That’s the name of the latest James Bond flick opening in November (that will hopefully be more “Casino Royale” than “Quantum of Solace”).
But “Skyfall” could also be used to describe the state of things at Auburn this week. War Eagle? Try Chicken Little. The sky seems to be falling on the Tigers and no one seems to have much positive to say about their 1-4 start or the situation in which they currently find themselves.
Yesterday we shared with you news that an Auburn team meeting on Sunday night turned into a “you’re either with us or against us” ultimatum-delivery-opportunity for some players looking to inspire or call out others. It’s good that they’d take the initiative to say such a thing, but it’s bad that they’d ever have to address such things fight and buy-in.
Well today the news from the Plains is yet again grim. Tiger receiver Sammie Coates — in the words of Al.com’s Charles Goldberg — delivered “a blistering attack over a lack of leadership with the Auburn football team” on Tuesday. First, Coates’ comments:
“We don’t have leadership. Everybody talks about wanting to win, but nobody is showing how they want to win…
(The quarterbacks) talk, but they don’t talk enough. They explain, but they don’t explain enough. They want us to be good, but they’ve got to show some leadership themselves…
Some of the older guys, they want it, but they don’t want it bad enough. The leadership has got to come from somebody.
We’ve got a couple of guys, like (defensive back T’Sharvan Bell and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen), but they’re kind of down themselves. It’s go to come from one of the young guys or one of the quarterbacks, somebody like that, because it takes one of those guys with a main role in the situation. That’s how I feel about it.”
Asked about those remarks, a few Tiger players said they disagreed with their teammate. Linebacker Jake Holland and offensive lineman Chad Slade said there is indeed leadership on the team. Slade said, “It’s going to show more and more and more” in the weeks ahead.
Head coach Gene Chizik downplayed Coates’ statements by saying that he feels “really, really good about the majority of our team being right on point.” In his view, Coates’ commentary was simply a product of the frustration brought on by a 1-4 start. In other words, it’s natural:
“Let’s not make this into something that’s totally different. When things are going great, boy, it’s great. When things aren’t just the way we want it, everybody starts to try to figure it out. Let me make this real clear: There’s definitely an urgency around here to win and improve, and I like seeing that. But part of our job to help our guys understand when you’re in a valley, which is where we are now, everything isn’t going to be at the peak, you have to find a way to persevere.”
Meanwhile, insiders and outsiders alike were also chiming in on the Auburn situation yesterday. Ex-coach and major Chizik supporter Pat Dye said on the Paul Finebaum radio show that the coaches must coax better play from their quarterbacks and work hard not to “lose the football team:”
“We’ve had a little improvement on defense, not much on offense. I don’t know that there’s a quick fix for it. It starts with the quarterback. He’s making mistakes and (Clint) Moseley wasn’t any better than (Kiehl) Frazier Saturday.
The mistakes that we’re making on offense are killing us. I don’t see anything that will solve the problem except just keep working and hope that as time goes on that they’re going to grow up and get better.
The coaches are going to have to do everything they can do to not lose the football team. That’s the number one priority right now is to not lose the players…
I know Coach Chizik and I know that staff and I know that they’re doing everything they can do to keep that football team together.”
“The game last week was the first time I’ve been really surprised. The game against Arkansas was a shocker to me… Not only did (Auburn) not win the game, they didn’t compete…
They’ve got to get back and compete. What they did last Saturday is embarrassing.”
And talk like that is what leads people like Finebaum to ask questions about Chizik’s job security — two years after he won a BCS championship — of people like Dye:
“Look, I don’t run the athletic department. Nobody has asked my advice as to what to do. That is totally run by somebody else and I’m going to support whatever they do.”
A “that’s ridiculous” from Dye might have done Chizik more good than the “I’ll support whatever Auburn decides” answer Dye provided.
But the reality is that Auburn is one overtime win against Louisiana-Monroe away from being 0-5 at the moment. Whether they’re legitimate excuses or not, fans don’t want to hear about youth or having spread quarterbacks running a pro-style offense. They want wins. Or at least respectable performances on the field until they start getting more wins.
Ironically, the team that just beat Auburn could provide the Tigers with a road map for surviving such troubled times. Arkansas lost their coach in the offseason, then lost to the aforementioned Louisana-Monroe at home, and then lost all hope of a championship season with a pair of 40+ point losses to Alabama and Texas A&M. Yet the Hogs — with nothing in the world to play for but pride — hung together and won at Jordan-Hare on Saturday. That victory might not turn their season around as they’re still riddled with injuries, but at least it stopped the Razorbacks’ bleeding for a week.
A win at Ole Miss on Saturday could do the same for Auburn. It could serve as a balm that soothes frustrations and as an elixir that produces a new amount of confidence within the team. A freshman like Coates — with his three receptions on the season — might even find some of that leadership he desires.
Or… Auburn could lose yet again on Saturday. In which case, the Tigers might — as the great Cinderella once sang — keep on “fallin’ apart at the seams.”
(And, yes, I’m quite proud of the fact that I was able to work in a reference to a hair metal band at the end of this post.)