I like Gus, and, if AU wins on Saturday, a compelling argument can be made that he has had the best first five years of any AU coach in history. Yes, even with the collapses in late 14, throughout 15, and start/finish 16.
I think the notion that Auburn suddenly became good because "Gus turned his headset off" is laughable. Auburn is running a lot of the same plays it has run for the last 5 years. Malzahn's fingerprints are all over this team. There are two major differences this year from the prior three. First, the O line has improved steadily, particulary in pass protection, and, second, Stidham is remarkably accurate, perhaps the most accurate passer I have ever seen play for AU (Campbell in 04 may be better but it is a fun comparison to make). Most of the crossing routes he threw that turned into big plays against Bama were remarkably precise. The receiver, usually Ryan Davis catches it in full stride and is off to the races. Those little shallow crosses and quick screens have been a part of the O forever, but we either had a collective case of the dropsies or QBs whose passes required receiver adjustments or both.
I do think Gus is allowing Lindsey more freedom in the sequencing of plays. That is excellent. He needs to be less of a micro-manager, because he will burn out, otherwise. Remember he has only been a head coach for 6 years.* But the actual plays themselves are nearly identical. We are simply executing them well. Why? Offensive line competence and QB improvement/talent. Stidham is comfortable with what we are doing, and his confidence has triggered his considerable talents. I think Gus (and Chip Lindsey) should get some credit for that (just as I think Gus has been unfairly criticized for QB development in the past, but that is a different subject for a different poast).
Although I hate doing it, I also agree with something both Gary Danielson and Kirby Smart have said, albeit in different ways. I think Gus may have run out of #badword#s to give about the fanbase and other perceptions of him and decided to push all the chips into the middle of the table. I hope he has discovered that super aggressive Gus is the more effective Gus. I pray that he does not tell everyone to #badword# off and reap the benefits of that discovery in Fayettenam. I doubt that will happen, but, if it did, I would not blame him for leaving.
I am happy to see Gus get some credit in this thread (from Wayne, I think) for his most important accomplishment at AU. His DC hires have rebuit the defense to a championship level, and the staff has done an excellent job recruiting up front. If we can start to build that kind of talent in the back (and some young guys have done well back there when pressed into service), we will be in the hunt for awhile. I told Hobbes after both losses that I was still cautiously optimistic about this team, because the defense we have gives you a chance every week. I remain cautiously optimistic, though I think the UGA game on Saturday will be a nailbiter.
LSU was very hard to take, but I have seen other, well-regarded AU coaches take talented squads to Baton Rouge and lose in ridiculous, almost inexplicable, fashion. See 1988 and 2005, for example.
Re special teams coverage: yuck. But I mostly agree with Caveman that the problem should subside as quality depth is created. And I think we are on the way to having that.
I think Saban has made everyone crazy. His run is really unbelievable. During Gus' tenure, Alabama has been ranked first 4 times and second 1 time going into the Iron Bowl. Auburn is the only team over that time span to challenge Bama meaningfully.** Of course, I would like to see more wins, and more consistency, but perhaps more appreciation for Gus' upside (which has proven to be very high) is appropriate. Think about that the next time you are tempted to bitch, then go ahead and bitch because some of it is really funny.
War Eagle! Beat Georgia! Pass the koolaid and the Tylenol.***
*If you ever get bored, compare Malzahn's first 6 years as a college head coach with, say, Nick Saban's. Spoiler alert: Gus is considerably better. I am not saying that Gus is or will ever be the equal of a clear HOF coach. I am saying that the long view can be more interesting than one thinks.
** Yes, I know the mightly Landsharts also beat them twice during the same period, but I stand by my statement because the Burnerphonephobics never made it to the SECCG, despite getting the inside lane. Hugh Freeze: the Pascual Perez of SEC coaches.
***And beer. This year's lucky beer is the unspectacular, yet reliable, Sweetwater 420 Pale Ale.