“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” William Shakespeare, Henry IV
“If he can’t beat Georgia and Bama every year what are we even paying him for?!?!?” Billy Tom in Wetumpka, The Paul Finebaum Show
SEC football fans are a notoriously demanding and fickle bunch. Give us five wins a season and we expect bowl eligibility. Give us eight wins a season and we expect conference titles. Give us ten wins a season and we expect national championships. Give us national championships and we start worrying about next year.
But no fans in all of the Southland are as perennially misinformed about their stature in the gridiron hierarchy as those who attend Pat Dye’s School For Kids Who Didn’t Get Into Alabama (or Georgia, or sometimes Ole Miss). Auburn fans have a champaign palate and a Mogen David 20/20 (watermelon flavor) aesthetic. There’s no combination quite like entitlement and jealousy, and when it comes to football the Plainsmen have both in spades.
That’s a problem when you’re the guy tasked with delivering the proverbial libations. Auburn is sort of a tough gig. Again, other than a relatively small pocket of east Alabama/west Georgia it doesn’t really have a geographic footprint where it predominates. The flagship schools which serve as its twin big brothers both hold winning records in the past 15 years of their series (Alabama 8-7 in the Iron Bowl and Georgia 12-3 in the South’s Oldest Rivalry).
Playing in that neighborhood is a high risk, high reward venture. Win and you’re the toast of college football. Lose and, well, you’re just a guy who loses to his school’s biggest rivals. Auburn is the “uncle who runs a cash landscaping business and is either eating lobster or sleeping in his truck” of the SEC football family.
And like the school’s football fortunes, the head coach on the Plains is never far from the end. Remember, Auburn is the school that forgot head football coaches are like spouses: you can’t hire a new one before you fire the old one.
The Tiglesmen also gave current head coach Gus Malzahn one of the richest contracts in college football, including an obscene buyout, after he won two of the flukiest games in recent college football memory. Then when he regressed to the orange and blue mean they immediately began trying to figure out how to get out from under that deal.
See, Gus Malzahn is getting fired. It’s just a matter of when. We’ve pulled out the old slide rule and figured out exactly where Gustav the Scoreless ranks in terms of job security. I’m pleased to present our findings: an exhaustive list of people with more job security at any given moment than Gus Malzahn.
- Keith, the sandwich savant from my local Firehouse Subs. Keith seems to show up prepared for work pretty regularly, which is more than you can ever say about a Gus Malzahn offense. He also greets me enthusiastically when I walk through the door and remembers that I probably want a hot roast beef with sea salt and vinegar chips. Keith is evening management material, assuming he isn’t hired away by Auburn.
- Brenda, the lady who cuts Kirby Smart’s hair. Brenda can always be counted on to deliver the exact same haircut every time in only 8 minutes, with a minimum of small talk. Kirby Smart prizes consistency, a sense of urgency, and that she remembers he absolutely, positively does not want any product on his hair because he ain’t a Gator. Brenda is also probably a lifer.
- Lane Kiffin’s aesthetiscian. I didn’t catch her name, she was working a particularly gnarly set of eyebrows and when she pulled out the belt sander I figured it was time to get gone. But if you’re a committed manscaper like the Lane Train there comes a time when you realize you need professional help. That time is when you reach an age where you have hair where there was none before and none where there used to be plenty. Lane’s entering that phase of life now, so I think (mumbles indistinctly) is in pretty good shape for the next decade, which is more than I can say for Gus.
- Dan Quinn. If Gus Malzahn worked for Arthur Blank he’d be locked up through 2064.
- Yard Dawg, my buddy from high school who works on fishing boats in the Bering Sea. I don’t really remember Yard Dawg’s government name because no one called him that after the age of 6, which is when he bit a process server who was trying to deliver eviction papers (also a very Auburn coming of age moment). But I’ve heard that after graduation he hitchhiked out west and, after doing time for an assault in Wyoming, wound up fishing the cold waters off the coast of Alaska for months at a time with people who know better than to ask his name. There’s a real possibility he may get brained by a rigging crane, lost in a hurricane, or pulled down to the icy depths by a length of rope unluckily draped around his leg. But then how’s that different in magnitude of jeopardy from every time Gus takes the field against LSU?
- Bruce Pearl. Auburn’s basketball coach has the advantage of being pretty good at a job at which no one expects him to be perfect, in a place where they don’t ask him exactly who was at the dead period barbecue he threw. It’s like being a thief in a land where everyone walks around with their ATM cards and PINs taped to their backs.
- SEC football bloggers. Because Gus still has to match wits with fellow offensive wundergenies MikeLeach and Lane Kiffin, and somebody’s just gotta be around to write about that.
Until later . . .