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Why Will Muschamp's latest stint at Auburn didn't work out

In September, following an embarrassing 45-21 loss to LSU, then Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp told reporters that he was “in this for the long haul.”

“This is a great place to be,” Muschamp said. “And I'm excited about the players we have on campus and the players we're recruiting, Gus [Malzahn] and the job he's doing here."

Fast forward to Monday. Muschamp addressed the media, not as Auburn’s defensive coordinator, but rather as the new head coach at South Carolina. That “long haul” he talked about turned out to be less than three months, and his third stint at Auburn lasted a total of 360 days. He didn’t quite fulfill his three-year, $5.1 million contract, signed in May.

In Muschamp’s defense, the contract he signed allowed him to pursue a head coaching opportunity after this year’s SEC championship game with no financial penalty. And it was no secret that he wanted to be a head coach again after it didn’t work out the first time around at Florida.

But sources say that had Muschamp not gotten the South Carolina job, he likely would have followed Kirby Smart to Georgia to be his defensive coordinator. Either way, there was very little chance that he'd return to Auburn.

So what went wrong? How did Muschamp go from wanting to be at Auburn “for the long haul” to wanting to leave town after just one year?

1. Philosophical differences between him and Malzahn

This was one of the issues when Auburn hired Muschamp. How would he adapt to Malzahn’s style of play? At Florida, his teams typically ran the fewest number of plays in the SEC, and they were known for slowing the game down. At Auburn, it’s quite the opposite. It’s all about tempo for Malzahn.

This year was the exception, mainly because of the team’s struggles at quarterback, but they still tried to go hurry-up, no-huddle on offense when they could.

With that philosophy and with an offense that never seemed to find its rhythm, it was no surprise then that Auburn finished No. 11 in the SEC in time of possession. In turn, that can reflect poorly on the defense. The Tigers improved defensively throughout the season, but this was still a unit that finished towards the bottom of the conference in most categories.

That wasn't likely going to sit well with Muschamp.

2. Muschamp saw an uncertain future at Auburn

The pressure to win in the SEC grows every year. This season, we learned that nine wins might not be good enough. Mark Richt won nine games at Georgia, and he was let go. Les Miles won eight games at LSU, and he was very nearly run out of town.

Malzahn won only six games, and after back-to-back disappointing seasons, he might be coaching for his job in 2016.

As the defensive coordinator, Muschamp likely wanted to get out before that happened. Granted, things at Auburn could’ve turned around and his stock might have gone up after next season. But why take that risk when you have opportunities like he did this offseason? And in reality, he might have gotten out at just the right time.

3. The opportunity was too good to pass up

Speaking of those opportunities, who would’ve thought that just one year after Muschamp was let go at Florida, he would get offered another head coaching job in the SEC?

Everybody, even Auburn fans, knew Muschamp’s time on the Plains was only going to last as long as it took for him to find the right head coaching job. Well, he found it. And it’s hard to think of a better fit for a guy who already knows the conference well and has experience coaching in the SEC East.

Even the defensive coordinator job at Georgia would have made sense. Sure, it would’ve felt more personal to Auburn -- taking the same job at a rival school -- but it would’ve allowed Muschamp the opportunity to work with a coach that shares his philosophies and likely given him more job security.