Nick Saban was not happy when two writers asked him questions that did not directly relate to Alabama's pending game against Tennessee.
His dismay should leave Alabama fans absolutely thrilled.
The questions seemed harmless at first. One reporter asked what Mark Ingram's 2009 Heisman Trophy—the first in Alabama's history—meant to the program. A later question seemed aimed at the possibility of the annual Alabama/Tennessee game being lost to the forces of realignment.
Saban wanted none of it. The Heisman Trophy was not important, he said. Any possible change in conference divisional alignment isn't going to affect the outcome of Saturday's installment of the traditional rivalry, and Saban only wanted to talk football.
On the surface, his words seemed unnecessarily gruff. On past occasions, he has answered questions substantially similar to these with no dramatics whatsoever. Today, he rejected the premise of the first question and cursed at the second.
Maybe Saban was just having a bad day, the Monday after a 52-7 thrashing of Ole Miss has the Tide the talk of college football, and took his frustration out on the Alabama media. More likely, he was trying to send a message loud and clear to his players not to get caught up in their own hype and lose their focus, like a certain defending national championship team tended to do at times last season.
Alabama found itself in a similar place last year. After an entire offseason of media hype reminiscent of that which made the nation resent Florida the year before, Alabama was the "it" team of 2010. Despite all the attention, Alabama was 5-0 after surviving a scare from a good Arkansas team and throttling Florida. Much of the national media proclaimed it all but a sure thing that Nick Saban's squad would repeat.
Alabama went on to lose three of its next seven games, two of them to inferior teams, and the third to a team it led by 24 points but let off the hook. More than once, Saban attributed the team's failures to their lack of focus on the things that mattered, caused by immaturity and feeling just a little too good about past success.
In reference to the mental lapses that led to their collapse against Auburn, Saban hung signs reading "Never Again" all over the football facility this offseason.
Alabama's problem in 2010 was not a lack of talent. It was a lack of focus.
Saban's angry tirade in Monday's press conference should go a long way to prevent that from happening again any time soon. It might have sounded angry, but don't think for a minute it wasn't calculated.
And absolutely brilliant.