It is too simple, and not entirely correct, to say that the "legion of skeptics, critics and naysayers" who attacked Auburn for hiring Gene Chizik four years ago have been awarded the last laugh.
That quote comes from the jacket of "All In," the book that Chizik wrote last year after he coached the Tigers to the 2010 BCS National Championship. And while the legion enjoys its schadenfreude, it must be remembered outside the confines of the Loveliest Village on the Plains that 2010 happened.
It happened under Chizik's watch, no matter that he arrived at Auburn from Iowa State with a 5-19 career record as a head coach, no matter that this season Auburn fell faster than Wile E. Coyote parachuting with an anvil.
Saturday, the Tigers finished 3-9 by losing the Iron Bowl to Alabama 49-0. Sunday, Chizik leaves Auburn with a career record of 38-38. He has won as many games as he lost, same as when he arrived at Iowa State in November 2006. That is beyond comic, for since 2004, Chizik's career has whipsawed between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
In 2004 and 2005, he went 26-0 as the defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas, respectively. The Tigers finished No. 2 behind USC, and the Longhorns won the BCS title. In 2007 and 2008, he scraped the bottom at Iowa State as head coach.
Two years later, Chizik held aloft the crystal football at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. And two more years later, he has been dismissed for incompetence.
No wonder Chizik projects an air of imperturbability. It's the only way anyone could stay on that bucking bull of a career for eight seconds, much less nine seasons.
Chizik maintained that posture throughout the controversy that rocked Auburn in 2010. Chizik took a chance on a reclamation project of a junior-college quarterback named Cam Newton.
Newton rewarded Chizik with the greatest season any college football quarterback has produced in the past 50 years.
But Newton also brought an NCAA investigation into whether he had been involved when his father shopped his athletic prowess for a six-figure amount while he was at Blinn (Texas) Junior College.
The NCAA found Auburn had committed no violations, though the university had a hell of a time removing the stain from its football program. The swift descent of the Tigers in the post-Newton era does not help. When Chizik's head-coaching career is considered in full, the season just concluded is not the aberration. It is the 14-0 record of 2010.
As well as Newton played, he had the benefit of 23 seniors around him, left for Chizik by his predecessor and former boss, Tommy Tuberville. Newton left, All-American defensive tackle Nick Fairley left and the seniors graduated. After Auburn fell to 8-5 in 2011, Chizik swapped out offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn for Scot Loeffler and defensive coordinator Ted Roof for Brian VanGorder. Whatever Chizik's motivation, it proved to be a miscalculation.
The Tigers started out as a team yearning to be mediocre and never improved. In fact, by the end of the season, Auburn set school records for ineptitude. The Tigers lost to their biggest rivals, No. 3 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama, by a combined score of 87-0. An Auburn coach could be forgiven many things, several of them prosecutable, before he could be forgiven those losses.
For going 5-19 with the Cyclones, Chizik was awarded with a head-coaching job in the Southeastern Conference. Given the ups and downs of Chizik's career, after this 3-9 nightmare, he will be either the next coach of the Dallas Cowboys or the next U.S. Secretary of State. The legion of skeptics, critics and naysayers will be there to see what happens next.