While sacks are always something fans love to see, there are other ways to stop an offense and these coaches know it. (photo by Adam Brimmer)
To Sack, or Not To Sack, That is the Question
By: Larry Burton
One of the questions I’m asked with amazing regularity is about Alabama’s sack totals. To tout the nation’s number one defense as they did last season, they didn’t make the top 10 in sacks, or the top 15. They tied with four other schools for number 16.
And while that was a dramatic improvement from 2011’s finish of 29th, it’s hard to believe that was also a national championship year as well.
So while some people simply inquire politely why the numbers haven’t been so good, others just come right out and ask why the Tide sucks and sacks.
To answer the question you first have to realize that the question itself could be wrong.
Alabama in fact, may not be as bad as the numbers portray.
In the Nick Saban / Kirby Smart game planning, statistics aren’t as important as outcomes and the statistic they don’t really care about is sacks.
“Sometimes it’s far more important to contain and pressure a quarterback instead of rushing in and trying to make the sack.” Saban explained to a group of reporters I was a part of. “I’d rather have a player affect the quarterback in such a way that they force a mistake rather than go for a sack.” Saban concluded. Then he talked about how some quarterbacks can do more damage when they’re rushed and attempted to be sacked. If they manage to elude the rusher, that leaves a hole open he can run through, or have an opening in the line he can use for a passing lane.
In other words, in the Saban / Smart defensive logic, containment, confusion and pressure are far more important that sack numbers.
With the undeniable talent Alabama puts on the field, if they wanted to make sack numbers a priority, they certainly could. But to understand what these two coaches are trying to do is contain a quarterback in the pocket, then collapse the pocket on him.
Yes it takes longer to accomplish, but with mobile quarterbacks becoming the rage, you wind up with better results when you only give those very mobile quarterbacks one tool to beat you with, their arm, by taking away the damage they could do with their legs.
So while the number of sacks have some Tide fans wishing for more, it’s been hard to argue with the results of going the containment first route.
Besides, when you come home with more crystal for the case, things like sack counts don’t really seem so important after all.
Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter