Who would you say is America’s greatest inventor? And I don’t mean today, where the best we can find is some scrub on "Shark Tank" begging for $800,000 to back a tax-filing toothbrush. No, I’m talking about a true technological titan: Tesla. Edison. Maybe even Ben “I have a kite, a key, and a bad idea” Franklin.
In the world of sport, Auburn University once boasted an innovator of its own. He was deemed an “offensive genius” and was responsible for a system as revolutionary to the gridiron as Thomas Edison’s bulb was to living rooms. But unlike the aforementioned visionaries, Gus Malzahn won’t go down in history as a success. His tale will be one of a stagnant inventor, and a coach who wasn’t a coach.
At first, Auburn's returns were better than expected. In his first season, Gus took the SEC’s worst team and a JUCO cornerback to within mere seconds of a national title. It was the greatest turnaround season in Power 5 football history, and the future was supernova-bright. Still, the aftermath of a 21-3 blown lead in the BCS’ title game left the jury out on Malzahn’s true coaching abilities. Everyone knew this guy could coach offense. But could he coach?
Eight years in, we know the answer.
Roster disorganization. Listless bowl games. Staff nepotism. Player regression. Ineptitude on the road. Post-game excuses. Les-Miles-esque clock mismanagement. Fear-based decision making. And a clear and utter failure to live up to Auburn standards. All this was on display in another lackluster performance this month against Texas A&M. We watched, numb, as the all-too-predictable unfolded — our five-star quarterback struggled, there were no in-game adjustments, timeouts went unused (does Gus think these accrue like vacation days?), and we lost a game that we should have won.
It’s true Gus still displayed little creative spurts. He made interesting personnel decisions sometimes. He’d fake out a team with a fourth down formation every once in a while. And it was pretty dang fun watching J.J. Pegues rumble for 11 yards in the flats. But in truth, his once groundbreaking offense became as stale and outdated as a block-phone.
Auburn was left with an innovator who no longer innovates, and now, thankfully, with a coaching vacancy.