The dominoes are still falling and will be for several weeks…maybe months. How good was it to be at the top of the coaching food chain for a change?
It was no coincidence that Gus Malzahn got back to Auburn and said ‘yes’ to the Tigers minutes after the Bret Bielema to Arkansas news broke. Likewise, former Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said ‘no thanks’ to Colorado once Tennessee finally reached out to him.
You can say a lot of things about Jeff Long, but I think most would admit he did pull off a coup here to land Bielema. There are not a whole lot of coaches who’ve led their teams to three or more BCS bowl games walking around out there — 12 to be exact — who are willing to up and move to another gig.
We found it interesting how Bielema reached out months earlier and sent a note to Long after his emotional press conference to announce the hard decision to let Bobby Petrino go. He commended Long for the way he handled the difficult circumstances, and in doing so planted the seed for what unfolded last week.
Say what you want, but coaches like Long and see him as a partner — someone who can provide them with the tools, facilities and money to be successful. Bielema knew he couldn’t keep burning though assistants (11 in the last three years) because Wisconsin AD Barry Alverez refused to pay them a competitive salary. Something had to give.
When you analyze the hires, Arkansas and Auburn went in diametrically opposite directions. The Hogs and Long decided that if you have to break through the SEC West ceiling of Alabama and LSU, you’re going to have to play like they do — power run game, play-action pass, and a stellar defense.
Auburn, on the other hand, hired Malzahn and will spread the field. Try to score quickly and leave the defense to fend for themselves. No doubt, in sharing the state with the Crimson Tide, the Tigers felt they needed to be the ‘anti-Alabama’ and go opposite.
There are lots of ways to win football games. But if you look at the last six national champions (seven if you count Bama’s pending defeat of Notre Dame), being able to run the football and play solid (if not stifling) defense was the key in winning five of the six. Auburn in 2010, with a freak at quarterback, was the exception.
It will be interesting to see which approach/school can get themselves back into position to compete for the division. Either…neither…both?
Some Hog fans will not like Bielema’s offense. It will certainly not be as ‘high-flying’ as Petrino’s offense. (Although when Wisconsin had Russell Wilson at quarterback two years ago, they proved to be as good as anyone in the country.)
There have been a few fans that were pretty vocal against the hire. If you ask some of them why, you quickly realize it’s because they think they won’t be entertained on Saturdays. And that’s what they pay their money to see — entertainment. They’re not as concerned about winning as they are about being entertained.
But we like what we saw from Bielema at the press conference last Thursday. You can tell he’s a grinder with a ‘blue collar’ approach. Given time, that should resonate with Arkansas fans, who can now sit back and watch other schools scramble to get their ‘next guy.’