Alabama Football: Seven Things We'd Do If We Were Nick Saban
Football fans, compared to those of most other sports, armchair coach and second guess every move and examine every decision of their favorite teams' coaching staffs.
Few fans bases do this more than Crimson Tide fans.
Yet, given the success of the program, it's often hard to second guess championships. But 'Bama fans will find a way.
We like this "what would we do in his shoes" game that fans play with their teams' coaches. In fact, we like it so much, we want our turn at it.
Thus, here are seven things we'd do if we were Alabama's Nick Saban.
Remove All Doubts About Oversigning
Ok, we completely understand the rationale behind oversigning. We don't even think it's high on the list of Grave Sins.
But, we know that the appearance of something not completely ethical, even if technically legal, can still taint a program and tarnish an image.
Alabama can get quality recruits without the practice.
Sure, time was that Bear would simply put a zillion guys on scholly to keep good players out of Shug's or Vince Dooley's or Johnny Vaught's hands, but those days are long gone.
The tradition and pride of Alabama should be enough, even in this uber competitive recruiting atmosphere, to bring in the types of players that will add luster to the history.
And, right now, Saban's monkeying around with the numbers doesn't do that.
Commit To Making The Non-Conference Schedule Tougher
Kudos to Alabama for scheduling Michigan in 2012. Bados (or whatever the opposite of kudos is) to Alabama for making Western Kentucky the opponent the week after Michigan.
We really like Alabama playing the tough early season opponents. The Tide has traditionally (and especially under Saban) done well in those competitions. It sets a tone. It sends a notice. It puts that good chip on a team's shoulder.
Those are not things a Kent State or a San Jose State do.
Georgia State? As bad as the score was, that was almost embarrassing to Alabama.
So, yes; if we were Nick Saban, we'd insist that the school remove the North Texas games and the WKU contests and replace them with some quality opponents that will only add to the lore and legend.
Do More To Take The Unhealthy Hate Out Of The 'Bama-Auburn Rivalry
Look, strongly worded joint statements that condemn stupid fan behavior are fine.
But fans will mirror what messages they feel the head coach sends out. If he gives out a win-at-all-cost vibe, the fans will take that several steps beyond that mentality and, sadly, cross the line into committing illegal acts.
Now, we aren't holding Nick Saban directly responsible for the near-psychotic acts of a few, but we think he could do more to remind the Tide faithful that winning isn't the only thing in life.
He does that well with Nick's Kids and the many other great charitable acts he and his family perform in the Tuscaloosa community and around the nation. He's not one to toot his own horn, but few fans know about this part of Saban's life and work. He could carry that mentality of what's important in life to the messages he gives his fans who hang on his every word.
Thus, if we were he, we would do more to say something along the lines of, "If you want to cheer for us, fine. But we don't want you as fans if you seek to harm others or the property of others."
And we know Bear Bryant wasn't a saint by any means (Wow. That sentence actually hurt to type), but, win or lose, he did it with class and respect. The winning came from the respect, it seems, not the respect from the winning. Hatred never came into it.
Dislike of an opponent, sure. Rivalry, yes. Demonization and illegal activity, no.
Saban could go a long way towards emphasizing more of the latter, and the Tide Nation will listen.
Find a Kicker and Stick With Him
In other places and stories, we called the Alabama field goal and extra point coaching, "Kicker by Committee".
Luckily, place kickers didn't face many pressure situations this past season.
Alabama may not be so lucky next year.
Playing two kickers, one long range and one short range, not only sends a mixed message, but it also could lead to a game disaster of near Les Milesean proportions.
Picture this scenario: It's late in a game, and the coaches decide to try for a field goal. 'Bama has no time outs, but the distance is sort of that in between distance where one kicker or the other might be used. It isn't far fetched to imagine that seconds and perhaps a game and a chance at a national title could all be lost because a choice of which kicker to use couldn't be made in time.
As you know, decisions like that are made long before game time, but what if one kicker or another was "hot" and the other coming off a couple of shanks or misses? Do you go with your pregame choice, or do you follow the guy who's confident?
Even thinking about it can waste precious seconds.
If we were Nick Saban, we'd pick one kicker and go with him.
Turn McCarron Loose, Especially Early in The Season
Watching A.J. McCarron this season, a friend from back home told us, "Golly, he's got the skills, don't he?"
Yeah, he does.
In fact, Nick Saban says the only area in which McCarron shows weakness is that he "needs to continue to develop confidence in...the game management part of it."
Saban said that a year ago during spring ball. Since then, A.J. has had another season to watch the ultimate game manager, Greg McElory, and learn all he could from him.
Think of McElroy as Yoda and McCarron as Luke. You get the idea.
So, what's to keep Saban from turning the young QB loose against the likes of Kent State and North Texas and even Penn State? We know what the running game can do with Richardson, et al, back there. Besides, letting A.J. throw it around some can let those young receivers get some much needed timing down and give them some valuable experience before heading into the meat of the SEC schedule.
Everybody knows McCarron needs to add about 20+ pounds before the fall. The argument is that the extra padding will help him absorb hits when he drops back to pass.
We'd see to it that he'd at least get the chance to do so early and often-drop back, that is, not absorb hits.
Keep Kirby Smart at All Costs
Keeping Kirby Smart might cost Nick Saban. And cost, and cost, and cost.
We feel he's worth it. Not only did he work miracles during the 2008 and 2009 season, he proved his mettle this past year by putting together a group of under-experienced, but highly athletic young men who worked hard and became one of the top defenses in the nation.
In a way, it was a better job than the year he won the Broyles.
Case in point last year. During the Florida game. The Gators had the ball on the one inch line, or so it seemed. The obvious play was to power the ball into the end zone and make the game tight. But one man on the 'Bama sideline knew what was coming, and what was coming was not power football.
Smart was leaping and signaling for a jump pass. And that's what came and 'Bama intercepted and the game was, for all practical purposes, over.
Sure, the university doubled his salary last year, and that probably helped him to stay another year.
If we were Saban, we'd do whatever it took to keep this guy around, because defense wins championships.
Just ask Mack Brown.
Never Say Never But Never Leave 'Bama
Yep, we understand things can happen. God forbid. Sudden illness. Family issues (real ones, not the politician in a scandal ones). Burnout.
That's why we'd never say we'd never leave the Capstone if we were Nick Saban.
At the same time, we'd never leave.
Why would a coach want to leave Alabama? Great facilities, great support staff and university, great recruits and tradition and rabid fans.
Besides, where would a coach go where he'd receive more adulation?
So, if we were Nick Saban, we wouldn't make promises, but we'd never leave Alabama.