Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
A spirit that is not afraid

Column | Tennessee loss should be last straw for Gus Malzahn

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn looks on following Auburn Footballs 23-9 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Starkville, Miss.
Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn looks on following Auburn Footballs 23-9 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Starkville, Miss.

Gus Malzahn is the man without a plan, only Auburn figured it out one year too late.

After dropping its third SEC game out of four to unranked Tennessee — a team which hadn’t won a conference game in its last 11 tries — at home Saturday afternoon, Auburn fell out of the AP Top 25 for the first time in two years.

And just like that, the season is over for most Auburn fans.

The Tigers entered the season at No. 9 in the country with returning talent across the board, on offense and defense, and hope of building on last year’s SEC West crown.

Instead, Auburn is 4-3, tallying another loss to LSU in which they led by double-digits in the fourth quarter, and back-to-back losses to unranked teams in Mississippi State and Tennessee. Two of those losses also came inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

There aren’t any more excuses left for the $49-million coach.

Rewind to last October. The Tigers had just blown a 20-point lead in Death Valley for their second loss of the season and Malzahn, as he seems to be every other year, was one loss away from losing his job.

But, Malzahn leaned on Kerryon Johnson and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s defense to carry him to an SEC Championship game, only to get run over by Georgia, 28-7.

Auburn then signed Malzahn to a seven-year, $49 million extension, making him the fifth-highest paid head coach in college football. 

The only four coaches that have higher salaries are Nick Saban at Alabama, Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M.

One name doesn’t belong in that upper echelon of college football coaches.

Apart from a fortunate national championship run in 2013, Malzahn simply hasn’t gotten the job done.

He has lost at least four games in each season since his first year at the helm, and has a 1-4 record in bowl games with Auburn. The lone win was against Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl three years ago, which capped a 7-6 season.

The other results include losses in the Outback, Sugar and Peach Bowls. Overall, Malzahn is 49-25 at Auburn.

In fact, since the “Kick Six” victory in the 2013 Iron Bowl, Malzahn in 22-23 against Power 5 opponents.

Six years as a head coach is more than enough time to build your program. Malzahn is in his sixth year and looks as lost as ever.

This year specifically is as bad as its been for the so-called offensive guru. The offense failed to rush for over 100 yards in three straight games for the first time since 1999, and ranks 93rd in total offense, coming in behind Tulane, Connecticut and Temple.

This isn’t a new thing, either. The offensive struggles have been a constant each year since 2014. Whether it was Sean White, Jeremy Johnson or Jarrett Stidham, it didn’t seem to matter. 

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Auburn Plainsman delivered to your inbox

Whether it was Rhett Lashlee or Chip Lindsey, same problems arose. Making more coordinator changes won’t solve the real problem, which is Malzahn himself.

Malzahn has shown over and over again that he will not adjust, and he will not give up on his failing offensive system. 

Auburn was desperate and panicked last year, signing Malzahn to a long-term contract thinking he was the best they could get.

They were wrong and will have to pay over $32 million for him to leave.

Rumblings of a divided locker room and a lack of leadership have begun to surface this week, and with Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama still left on the schedule, the Tigers are in question of even making a bowl game this season.

It’s time to give up on Gus Malzahn.

The head coach said in his postgame press conference after the Tennessee loss that the team still has a "whole lot to play for."

That’s true, but he shouldn’t be a part of it.

Correction: This column originally mentioned former athletic director Jay Jacobs in regards to Malzahn's contract negotiations. Jacobs was not involved in the process, and the article has been edited to reflect that.

Share and discuss “Column | Tennessee loss should be last straw for Gus Malzahn” on social media.