Good programs aren’t supposed to start seasons 1-4. Forget the situation, circumstances and the excuses. When traditionally strong football programs start 1-4, there’s going to be some internal turmoil.
The turmoil from Auburn’s 1-4 start is apparently beginning to manifest itself in some amount of finger-pointing inside the Tiger team.
A team meeting was held on Sunday night, just one day after the Tigers had somehow been whipped at home by previously downtrodden Arkansas, 24-7. Senior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen told The Opelika-Auburn News exactly what kind of message was delivered:
“We’re at the point where you’re either with us, or you’re not with us. It’s sad that’s the case, but that’s where we’re at. I think it’s the same way with our coaches. They know who they’re going to be going with and who’s going to fight. If you’re willing to fight with us, we want you with us.
We made it pretty clear that if you’re not going to fight with us, we don’t want you out there at all with us. We’ll see who continues to buy in, be all-in with us, and who doesn’t.”
The fact that that message was delivered is probably a good thing. But the fact that it had to be delivered is most definitely not.
By suggesting that coaches and players know who’s “willing to fight” and who “continues to buy-in,” Lutzenkirchen is admitting that there are some players who aren’t fighting and aren’t buying in. In other words, Auburn’s losses aren’t — in the view of some, at least — tied to inexperience, bad execution, etc, etc.
They’re tied in part to a lack of effort. Not everyone is in the same trench fighting together.
There’s an old saying, “Pressure busts pipes.” When winning programs lose more than they’re accustomed to, cracks always appear. Good teams can spackle those cracks, improve and turn their seasons around. Other team are torn apart by the growing divisions.
The jury’s out on what the pressure of a 1-4 start will mean for the pipes down on the Plains.