In the customary five thoughts format...
1. This is a dreadful miscalculation by Auburn. I've had a lot of "rank the coaches in the SEC" exercises with friends over the last several years and Tuberville invariably came out in the top half of the deepest coaching pool in the country. Tuberville made a mistake with his handling of the Auburn offense this year, but he also butchered the offense in 2003 (not quite to the same degree as this year, but still...) and rebounded the next year with an unbeaten season, the only unbeaten season by an SEC team this decade. Any head coach can make a mistake in hiring a coordinator for his weak suit. Rich Rodriguez made a mistake in putting together his defensive staff this year. Steve Spurrier made mistakes in hiring defensive coordinators before finding Bob Stoops. Pete Carroll has a still-uncorrected mistake on the offensive side of the ball. Bob Stoops struggled to replace Mike Leach and Mark Mangino before finding Kevin Wilson. The point is that Tuberville made a correctable mistake this year, but that doesn't change the underlying fact that he's a good coach.
The big variable here regards the discussions between Auburn and Tuberville about changes to his offensive staff. As a guy who constantly whined about Lloyd Carr keeping personal friends on staff who were substandard at their jobs (namely Andy Moeller and Mike Debord), I'm in no position to begrudge Auburn if they got annoyed with Tuberville putting his personal loyalty ahead of putting a top product out on the field. Tuberville handed his offense to Ensminger and Nall in 2003 and it was a disaster. He kept them as position coaches and they apparently became a major thorn in the side of Al Borges and Tony Franklin. If Tuberville was going to stick with them as a driving force in the offense, then this move makes a little more sense, although I would still direct some blame at Auburn for not trying to reach a middle ground. Sadly, we'll never know what really happened unless Tuberville and the Auburn decision-makers speak up and tell a relatively consistent story.
2. What does it say that two major programs in the South - Clemson and Tennessee - have made coaching changes this season and they guys they tabbed as their new head men have resumes that are completely inferior to the guy that Auburn just hired?
3. Tuberville's termination illustrates the danger of the coaching arms race going on in the SEC. As I've argued in this space before, the SEC has left the rest of college football in the dust in terms of turning increased revenue from football into brand name coaches. While an arms race can cause the participating nations to end up with vastly improved forces, it can also create major miscalculations. Country A is worried about the new tank being developed in country B, so country A abandons its current plans and goes hog wild in a new, uncertain direction. Or, country A foolishly invades country B because of fears that it won't be able to defend itself in a year's time from country B's new tank.
Auburn is overreacting to the fact that Nick Saban just had an unbeaten season at Alabama. Saban has proved himself (yet again) to be an excellent coach, but his success doesn't make Tommy Tuberville a bad coach, especially since Tuberville has a 4-3 record against Saban. Auburn's overreaction illustrates the danger of the SEC coaching arms race: program decision-makers getting too emotional and carried away by recent events and making irrational decisions as a result.
3a. Or maybe the lesson is simply that Bobby Lowder is a nut who always had it out for Tuberville and was going to axe him the moment he got a chance to do so. If so, good luck to Auburn convincing a new coach to come into this situation.
4. Auburn's and Tennessee's decisions to fire their coaches sure raise the stakes for coordinator hirings, don't they? The lesson coming out of this season may very well be that head coaches in the SEC cannot take risks on bringing in outsiders to make significant changes to their offenses.
5. In the summer of 2007, I started on a project comparing SEC coaches to World War II generals. I never got very far into the project, in part because of time constraints and in part because I didn't think there'd be much interest in such a specialized set of articles. The two posts that I did write compared Steve Spurrier to Heinz Guderian and Tuberville to Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower was not a great general, but he was masterful at assembling a good set of men under his command and then managing those underlings. Eisenhower managed to keep Patton and Montogomery, two massive, headstrong egos, effective in the same theater. Eisenhower made mistakes in his managing of the generals below him, namely in letting Monty go ahead with Operation Market Garden, but his overall work in command in Europe was excellent. He didn't intervene and let the generals on the ground do their thing.
In the summer of 2007, this seemed to be a good way to describe Tuberville. He brought in excellent coordinators and then gave them space to operate. He made good personnel decisions, such as replacing Gene Chizik with Will Muschamp. Tuberville's demise reflects that he is no Eisenhower. Tuberville lost his job for mishandling the conflict between his offensive coordinator and his position coaches.