History, records, clutter and injuries at the wrong time make this a busy Thursday Thoughts.
Thursday Thoughts on Crimson Tide Football
By Larry Burton
If you love history, you’ll love the following tidbits, in the Nick Saban Era, each time Alabama has been rated number two in the nation in the preseason polls, they’ve won the national championship. Still worried about Auburn? They haven’t had back to back seasons in the top 10 in 25 years, so this is a down year for them. Also in the Nick Saban era, every time they started a rookie starting quarterback, they’ve won a national championship.
But you know, records are meant to be broken, stats never tell the whole story and the only thing a football team can really count on to help them is hard, very hard work.
It irritates Saban to have reporters bring up stuff like this. He knows it means nothing. It’s just one of the many things that Saban considers “clutter”. Such talk only takes his team’s mind off what really matters, hard work.
So how is the team right now, are they working hard?
Saban doesn’t think so.
If you listen to him in post game practice conferences, he conveys his displeasure with one thing or another. One day it may be the offensive line, the other, bad tackling and on yet another day, he’ll grumble about the running game.
But knowing Saban they way I do, I can assure you if things were going absolutely perfect, he’d still grumble about something. In fact, he once alluded to that very thing when he said, “We had some explosive plays out there today and the offense looked great and had good rhythm, but then you have to look at the defense and look at what they did wrong that allowed those plays to happen.
But if you only think Saban is happy in game situations, where when his team does good it’s only the other team that looks bad, you’re not right then either. I’ve ended many games down on the field with the team to grab them for a sound bite or two, but I like to watch to watch Saban’s face as the clock ticks down.
I’ve never seen him smile, no matter the score, except for the times when it’s the final game of the season, when Alabama’s won a national championship. Then and only then will he let his guard down and smile at the end of game, because the mission has been completed. He says he’ll enjoy it for 24 hours before the scowl comes back and he starts working on next season. But few of us really believe he enjoys it that long and think that as soon as he wakes up, any past accomplishment is immaterial.
Rashad Johnson, who played for Alabama and is now a safety in the NFL once told me in an interview that on one third down play he ran with a receiver down the field and swatted the ball away to force a punt. He said his teammates were giving him high fives and when he got to the sideline, Saban scolded him on his technique and told him what he had done wrong and he was thinking to himself, “But I did good!”
It wasn’t till later that I learned that it’s not just about making plays in his eyes. It’s about learning, it’s about getting better the next time, it’s about making perfection commonplace and not just doing it sometimes. “Coach Saban doesn’t expect perfection from us though, don’t get that from what I’m saying, he just wants to strive for it and be better tomorrow than we were today.”
So don’t try and fill Saban or his players with stats, history and such, it’s all just “clutter”. If it doesn’t help his team be a little better tomorrow than today, if it doesn’t get the closer to perfection, then it’s irrelevant and a waste of his time. But still, as a writer, I find that stuff very entertaining.
On another subject, as soon I read the contract numbers that the Cincinnati Bengals gave their starting quarterback Andy Dalton, it was apparent that they didn’t draft AJ McCarron with any intention of having succeed Dalton or be in any serious competition for that job. Furthermore, with McCarron’s shoulder injured, look for him to be cut from the team before the first game.
It appears that McCarron will join his predecessor at Alabama as successful college quarterbacks who had injuries that dampened their careers before they ever got started. McElroy’s throwing hand injury hurt him getting reps at a time when he could have proven himself. Apparently, so is the fate of McCarron. Further adding to his dismal future with the Bengals is the fact that Jason Campbell is in camp and now ready to play the role of backup.
Is Saban’s “Game Manager” curse killing the NFL chances of Alabama quarterbacks or is it just the wrong injury at the wrong time, being drafted by the wrong team or some other problem. While many players from almost all positions have used the Sabanization to make meaningful careers in the NFL with quarterback so far being to glaring exception.
Time will tell and McCarron may be picked up by another team and this is no way saying that McCarron’s career is over, but the writing on the wall with his present team seems clear as the Bengals don’t have a history of keeping extra quarterbacks on the roster. Will Alabama fans have to wait to see if Jacob Coker will be the one to break the cycle?
Lastly, why is Saban being so closed lipped about his quarterbacks? Why isn’t he releasing stats on them? Because that’s Nick’s way. There doesn’t have to be a rhyme or reason, that’s just the way he likes it. But if you’re searching for reasons, Saban alluded to some of them in a post practice press conference.
He says that people get too hung up on stats and numbers, (again, that’s just clutter). He says they don’t see that there may have been drops, tips or other things that weren’t the quarterback’s fault. He says the numbers don’t show which stats come from going against the ones or twos or throwing to the ones, twos, three or fours.
In other words, it’s not important for you to know that stats as they don’t tell the story that Saban sees on a daily basis. He will make the decision when it comes time and it won’t create controversy. Because if he sees one over the other, the rest of the team will see it too. As for us in the press, we don’t have to see it and won’t get to see it. That’s not important.
While that frustrates us in the press, what it does do is help create less “clutter” by having us interject our opinion into the starting job. The best man will win it and the second string will be ready to take over should they have to. That is what is important to all concerned, the players, the coaches and even the fans.
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 him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter