In defense of Gus Malzahn's offense
If you're going to rip Gus Malzahn's offense, there are specific examples of well-documented ineptitude. See Clemson 2016, birth of the Coxcat. Or Clemson 2017, a k a Honk If You Sacked Jarrett Stidham.
Until the bowl explosion against Purdue, the 2018 season produced too many duds and not enough fireworks.
But to say Malzahn's offense "might be one of the worst offenses in football," as former NFL GM Michael Lombardi did in the wake of the NFL Draft, is beyond misguided. It's flat wrong.
There's evidence in the case against Malzahn as an offensive genius, but after nine years at Auburn, three as a coordinator and six as head coach, he's hit more than a few high notes as well. When he's had the horses, with the right jockey at quarterback, Malzahn has found ways to let them run wild.
Malzahn took the high road and didn't try to rebut Lombardi's hot take. Allow me. Let's count the ways the Auburn coach has demonstrated his offensive acumen in the defensively dominant SEC.
His 2013 Auburn team is the only team in SEC history to lead the nation in rushing. His 2010 Auburn offense is one of only four from the SEC to lead the nation in pass efficiency.
His 2010, 2013 and 2016 Auburn offenses led the conference in rushing. His 2010 Auburn offense led the league in scoring and total offense.
Under Malzahn's watch, Auburn has posted three of the top eight rushing seasons in SEC history: No. 1 - 2013; No. 3 - 2010; and No. 8 - 2016. With Malzahn at the helm, Auburn has put together two of the top four total offense seasons in SEC history: No. 2 - 2013 and No. 4 - 2010.
Five different Auburn players have led the SEC in rushing in the last nine years: Cam Newton (2010), Tre Mason (2013), Cameron Artis-Payne (2014), Kam Pettway (2016) and Kerryon Johnson (2017).
Three different Auburn players have led the SEC in scoring in the last six years: Tre Mason (2013), Daniel Carlson (2016) and Kerryon Johnson (2017).
Malzahn offenses also have set the top two SEC Championship Game records for total yards and points in 2013 and 2010.
Only two teams have hung 44 points on a Nick Saban Alabama team: Clemson in a 44-16 victory in the last national championship game and Auburn in a 55-44 loss in the 2014 Iron Bowl. In that rivalry shootout, Auburn totaled a record 630 total yards against an Alabama defense with Nick Marshall - Nick Marshall! - throwing for an Auburn record 456 yards.
Speaking of Alabama, the Tide has been the best defense in the nation during Malzahn's time at Auburn. In nine meetings, his team has scored more points than Alabama's defensive average seven times, including each of the last two years. During those nine seasons combined, Alabama has allowed 13.8 points a game, and Auburn has averaged 23.7 points a game against Alabama.
Obviously, the 2018 Auburn offense didn't live up to the high standards set earlier in the Malzahn era. There are questions about that side of the ball again as the Tigers prep for the 2019 season with the quarterback battle narrowed to redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix and Malzahn taking back play-calling responsibilities.
Malzahn has plenty to prove in his seventh season as the Auburn head coach, his 10th season on the Plains overall. It's just as obvious, though, that saying his offense "might be one of the worst offenses in football" is nothing but hot air.