the conference championship if we had beaten Alabama because Florida was unbeaten in the conference, and the Gators beat us, but they ended up having to forfeit the games that season because of probation.
I know what the current Auburn players and coaching staff are going through right now. If I could give Coach Malzahn any advice it would be this is the time to circle the wagons. The only ones who can do something about it are the players and coaches so their total focus needs to be on getting ready to play a really talented LSU team this weekend.
It’s the head coach’s assignment to make smart decisions on what changes need to be made on offense or defense that will help his team to win. There are no guarantees that if you do make changes that it won’t make things worse. It certainly isn’t any fun to be in the position he is now, but when you sign on for the responsibility as a head coach tough decisions come with the job.
I said it before the season, and I have not changed my opinion--I like this Auburn football team, both the players and staff. I don’t think the Tigers are far off from having a team that can compete with the best in the SEC and have a chance to beat any of them.
I don’t know what is going to happen in the weeks to come, but I do know that the best chance for success is to not make excuses or point fingers about what is going wrong. That fragments a team. The best thing is for the players and coaches to work together and be ready to play their best football of the season on Saturday night vs. LSU.
As a player and coach, winning was always very important to me and we would all love to win every game, but for me what I would really like to see is the team perform at a level that when the players walk out of the stadium on Saturday night that everybody is proud to be an Auburn man. You don’t have to win to do that. The way the Tigers play the game with their effort and intensity can send a message to the people that come to watch. I hope the players and coaches cherish the opportunity they have to get back on the field to face a strong opponent like LSU and play with a spirit that is not afraid like it says in the Auburn Creed.