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Final Grades are in….

January 5, 2010

With the final-final-final celebration done at the Outback Bowl, and your 2009 Auburn Tigers finishing with 8 wins and 5 losses, it is time to “grade” the coaching staff. With a win percentage in the low 60’s that would translate in most public school settings to a “D” (or even a minus). Given how abysmal last year’s results were, it didn’t seem fair to label Coach Gene Chizik’s inaugural effort with such a poor letter grade. Right?

Well, results have to speak for themselves and just like each of us probably stayed up all night for several nights in a row for a final exam, if the end grade was anything other than an “A”, you were probably disappointed. That disappointment however didn’t change the final result and the result was based upon a “right or a wrong” answer in most cases. True, some exams were more subjective in nature, but even then you either knew what the professor wanted to see and gave it to them, or you didn’t. Your final grade in those matters probably reflected the same.

This just in…..Jerry has graded the offensive coaches and while I agree with the verbiage, I don’t think the letter grades quite match the production. It will be interesting to see how he grades the Defense and Special Teams.

As Coach Pat Dye once told me, “son if we graded effort, even Vandy would be an A+ team.”

So how did Joe Auburn grade the coaches? Well, the formula will be listed below, but in summary we used the SEC rankings in 31 different categories. Obviously, position coaches were only graded against those categories which were relevant, but head coach Gene Chizik’s grade was accumulated against all categories. If you’re the head guy, you have to be accountable and responsible for ALL the comings and goings on your team. We used the SEC and only 2009 because for starters, trying to compare against last year, or any year previous was just silly. There isn’t an apple to apple comparison to be found. We used the SEC for consistency and to have a measuring stick, and since we play in the SEC that seemed the most fair.

And now for the head of our class:

B (84%): Trooper Taylor, Wide Receivers Coach. Coach Taylor was more than just a smiling face with a mean chest bump and whirling towel. He produced the most underrated WR in the nation with Outback Bowl MVP Darvin Adams and helped turn T-Zach into a end-running machine. True, we saw nothing of much heralded recruits, Kodi Burns never really learned how to consistently block or run routes and there was the *ahem* recruiting stuff. But, on the field results speak for themselves and Taylor had a key piece in Auburn’s statistical ranking near the top in all offensive categories.

B- (81%): Jeff Grimes, Offensive Line Coach. Coach Grimes benefitted the most by Auburn being near the top in our Ripley’s Believe it or Not category: 3rd Down Conversions. He was also helped out by Auburn’s success in the Red Zone. Somewhat surprisingly, Auburn’s performance in Rushing Offense wasn’t enough to push Coach Grimes into the upper-stratosphere of “B” land, but the overall success of the offense kept the failing grade on 4th Down Conversions from hurting him too badly.

C (75%): Curtis Luper, Running Backs. You’d think having a workhorse like Ben Tate in your backfield would get you more love from the academic gods. If you did, you’d be thinking wrong. Scoring and total offense categories helped, but Time of Possession (of which the running game figures prominently) and 4th down conversions were some of the league’s worst. True, McCalebb was hurt for a good portion of the season and Eric Smith was practicing for a future in cage fighting, but again, on field results are the same crooked stick we’re all measured by here.

C- (71%): Gus Malzahn, Offensive Coordinator and QBs. Coach Gus was evaluated on all offensive categories as well as Turnover Margin. Considering the previously mentioned poor showing in 4th Down Conversions, TOP and near the bottom performance in TO Margin, Malzahn graded out as an average coach. He clearly demonstrates aptitude in Scoring and Total Offense, so his areas for improvement would be figuring out how to hold onto the ball when he needs to (both TOP and TO margin) and breaking through to pay dirt on short yardage or critical third downs. The biggest shocker to me was how well Auburn actually performed in Pass Efficiency – in the top 3 in the league. Um, can you say “down year for the SEC in the QB department”?

D (68%): Jay Boulware, Special Teams/TEs. Low and behold there is always that kid in class who says nothing and gives off the perception he could care less about tests, professors or classmates, only to surprise everyone at the end by NOT failing. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you our Bart Simpson: Jay Boulware. He was definitely helped by Auburn leading the league in Field Goals and PAT Kicking. Would anyone be surprised to know we were dead last in Punt Return Average though? Anyone, Bueller, anyone? Kickoff Returns settled in at a D grade too *yawn* tell us something we don’t know Joe.

The Prettiest Pigs at the Fair.

Tommy Thigpen, Phillip Lolley, Tracy Rocker and Ted Roof. All defensive coaches and all the owners of such statistical wonders like dead last in the league in Scoring Defense, Opponents 4th Down Conversions and Red Zone Defense. Close behind, meaning there was at least one other team worse than us, are: Opponents 1st Downs and Rushing Defense. Were it not for a middle of the pack showing against the league in Opponents 3rd Down Conversions, Auburn’s D this year would have ranked in the bottom half in EVERY single category of Defense. Of course, detractors would point to what we were left with post Tuberville or the fact that Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens, Neiko Thorpe and Daren Bates played every defensive snap against Northwestern. To which I say, “yeah but?”

Which brings us to two last points. One, Coach Chizik’s grade and two, the formula used for the grades. I’d highly recommend reading Coach Chizik’s grade and then pausing long enough to do several shots of your liquor-du-jour followed by a complete brain dump. After that, you’ll be ready, but forewarned: it all adds up to yet another humble Auburn blogger’s opinion.

F (55%) Coach Gene Chizik, Head Football Coach. queue the booing and hissing Despite meeting some optimistic preseason expectations, finishing 3-5 in the SEC and winning a bowl game in OT to cap off an 8 win season doesn’t get you much at Auburn. Iowa State would have been thrilled, and in fact, were thrilled with their season under first year head coach and former Auburn DC Paul Rhoads (who played largely with Chizik’s recruits). Try rolling out two more years of 8-5 and where do you think we’ll be? Look, I’m absolutely thrilled to have started 5-0, finish better than last year and have the makings of a Top 3 recruiting class. But, we also gave games to Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama. We had a near miss in the Outback Bowl and yes, I’m of the opinion that fortune and glory brings with it the responsibility of the overall record. That would sit squarely with Coach Gene Chizik. Intangibles? Coach Chizik has ’em in spades. If he read this article, I have no doubt he’s the kind of man (and coach) who would say, “yes, we finished middle of the pack against an expectation of winning every time we took the field.”

Please stop reading now….

The formula.

31 categories were used, covering every facet of the game. Coach Chizik was graded against every category, Coaches Malzahn and Roof were graded against only their respective squads and some overall statistics such as TOP, Turnover Margin and Penalties. Position coaches were graded against those categories which best fit their positions as well as Overall stats in Offense or Defense, as appropriate.

A “simple” points total was awarded in each category based on where Auburn finished against the league. Being in the top 3 teams earned 4 points, the bottom 3 teams earned 1 point and if Auburn finished #1 in the league, 5 points were awarded or dead last, 0 points. An average was then taken and divided by 4. Why 4? Because we felt finishing 8-5 was at least a “D” overall and so each passing grade added up to 4 (D+C+B+A=4).

For example: Coach Chizik’s grade read, the sum of 31 categories divided by 31 = 2.19, divided by 4 = 55% or F.

Clear as mud? You got it….

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5 Comments
  1. Rebecca Gaston permalink

    Wow. With a post like this, who needs the Birmingham News?

    Maybe I’m just a softie, but this seems harsh. I will continue to believe in these coaches and be very proud of their accomplishments in 2009.

    I can’t wait to see what’s to come! WDE!

  2. Wow, a three-game improvement with less talent than the previous team in the first year of your staff’s schemes/techniques earns you an F. Turning the same collection of players that finished in the bottom 20 in offense a year ago into a unit that finished in the top 20 earns you a C-. I usually enjoy your work here, Joe, but there’s no way to separate talent/expectation from reasonable, rational evaluations of the season. Earning A’s in your system was simply impossible for this collection of players.

  3. @Rebecca – I LOL’d at the comparison to the B’ham news, and then went and took a shower.
    @Jerry – I’m honored to have finally written something that got your comment.
    All – the point of this, while not so obvious, was to try and evaluate production using a crooked stick, but one which strips out the emotion of being Orange and Blue and trying to soothe the ills of last year by comparison. The stats I used didn’t tell us anything most of us didn’t already know: we need serious help on 3rd down on offense; our defense needed help from more than just the O outscoring the opponent and special teams was just plain, special.
    As for the letter grade formula I concocted, I was a liberal arts guy. Subjectivity of grading is in my DNA.
    Thanks for the comments!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Proof that final grades are never, final « Joe Auburn, walkabout
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