"We knew we had done nothing wrong during [Cam Netwon's] recruiting process." -- Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik in an excerpt from his soon to be released book All In: What It Takes to Be the Best.
Honestly, as I look at that introductory quote above, it's not so much Gene Chizik's assertion that Auburn didn't do anything shady during Cam Newton's recruitment that jumps out at me. (I mean, don't get me wrong, I do have my suspicions.) Instead, my immediate reaction is "Gene Chizik has a goddamn book about winning??"
No offense intended to the Auburn head football coach, his team went undefeated in 2010 and for that the BCS national title is well deserved
at least until we find out if the check to Cecil Newton has an Auburn watermark on it. But the bar is now set at "Gene Chizik" on who can write books telling us "their way is the right way"?
The book itself, which is set for a July 5 release, is 282 pages, but I firmly believe that I could have saved everyone a lot of time and energy (and paper) and ghostwritten the Gene Chizik Guide To Winning in a two-page pamphlet. Hell, I probably could have done it on a cocktail napkin.
Ready? Here it is:
Chapter 1 Recruit Cam Newton.
Chapter 2 Call play "36" a bunch of times...
That's a play!
Chapter 3 Stay the hell out of the way.
Chapter 4 Collect trophy.
Chapter 5 Get raise from employer to $3.5 million per year.
Okay, maybe I'm not being entirely fair to Coach Chizik. I understand that there's a lot more that goes into being a college football head coach than figuratively rolling the balls out and letting your guys "go get it!" You're not only a coach, you're a fundraiser, a salesman, a politician and a boss.
That said, can we all agree on the following:
1. If you're going to write a book telling the fallible masses how they can magically become "the best" (just like you!), then none of your career as an assistant or anything other than the lead dog should count toward your street cred. When I espoused my bewilderment on the radio today at Chizik authoring this book, I had a few people tell me, "Hey, he's been part of three undefeated teams. He knows how to win!"
Um, the two seasons in which he assisted Tommy Tuberville (2004) and Mack Brown (2005) to undefeated seasons do not count on the back of Chizik's "winner credibility" baseball card. If I want to know Tuberville's and Brown's philosophies that shaped those undefeated squads, I'll read their books.
2. So only your career as a head coach should count towards a 282-page missive on "Here's what I did to become the best!" As a head coach, Gene Chizik was 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State and is now 22-5 in two seasons at Auburn with a national championship. Is he the coach of the defending national champion? Yes. Is he "the best?" No. 3. And this is the big one -- with no Cam Newton this past season, Auburn is at least a four-loss team. (Go look at the schedule; for a national champion, they walked a fine line in several games.) It's really that simple. No Cam Newton, Gene Chizik is probably 18-9 at Auburn with an Outback Bowl berth. I'm guessing there's no line outside Barnes & Noble for Chizik's mantra on how to be decidedly average.
Now, to be clear, I understand that Cam Newton did play for Auburn in 2010, so the games and title both do count
for now, so Chizik gets credit for 2010. But is the body of work really big enough -- one magical season with the best player in the country running essentially a playground playbook, by his own admission in the Gruden interviews -- to where Chizik's recipe for being "the best" is something we should pay for?
And, of course, I haven't even mentioned the shroud of controversy under which Newton arrived and eventually played at Auburn. And if you're looking for Chizik's book to mention that beyond anything but a cursory glance, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Of the 282 pages in the book, Newton's recruitment and eligibility (easily the dominant topic for much of the 2010 season) gets a scant two pages.
At least those two pages contain a couple knee slappers:
"If we'd had any level of concern regarding Cameron's eligibility, we would not have put him on the field and risked forfeiting games for playing an ineligible player," Chizik wrote.
Sure you wouldn't have, Coach. Because it's much more noteworthy to go 7-5 and win a bowl game in late December and have the results count than it is to go 14-0, win a national championship, and then possibly deal with the empty punishment of "vacating the 2010 season" a year, two years, five years from now. One of those two scenarios comes with a $1.3 million annual raise. I'll let you guess which one.
"My complaint comes when some individuals in the media engage in irresponsible journalism that destroys someone's reputation," the coach wrote. "It takes a long time to repair a reputation, and sometimes that damage is impossible to recover from. In this case there were a lot of assumptions being made and criticisms being spun out of those assumptions; it was harming Cameron's reputation."
Uh huh. It harmed his reputation so much that a company in the vocation for which he was best trained to gain employment after college (professional football) selected him with the first overall pick in the draft, guaranteeing him tens of millions of dollars. Yeah, the media killed the poor kid. I hope he recovers.
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In the end, by writing the book Chizik is striking while the iron is hot, and for that I can't say I blame him. Once his Cam-less squad is back to losing four or five games each year, there probably wouldn't be the same demand for his road map to fourth place in the SEC West.
Now, one book that I would like to get my hands on is the Auburn 2010 playbook, so I can see the exact design of play "36."
That's a play.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.