War Eagle Extra

Auburn AD Jay Jacobs commends Gus Malzahn’s ‘audacity and courage’ in giving up play-calling duties

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn spoke at length with athletic director Jay Jacobs in the offseason about being more hands on with the offense in 2016.

It’s the same message Malzahn shared in interviews from spring practice into the summer.

“At my core I’m a football coach,” Malzahn said. “That’s what I do best.”

A month into the season, Malzahn the CEO pulled the plug on Malzahn the play-caller handing the keys to the offense over to Rhett Lashlee in the days leading up to the program’s game against LSU on Sept. 24.

Jacobs commented on Malzahn’s decision for the first time when he spoke with reporters before his appearance as a guest speaker at the Montgomery Quarterback Club Tuesday night.

The athletic directer admitted he was “somewhat” surprised Malzahn made the decision given the tenure of conversations they had leading into the opener against Clemson.

“Going into the season I didn’t think he would give it up,” Jacobs said. “He talked to me coming out of the 7-6 year last year. He said I’m frustrated we should have won more games. I know how to be an offensive coordinator cause I took us to the national championship in 2010 and I took us to the national championship in 2013 calling plays. I’m going back to calling plays.”

Jacobs denied playing a role in the decision beyond being a sounding board for his football coach.

“It’s awfully difficult when you are on this treadmill they’re on to look at things on the outside,” Jacobs said. “I’m here to do that, but ultimately it’s their decision whatever they do because there is a scoreboard at the end of every match, event and game that tells you what it is. I’m there to help, be thoughtful, careful with my words and listen more than I speak. It’s part of my job.”

From the way Jacob described their talks, it wasn’t an easy decision for Malzahn to make.

“All the credit goes him that he had the audacity and the courage to say this isn’t the best thing for this team,” Jacobs said.

And Malzahn turned out to be right.

With Lashlee calling the plays in October, the Tigers had the No. 4 scoring offense (48 points per game), No. 2 total offense (576 yards per game) and No. 2 rushing offense in the country (382 yards per game).

“Now that Rhett is calling the plays I think that’s made Gus a little more confident in what he’s doing because he’s letting his people do what they need to do,” Jacobs said.

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra