Alabama Football: The Tide Offense Soared to New Heights Under Jim McElwain

Damon YoungCorrespondent IIDecember 12, 2011

With news last week that Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain is about to take over at Memphis, Alabama fans seemed split on their initial reaction.

Now that he is set to take over as head coach at Colorado State, I would imagine the reaction to stay the same.

I find it a bit ridiculous how Tide fans can think so poorly of the man who has guided the Tide offense to some of it's most productive seasons in the history of Alabama football.

In 2009, the Tide offense set a new record for yards from scrimmage with 5,642. In 2010, the Alabama offense set a record for total yards with 5,773.

The most important value a McElwain-led offense possessed at the Capstone was balance. Alabama's ability to run and throw the football is what allowed for such a productive period under his watch.

McElwain also had a quality that can sometimes be hard to find in this age of the hot-shot coordinator. He knew his role. He knew his first and foremost assignment was to not lose a game for Alabama, but to do so without being conservative.

The Alabama quarterbacks flourished under McElwain. It might be hard to see that effort when you look at the gaudy numbers put up by other quarterbacks in other pass-happy systems, but in 2008 alone, John Parker Wilson saw his pass efficiency improve from eighth to fifth in the SEC.

Greg McElroy set single-season passing records in 2010 with 20 touchdown passes, 70.9 completion percentage, and 2,987 yards.

Yes, McElwain had very special players to work with in Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and Trent Richardson, but no coordinator can be successful without talent. No one is going to question the coaching ability of Auburn's Gus Malzahn, but his offense isn't the same without Cam Newton.

Alabama has had three different quarterbacks, different tailbacks, offensive line combinations, but has always been consistent since McElwain arrived.

This season has been no different for Alabama. The Crimson Tide averaged 36 points per game with a balanced attack for 219 yards per game rushing and 213 yards per game passing. All of this coming with a first-year starter at quarterback and an offensive line that took some tweaking several games into the season.

Alabama won 47 games and lost only six during his reign over the Tide offense and while a big portion of that success goes to the defense, you can't deny how good Alabama was while McElwain was at the helm.

He can also claim Alabama's only Heisman trophy winner and a second Heisman finalist in three years.

Most critics would point to Alabama's struggles in the red zone, but in light of the wins and losses, it's hard to be overly critical even in that department.

Frankly, Alabama will miss McElwain and for the first time since the end of the 2007 season will have a key part of their staff to fill.

Whoever is hired to fill his shoes will have the talent he needs to succeed, but will that person be able to strike the right balance to keep Alabama productive?