Tuesday, July 27, 2010

family conversations, 2010 version, part 2

Welcome back to "Family Conversations," a running series in which my cousin's husband (cousin-in-law?) Jamie — an avowed Auburn fan — and I trade emails about things related to Auburn, 'Bama and SEC football in general. We started the ball rolling last week; we're not claiming to be experts, just two guys who follow their teams way too closely. As always, feel free to comment, or visit my twitter and argue there.

will: You've had a year to see Gus Malzahn on a week-in, week-out basis. Thoughts? And don't hold back.
Jamie: I have seen enough of Gus Malzahn to be damn glad he's coaching my team. I love the balance (212ypg rushing 219ypg passing) and I love the rhythm of the offense. I found myself yelling things such as "Spot the ball", "Faster, Faster, Faster" "Snap it, Snap it". I am a believer pure and simple. He had one year to take the worst offense this side of 1998 and become semi-explosive. However Gus' first year at AU did not come without mistakes. When a NASCAR driver makes a run at the leader and doesn't quite make the pass, he has to back off and cool the tires down to go for another run. Sometimes I feel like Gus could have cooled his tires a bit instead of going Cole Trickle on every turn. Field position is golden. Don't chance it by running slow developing bootlegs against a fast, blitzing defense (Chris Todd meet Rolondo McClain).

Bottom line though is the guy knows offensive football. I am very excited to see what he can do having yet another running threat touching the ball every play. If Cam can keep defenses honest with his arm, this could be a might potent offense.

will: Give me three non-Auburn/Bama games you'd like to see this season. Sky's the limit.
Jamie: (1) West Virginia @ LSU - Not so much for the football, but getting these two fan bases together will surely produce some of the most creative ways to tell someone to go F*** themselves. I'd say keep the women and children at home but who am I kidding? I have been cursed by an elderly lady and flipped off by a 10 year old all in a 10 min walk to Tiger Stadium. This will be BY FAR the biggest collaboration of scum to ever meet in one place. The language used in this 2 mile radius would make George Carlin blush.
(2) Texas @ Texas Tech - The first real game for Tommy Tuberville at Tech. Kinda like having an ex girlfriend. You like the new girl you have been dating therefore, you want the best for your ex. If you were still single and you saw your ex dating someone else, you might be a little jealous. At this point, I wish the best for my ex, but I don't want my ex to get married before me. (Married - Ring, get it?)
(3) Ga Tech vs anyone - because I friggin love ($ to Ron Burgandy) watching that dad gum offense.

will: What are your thought on Agent Armageddon? Do we have a chance?
Jamie: Nick Saban is dead on here. Why does the agent not get punished? Pull his liscense for a year with no residual income from his current clients. Someone should probably write a memo statement.

Jamie: Rank the SEC schools in terms of easiest places to have a winning program.
will: This is kind of a cheap answer, but it's typically "easier" — in terms of visibility, etc — to win at a state school (Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia). Some Auburn folks don't believe me, but in the little I've traveled out of state, most folks have no idea where Auburn even is. For Auburn alums who live in such places, it's like a really cool secret. Which is fine and all, but it makes it harder to recruit. So the state schools are "easier," with Mississippi and South Carolina among the least of that group.
(Note: Why South Carolina can't win is one of the great mysteries of all-time to me. They meet the criteria of a state school, have a good stadium that's always full and a rabid alumni base willing to spend money. And yet they're 8-5 even in their best years. You figure it out.)
Auburn and Mississippi State are slightly behind that curve — this is a matter of percentage points, obviously — with Kentucky and Vanderbilt in the rear (and only because of the natural obstacles — basketball and academics — in their way).

Jamie: What is the general feeling of Nick Saban's legacy at Alabama? Rented winner or beloved leader?
will: This is an interesting question because, in a way, it speaks to our society as a whole.
A brief history: One of the main reasons Bill Curry fled Tuscaloosa in 1989 — and he did flee; he wasn't "fired" as is popularly remembered (a good look at his tenure came out recently on tidesports.com) — was the pressure that came about because he wasn't "an Alabama man." It's a common sentiment: I remember after Terry Bowden's ouster at Auburn, he gave an interview in which he was asked what it meant that he was "never an Auburn man." And he shrugged. "I don't know."
I'm saying this because I'm not sure it matters anymore. Coaches switch sides so often that fans are almost numb to it; in 2004, when Tommy Tuberville was celebrating a 13-0 season with the Auburn Family, nobody said, "Wait — he's from Arkansas! He's not a REAL Auburn man!"
The same, I think, is true for Nick Saban. Do I think he's "loyal" to Alabama? He seems to genuinely like it here; he likes the kids he's coaching; his wife and daughters seem happy; he certainly enjoys his paycheck. But there's a different kind of loyalty between that and what coach Bryant felt — Bryant believed he owed something to his bosses, not the other way around.
As an Alabama fan, I love him because I love watching his teams play football, because his mentality mirrors mine as a fan ... and because our program wins and wins with class (it's dangerous territory here, but the off-field incidents have virtually disappeared since Jimmy Johns' infamous '08 crack arrest). Would it be better if he were "an Alabama man?" I guess. But there's really no such thing anymore.

As for my own follow-ups ..
• 2004 Auburn or 2009 Alabama? And be as big a homer as you want.
• Turning the tables, how will Auburn fans remember Tommy Tuberville? And, looking back, would you rather have the decade Tuberville had at Auburn (one great year, mostly ordinary) or Mark Richt's UGA decade (a string of 10-win seasons, but never quite got over the hump)?

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