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Alabama’s been playing football since 1892. They won their first Rose Bowl and National Championship under Coach Wallace Wade in 1925. Over their 100+ year history, they’ve amassed 12 national championships and have been to more bowls–and won more–than any other team. In the history of college football, only Notre Dame has been nearly as successful. In fact, it’s safe to say that Alabama and Notre Dame are programs 1A and 1B and everyone else is ranked behind them.

Here is a fact: Coming into this season, since 1908, Notre Dame had 1 more win than Alabama for most wins in the past 100 years of college football. We’ve all seen Notre Dame post their 6-6 record this season, and everyone is also well aware that Alabama is 12-0 and ranked #1 in the country. Did you also know that Alabama has now moved into first place in wins over the last 100 years? Does that make Alabama the program of the century? I think so, yes. Over the last 100 years, Alabama is #1, and all other football programs are #2 or lower, including Notre Dame.

Wins, from 1908 – 2008:

  1. Alabama: 754
  2. Notre Dame: 748
  3. Texas: 747
  4. Oklahoma: 743
  5. Tennessee: 731
  6. Southern Cal: 717
  7. Nebraska: 715
  8. Ohio State: 712
  9. Michigan: 710
  10. Penn State: 706

elephant

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Kenny Stabler was arrested for DUI last night in Robertsdale. I’ve heard the rumors that Jay Barker would be replacing him as color commentator for Crimson Tide football games, a rumor that Jay Barker has denied on his morning talk radio show, and word’s been that Kenny has been none too happy about that rumor, either.

Well, Kenny’s mistake last night will make it very easy for Alabama to fire him, if in fact that is what they want to do, and make a move for Barker. Before last night, even if they’d wanted much-beloved Barker in the booth, firing Stabler would have been a tough move. As beloved as Jay Barker is, so too is the Snake. But by climbing into that car last night in Robertsdale, Kenny’s almost given permission to Alabama to fire him. If Alabama does fire him, there won’t be any uproar by the fans as there could have been, now the fans will just be waiting with anticipation to hear that Jay Barker will be hired to fill the post.

Not that Kenny Stabler won’t still be much-beloved in the state of Alabama. He always will be, but he’s also dug his own grave, so to speak, by driving under the influence of alcohol.

Long live the Snake. Cheers.

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Paul Finebaum: “I think it’s a biblical thing. Twenty-five years of glory (the number of years Bryant was at Alabama) followed by 25 five years of plagues.”

Allen Barra (in the book “The Last Coach“): “Which means a new golden age should be dawning for the Crimson Tide around 2007.”

This is a great article. I wish I’d written it. Paul Finebaum is the author, and one of the several key points it covers includes one in which he states, quite correctly, that Alabama fans don’t live in the past quite as much as people accuse them (us) of.

I don’t think Alabama fans so much live in the past, as others accuse them of. They simply remember a time when excellence was required and essential. You didn’t hear the excuses and the alibis during Bryant’s times. You heard people talk about expectations of winning it all — not settling for second place. 

I’ve pointed that out before. We love the Bear, but we also love our program. We’re not looking for another Bear Bryant. It would be ridiculous to try: Bear Bryant was a figurehead, an icon, a genuinely Great Man. A lot of people would scoff right now, reading this, believing that such a statement was written by an Alabama fan of Coach Bryant because he was the Alabama coach. But those who do didn’t know Paul Bryant. They didn’t have the opportunity to stand in his presence and feel humbled just because he looked at you. And it’s nothing I can explain here. Paul Bear Bryant will never be duplicated, and we, as Alabama fans, don’t even want him to be. What we’re looking for is another great coach to add to the Alabama dynasty, a tradition that includes a lot of folks not named Bryant: Thomas, Wade, Stallings. These are the University of Alabama’s Four Horsemen, they’ve combined to give Alabama 12 National Championships, and now it’s time to add #13. Welcome to the fold, Nick Saban.

What if Gene Stallings had been hired to follow Bryant instead of Ray Perkins? What if Bobby Bowden had been hired instead of Bill Curry? What if Howard Schnellenberger had emerged from the pack at various times? What if Alabama had hired Frank Beamer instead of Mike DuBose, or an available and willing Steve Spurrier after Shula’s second season? What if Alabama had not been arrogant and played ball with the NCAA in 1995, and what if it had stood firm in the Albert Means case instead of rolling over?

 And there you have it. 25 years of frustration summed up in one series of questions. If any one of those questions had been answered in the past 25 years there might have been a very different story told today. But you can’t subvert destiny, right? The good news is that if Alabama was destined for 25 years of plague, that prophesy was fulfilled last year. Which means we are now on the threshold of a new era: welcome to the advent of Nick Saban.

Finally, the article ends with a comment that’s similar to one I made above, but coming from a Tennessee man it might carry more weight.

On the 25th anniversary of Bryant’s death, Alabama’s program is solid, legitimately looking forward for the first time in a long time.

Is Nick Saban the next Bear Bryant?

Not a chance.

He’s a very good coach, but neither Saban nor anyone else can compare. There was only one Bear Bryant. And that statement rings as true today as it did 25 years ago.

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 “Chris” has left a particularly inflammatory comment on my post “How to Fix College Football” wherein he rants about the wrongs of the bowl system and raves about my psychotic, dumb, “bass ackwardness.” For those of you who are wondering, including you, Chris, this is as close as you can come to getting banned without actually getting banned. I’m all about disagreements, but hold back the reins on the ranting insults, and realize that your opinion makes as much sense to me as mine does to you. But I’m not going to call Chris by the name I think he deserves for this tidbit of drivel he’s shellacked onto my blog, I’m going to respond, and I’m going to give it a full post, because I know there are many, many people out there who have all jumped onto the playoff bandwagon and believe it would do something it’s not capable of doing. First, Chris’s prattle:

Are you psycho? Why does everybody think the bowls are good? Most are about as boring as a knitting competition. If the bowl system was so great and “voting” on a paper “National Champion” was the way to go why aren’t the other NCAA sports doing it as well. Why isn’t the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. clammoring to go that way? Why? Because it is the dumbest most bass ackwards way of determining a champion! Let’s all pull our heads out and get over the super 6 conferences wanting all the money and give the fans what they want!!! A PLAYOFF!!!

Okay, Chris, here’s my answer: you’re wrong. As far as I can tell the only question you raised in your irrational squawk was “why aren’t the other sports clammoring to go that way?” (note that the incorrect spelling of clamoring is Chris’s, not mine). There are dozens of reasons, but historically it’s because, other than the MLB, boxing and horse racing there were no other major sports than college football around when it started up, and guess what? Until 1907 MLB didn’t have a playoff either, and they only did it then because there were two separate professional leagues of teams: the National and the American. Before that those teams had never played one another. And up until 1969 there was no divisional playoff, either. The two teams with the best records played for the championship: that’s it. And neither horse racing nor boxing have playoffs, either. Sure, horse racing has it’s triple crown, boxing has multiple titles, things that make them unique in the world of sports, just like the bowls do for college football. And as for “the super 6 conferences wanting all the money,” well, that again is nothing but drivel. Why do you think MLB instituted the playoffs? Money grubbers, that’s why. And as far as that goes, college football would make more money with a playoff, so that argument is asinine right out of the gate.

And as for the NFL, they, too didn’t begin with a playoff. From Wikipedia:

NFL post-season history can be traced to the first NFL Championship Game in 1933, though in the early years, qualification for the game was based solely on regular season records. The first true NFL playoff began in 1967, when four teams qualified for the tournament. When the league merged with the American Football League in 1970, the playoffs expanded to eight teams. The playoffs were expanded to ten teams in 1978 and twelve teams in 1990.

The NFL chartered its rules in 1876–without a playoff.

So why shouldn’t college football adopt their own playoff system like the other sports have? Because none of the other sports had a system already in place like college football does. They didn’t “playoff” at all, they just named a champ or had one extra game to see who it was. They had to do something to determine the champ, and college football already had the bowls. Where do you think they got the name for the Super Bowl? It was their shot at duplicating what college football had already done with great success.

But even more than this, more than the history and tradition of the game, the greatest reason of all (other than the fact that we don’t need a playoff), is because the regular season still matters in college football. You’ll never see a team in college football with a guaranteed playoff bid running its second stringers out onto the field because the win is meaningless. Every loss has significance. Not so in any other sport.

And besides that, to institute a playoff you’d have to add games to the season. Even if it’s only one or two, you’d still add games, and these are still students who are trying to make the grade. There are enough games.

Look at it this way: The first kickoff of the first game in a college football season is the start of the playoffs. And every team approaches every season with the same attitude: Must Win. NCAA basketball started their own playoff system, and now look at it. It doesn’t become a popular sport until March. Everything leading up to that is filler.

Really, Chris, if you want to make an argument, make one, but throwing insults at the blog host isn’t going to get you anywhere. Give me a good reason for a playoff and I’ll listen, but I’ll tell you right now, because the fans want it isn’t a good reason. Herd mentality does nothing for an argument.

In closing, I’d like to add that I don’t believe the current system is working. I’ve come up with an alternative plan that I believe would fix the situation nicely. We could keep the bowl structure intact, keep the conferences as they are, and even keep the BCS in place. My plan would fix college football. Tell me what you think, or how you would fix it, if you’d do anything at all.

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(Originally published on Unabashed) This is a great series of games, of which I have owned almost (if not) every version that’s been released. But there always seems to be something getting in the way of my full enjoyment of the games, so I thought I might write a bit about what’s wrong with them in the hopes that the EA folks might happen by here one day and possibly consider making a few modifications to the next release version.

First, the good, and there’s a lot of good. This game is consistently my favorite and most-played game. These are some of the main points, but rest assured gameplay is fantastic:

  1. ‘08’s front room (or main screen, or front screen) is a vast improvement over many of the previous versions. (The Gameday crew of the ’07 version on the game lead-in screen was absolutely laughable and horrendous and I’m glad they dropped it. It wasn’t all that bad an idea, but the application was pitifully atrocious.)
  2. I love being able to set my own schedule. Trading UL Monroe for USC or Michigan or Clemson or West Virginia is a treat and a great feature. 
  3. The stadiums look great. The field looks great. The players look great. Visually this game is awesome. Sometimes the shadows are tough (try playing OSU at home wearing the black uniforms on a day game. You can’t see the players on the shadowy portion of the field) and often the crowds and the sidelines look ridiculous. It would be nice if they gave a bit more effort to the sidelines, made them look more realistic.
  4. Thank God they changed the kickoff difficulty. It was outrageous that a kickoff or punt was so extremely hard in previous versions when the difficulty setting was Heisman. It should be no more difficult to kick a field goal, from a controller perspective, on Heisman as on Freshman. So thanks for changing that.

And now, the bad: 

  1. The playbook design option is great, if only it worked. I spent a lot of time designing my own playbook and then found that, once I’d saved it, I couldn’t access it. I couldn’t choose it to use during a game. This was infuriating.
  2. It takes no less than six option screens to get from the main page to your saved Dynasty screen, and then another three or four to get to play a game. There’s got to be a better way. Why do you have to choose the file, okay the load, then choose the file and okay the load again? The repetition is infuriating every time I load my Dynasty. Put a link to saved files on the main screen so we can click straight in for cripe’s sake.
  3. I’ve never been able to create a recruit and actually recruit him to my team. There should be an option for “Recruit normally” and “Recruit to my team.” Yes, this would be an easy way for someone who has a Dynasty to fill a void, or multiple voids, with great players, but it’s a game and I want to be able to do that. Otherwise the “create a recruit” is a big, fat, stupid waste of time.
  4. Different difficulty levels. I want to be able to score points, but at the same time I want to play in competitive games. This is almost impossible with a single difficulty level. They somewhat managed this by allowing you to change difficulty settings during the game, something you used to be penalized for in the game, but it would be much easier and nicer if I could set my offense to “Varsity” and my defense to “All-American” or something like that. I like that I can change the user and the CPU’s difficulty settings individually, but I would like to be able to do that with the overall difficulty setting as well. a. If my gameplay is advanced enough to compete at the Heisman difficulty setting, I want to be able to do that and still be able to recruit enough quality players to keep my Dynasty going. Give me a different difficulty setting for recruiting that from the game portion, and if I set it to “Freshman” then my team should by God be the number one recruiting class every time.
  5. Recruiting is too difficult and too convoluted, which is fine for some folks. Sometimes I want to spend time looking at recruits and analyzing them, but usually I just want to play the games. Give us an auto-recruit feature so we can pick which one we’ll do, and if my difficulty is set to Freshman my team should by God be the number one recruiting class every time.
  6. Each year there should be an amazing recruit with mad skillz in the recruiting pool, but usually there isn’t. He should be a stand-out super recruit, and if my difficulty is set to freshman my team should by God be able to recruit him. Period.
  7. It’s just irritating to spend recruiting time asking a recruit who wants to go pro to stay another year. Worse, when the answer is, “I don’t know coach. I’m undecided.” And you have to do it over again. And sometimes for a third or fourth time. Sure, it might work that way in real life, but this is a game. Give me an answer one way or the other right off the bat. I’ve got recruiting to get to.
  8. Why should you only be able to change a player’s position on one screen during the pre-season options? And that option comes before the depth chart setting screen. How can I know where I’m deficient for next year like that? I need to be able to look at my depth chart, see where I need help, and then change positions to fill holes.
  9. Also: when you change a players position he immediately sucks at the new position. This is not like real life at all. True, a three year cornerback might not catch as well as a wide receiver, but many of the skills are there. Sometimes running backs are moved to DE in the real world, OL to DL, TE to MLB or OLB, but in the game this is virtually impossible. Real life scenario: This season Alabama moved Jimmy Johns from RB to LB. I tried that on my game and his rating dropped from the 80s to the 50s. That’s bull. JJ is a phenomenal athlete with a broad set of skills, he can play better linebacker than that. Sure, he may not be upper 80s, but he still should be able to play.
  10. Let me delete games from the “Great Game” screen. I lost 17-14 to LSU on the last play of the game on the Heisman difficulty setting and manned up and saved the season. But now that game is recorded infinitely as one of my “Greatest Games.” You know what? Nobody considers a loss, no matter how great the game was, to be one of their greatest games. Penn State probably doesn’t cherish the ’79 Sugar Bowl like Alabama does. Don’t make me stare at my failures like that. 10. As for gameplay, as I’ve already stated it’s remarkable. But it could be better. If a well thrown ball is lobbed up to a receiver who has the lead on a DB to the corner of the end zone, the DB will invariably jump some fifteen feet into the air and swat it away or pick it. To which I say, huh? This is a mainstay play in football, and if a WR has a DB beat, the well thrown ball is caught probably 90% of the time in real life. Fix it.

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Here’s a question I’m hearing a lot: I’m an Alabama fan; should I feel slighted that Rodriguez took the Michigan job in ’08 after turning down Bama in ’07?

My answer? No. Alabama should definitely not feel slighted by Rich Rodriguez accepting the Michigan job.

Why? Because of the two primary factors involved:

  • West Virginia had a very good stock of returning talent for ’07 and Rodriguez knew he’d have a decent shot at a national title.
  • For ’08, WVU’s talent stock will be significantly lower, and the likelihood of competing again for the NC will drop significantly.

Basically, the time was not right for a job change in ’07, but it couldn’t have been better for ’08.
 
Additionally, Alabama in ’07 would have been a rebuilding project. Rodriguez likely looked at the two situations in hand (WVU or Bama for the ’07 season) in terms of what the hires could mean in a few years, rather than at their immediate benefits. When he was offered the Bama gig, he had a lot of stock as a head coach, but no National Championship. Looking at the talent pool at both schools, the chance of winning a NC at WVU was pretty good, but at Bama it was not. Realistically, the only situation for Rich Rodriguez in ’07 that might have improved his situation was with an Alabama-caliber school which was also in a position to compete for a National Championship. Alabama, clearly, was not. This little factor would effectively narrow the potential schools to: USC, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan and the like, none of which were on the table at the time.

Championships being the primary motivation for any coach, it’s easy to see why he would remain at a school with inferior facilities for lower pay for another year or two. He realized his shot was happening at WVU, while accepting the Bama gig would have meant rebuilding the team, a prospect that is altogether likely due to the many benefits of coaching at a school like Alabama, but for immediate gratification as well as what a potential NC would mean for his future, it made sense to stay put.

Supposing he had taken the Bama job, the chances of his team being ranked #2 in the country going into the last week of the season would have been practically nil. He would have been stuck in the same 6-6 (or similar) season Saban has been stuck in, collecting talent and building for the future. As it is though, he had his shot and, though he failed, it could do nothing to his stock as a proven head football coach because based on his schedule alone he was virtually guaranteed a winning season. Combine that with the potential for a NC and it was a no-brainer.

Now, fast forward to ’08 and look at the motivating factors: Your star running back is gone next year and your talent stock is declining. You’re facing a potential rebuilding year regardless if you stay at WVU, and word has it your relationship with the WVU AD is strained. Plus, the promises made by WVU to keep him from leaving for Alabama have yet to even get a sniff at becoming reality. Time, clearly, was right for leaving. Since he stayed at WVU for that one extra season, taking his shot at the title and finishing the year ranked in the top ten if not top five, you knew someone was going to come calling. That someone just happened to be Michigan, who have a lot of talent in place, so rebuilding won’t be nearly as significant a project as it would have been at Bama in ’07 or WVU in ’08.

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Mike Shula was a good recruiter, by all accounts. In four seasons at the Crimson Tide he recruited 24 four and five star Rivals ranked players. In less than one year, Nick Saban has recruited 27.

There’s been a lot of recent activity on campus lately, with recruits eagerly adding their names to the swelling ranks of the Tide’s ’08 class. Why? Because Nick Saban has sold the idea that Alabama will be winners soon, and the recruits are buying in.

The latest commitment, River Ridge (LA) cornerback Robby Green, a four-star recruit himself, had this to say about his commitment:

 “I know he’s expecting a national championship. The class we’re bringing in this year, we’re going to work hard to try to meet that ultimate goal. Coach Saban wants to win the national championship and win the SEC championship, which we’re going to bring to the table.”

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The arrival of two new coaches into the SEC today has made it official: The Spread Offense has arrived. Everyone’s been enamored with it for a while now, seeing the success of the schools that’ve been confounding opposing defenses with it. It was already here, you say? Yes, you’re correct, but two coaching hires today just ensured it’s here to stay, and that it may ‘spread’ to other teams as well.

The University of Arkansas hired “Power Spread” guru Bobby Petrino away from the Falcons today, and Auburn dumped its old-school OC Al Borges and is reported to be hiring Tony Franklin away from the Men of Troy, also a spread offense guru.

It’s been well documented that Urban Meyer runs the spread offense as well, but little known is the fact that Major Applewhite ran a spread offense at Rice in ’06. Why didn’t they run it at Bama in ’07? Likely because of personnel. It takes a specific brand of QB to run the spread, but when run correctly it can send shivers up a DC’s spine.

Watch out, SEC! There’s a new offense in town, and four teams will likely be running some variation of the spread in ’08. And now, you too can run the spread offense: Amazon lists 270 books about the spread offense, sometimes called the “power spread,” “shotgun spread” or the “spread bone.”

Have I said “spread” enough times in this article?

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Sly Croom is doing good things at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have beaten Alabama twice in consecutive years, and this year added cross-state rival Ole Miss, Kentucky and Auburn to its list of wins, finishing with a satisfying 7-win season plus a bowl trip. Eight wins in Starkville? Yes, and with the QB problems they’re having, that’s quite an accomplishment.

And this upward trend of success the ‘Dogs are enjoying prompts the question: What if Alabama had hired Croom instead of Shula? After the Mike Price fiasco, already late in the year and suffering from the shock and awe penalties of the sanctimonious NCAA, the coaching pickings were slim. A proven head coach was out of the question during that time of year. And what it came down to was a choice between Sly Croom and Mike Shula. Croom was an Alabama product and champion as a player and as a coach, with lessons in coaching from Bear Bryant himself. Shula was a Bama product, son of Don Shula, and had great hair. As coaches, both were in the NFL at the time, Croom coaching the running backs in Chicago and Shula the QB coach for Miami.  

Ultimately the choice came down to who had the best hair. No, I don’t believe it was a black/white thing, but I’ll grant you it would have made vast inroads if Croom had’ve been hired. It’s one thing for MSU to hire a black coach, but for Alabama, with all its pride and tradition, it would have made a statement for the whole south, to the entire country. In the end, though, they hired the prettier Shula, and damn the championship rings on Croom’s fingers. Shula looked more like a head football coach, didn’t he? Surely if he went into a recruit’s home the parents couldn’t resist his boyish charm, those eyes, that smile, that hair! Oh, if only hindsight were 50/50! (in the words of Pat Dye).

In the following years Shula would have some successes as head coach, including a 10-win season and SEC crown, and I’m sure his gentle good looks won him the hearts of many a recruits’ dear mother. But in retrospect, looking at the complete package, who looks the most like a head football coach? Shula, who is now the QB coach for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, or Sly Croom, who has coached up a team of blue-collar no names into a 7-win season. Croom walks the sidelines with a scowl on his face, with a furrowed brow, and points and shouts. While Shula, when he was at Bama, stared with an often-dazed expression, and was routinely slow in making the wrong decision.

Sure, it’s easy to get on the Croom bandwagon when he’s winning, and I do remember last year, when the only thing he had to hang his hat on was a win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. And I’m grateful for the job Mike Shula did; he took a tough job at a school still reeling, still with red butt cheeks from the NCAA’s almighty whooping stick. But Croom, who may not have boyish good looks, does have the classic coach’s stalk when he’s on the sideline, and he’s got rings, people. Championship rings on his fingers, won at the University of Alabama. Rings that I’ll bet shine brighter than Mike Shula’s baby blues ever did.

So in hindsight, maybe it’s possible Witt chose the pretty boy for the wrong reasons. Maybe he should have opted for the grizzled workhorse who is now building a reputation as a coach who not only demands excellence, but will not accept anything less. If he can win seven games at MSU, how many could he have won at Alabama?

Of course, if Croom had been hired and if had had success then Nick Saban would likely be somewhere else right now and all the excitement surrounding the program would be… what?

Few can match Saban as a recruiter, that much is certain. And as a coach he’s got few peers. But he’s not an Alabama product, and that’s his one big detrimental factor. One which, with Alabama fans, will be very easy to overlook if and when he brings home a championship. And it’s true that ‘hiring inside the family’ has bitten Alabama on the butt more times in recent years than the NCAA has. Saban is a gruff man, not personable at all, they say. The media despises him and most other college football fans in the country do, too. But we adore him, we’ve welcomed him, with all his faults, because he brings a foundation to build upon, he brings success, and he has won championships.

For Coach Croom, if he had been hired and not had success, the firestorm would not have been pretty. There’s certainly a faction of fans who would begrudge the decision of hiring a black man, although I believe it’s a small faction, and dwindling. But if Coach Croom took the podium with those rings on his fingers, few could have kept from being dazzled. He’s a product of Alabama and a Bear Bryant Man, a good man, for all accounts.

What happens if Saban bolts, which is been predicted by virtually everyone who isn’t an Alabama fan? What if Coach Saban sees the looming, potential LSU vacancy as a preferable job and grabs it up? For me, I believe Coach Croom would finally deserve the shot at Alabama. I hope him all the success in the world at MSU, excluding of course the one Saturday every year when they play Alabama. I’m not hoping for Saban to leave–God, no–I’m looking forward to this potential #1 recruiting class and I’m looking forward to everything that I think he can do at Alabama. But if he bolts, there’s a Bryant man waiting in the wing, if he’d still have us.

I believe he would.

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Has Nick Saban lost this team? The better question might be “Did he ever have them in the first place?” It’s been rumored far and wide that some few of the players hadn’t bought into Saban or his system, and it’s entirely possible that those few scrubs–among them some of the senior leadership of the team–could have infected other players, too, if not the whole team.

This team, recruited by the grandmotherly Mike Shula, has at all reports never had much asked of them. Punishment has been almost unheard of and the players have been pampered and mothered in ways few other teams would allow. Enter Nick Saban, a disciplinarian with a temper and very little patience, and the kettle has gone straight from simmer to boil.

But if Mike Shula was grandmotherly, then Saban must be the warden or the drill sergeant. Saban is demanding. He requires players to conform to his structured methods, using a proven plan that produces winners. We know enough of Nick Saban to believe he will not coddle the players–or coaches, for that matter. We know he strives to cultivate a championship mentality first and foremost. But what can be done if the inherited players find themselves so entrenched in their comfort zone that they refuse to step outside of it? You end up with a 6-6 record, ending a long season with a 4-game losing streak including one loss to the Most Hated Rival, and you see a coach at press conferences who seems at a loss for what to do.

And what can be done? At Alabama, standing in the shadow of Bear Bryant, you might only have to look as high as his statue at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and remember the hard lessons learned when he inherited a similar situation at Texas A&M. Go back to the Junction. Find out who wants to play and who doesn’t.

Bear only won a single game that first season at A&M, but he stated numerous times throughout his life that it was his best team ever. And why? Because the players that were left after the Junction were the ones he knew would never quit. When arriving at Athens for a game against Georgia, Bear Bryant was asked by Atlanta newspaperman Harry Mehre where the rest of his team was.

“This is the rest of my team,” Bryant replied.

“Well, uh, why didn’t you bring more guys?”

“Because these are the only ones who want to play.”

Nick Saban has a tried-and-true method for building a championship team. But in this case, he might do well to follow the example set by Bryant, go back to the Junction, and find out who wants to play football and who doesn’t.

The season was lost after the Mississippi State game anyway. It would have made a profound statement if he had dismissed half the team after that loss. It would have met with some criticism, sure, but it would have left no doubt as to who exactly was in charge of the team, whereas now there’s this lingering speculation that maybe this team is lost to him.

Attrition will take care of him in the long run. He’ll get the players in there who want to play for him and the ones who don’t will move on, but gradually. His recruiting class is looking very good according to Rivals and may well end up the best class in the nation. But those players will take time to develop enough to overtake the upperclassmen in skill. Unless the non-conformists are weeded out in one fell swoop.

It’s time to make a statement.

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