Auburn football: An open letter to Bo Nix
This is certainly not the Auburn you expected. We can all agree on that.
You signed up to be the next great quarterback under Gus Malzahn. That didn’t work out.
You were ready to elevate Auburn into a perennial Playoff contender. That didn’t work out.
It’s time to shake it off. That’s your only choice.
Personally, I once thought Malzahn was far ahead of his time as an offensive coordinator and then a head coach at Arkansas State. That was in 2012, just before Auburn tabbed him to be its next head coach — thinking he was still ahead of his time. He wasn’t. The window was closing fast. Defensive coaches had figured Malzahn out, which essentially made you the lone wolf of the offense. You were often out on an island. If you didn’t get the job done, it wasn’t getting done.
It’s time to face the facts. You were poorly coached personally and as a team. There was no contingency play when the offense struggled, and you couldn’t make chicken salad from, well, you know.
You can blame Malzahn if you’d like. After all, he never adjusted. He stuck to his guns. He was stubborn. He refused to alter his approach. That was in stark contrast to your rival, Alabama, where coach Nick Saban has been more adaptive than a chameleon. The program you would be measured against (perhaps unfairly) was winning national titles while your team was struggling to just stay afloat.
All that can change now.
There’s no question you have potential. You have size, a strong arm and the ability to extend plays with your legs. There’s no question you can play at the SEC level — if you’re still determined to. Far too many times, I’ve seen players lose their spirit in the midst of massive changes. Don’t let that happen to you.
I certainly wouldn’t have been excited by a coaching change. Neither should you. That’s life.
The coaching change happened, and it could be great for you. Despite Malzahn’s success, Bryan Harsin is a better coach for you right now. We could debate that 10 years ago, but in 2020, Harsin is your guy both as a quarterback coach and an offensive coordinator.
What happened when teams throughout the nation caught up to Malzahn’s high-paced tempo? The offense stagnated. That was part of Malzahn’s allure as he climbed the coaching ranks. Now, it’s something that most every team does on offense and most every defense is equipped to handle.
Malzahn’s approach to the passing game was, to be kind, rather elementary. With no consistent running game and no defenders loading the box, you didn’t have options. It’s a wonder you didn’t make bad decisions more often.
Auburn’s new offense under Harsin will make sure the passing game and running game complement each other — not completely depend on the other. You’ll have better offensive line protection schemes. That all should help in play-action. As far as the passing game, Harsin will try to exploit linebacker coverage, which should give you an advantage.
Harsin and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will run a basic pro-set offense. There will be multiple formations. Sometimes you’ll be under center, and sometimes you’ll be in a shotgun formation. You can also expect more pre-snap motion to better allow you to identify coverages. The tight end will also be a big part of the offense and a valuable safety valve when things don’t go perfectly. Malzahn accepted defensive pass coverages. Harsin will try to manipulate them.
So what will decide how much success you and Auburn will have? It’s simple. As a team leader, you have to buy in, and you probably already have.
Admittedly, I would have been a bit upset by Harsin’s public comments that LSU transfer T.J. Finley was recently pushing you in practice. Yes, that would have bothered me — IF I wasn’t made aware of the situation beforehand.
No one knows exactly what is going through Harsin’s mind, but I’m guessing he was pumping up Finley in case you’re forced to miss any playing time this season. Auburn doesn’t have a competent backup. Let me repeat that. Auburn doesn’t have a competent backup. Your play will largely determine just how much success the Tigers have this season.
More than any completed pass, your attitude throughout the off-season and into this season will determine just how successful you and Auburn can be. Don’t fret about the recent Finley comments, and hopefully you’ve already adjusted to the coaching change.
Also, remember that the world has changed. A quarterback doesn’t have to win a national championship to have a successful career. Just check out some of the previous largely unknown quarterbacks who were drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft and have turned into contributors, if not starters.
You may not be on a draft board now, but you can be. That all lies with you. Have the best attitude possible, and things could be drastically different before you know it.