Could the Bear do it today?

I realize the question I’m about to ask may be hazardous to my health. But here it goes:

Could Paul “Bear” Bryant be the coach he was in the sixties and seventies if he were alive and operating in today’s world of college football?

Recently this question was posed by a friend. The point he was making was that what Coach Nick Saban is doing at Alabama right now is special. Not a flash in the pan, he has built a program that is in the hunt year in and year out…as opposed to one questionable hit then falling off the face of the earth.

Indeed, the game has changed in the last fifty years. It was here I once suggested that Bo Jackson would be a good but not dominant running back if he played today, citing that defenders today are so much larger at every position, most having unreal lateral speed that wasn’t there in the 80’s.

The game has changed for players, but the same is true for coaches. Pressure is generated by instant information flowing freely thanks to the internet. Chat rooms and forums give fans and opposers an immediate voice, shining light on a program’s sins that used to be kept in the dark. The NCAA’s rule manual is thicker than a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas (remember those?). And a little thing called ESPN came along that changed fan hunger for sports information.

But this was the man among the first to integrate in the south after a beating at the hands of USC. He’s at least the co-inventor of what we know as the wishbone offense. He’s the architect of toughness made famous by the boys of at Junction, and the creator of the mind games that still are the stuff of compelling stories told today.

So I’m asking you. What would the Bear’s career look like if he walked the sidelines today? Would the pressures created by shoddy reporting in our state and the information age itself have an effect, or would this legendary icon find yet another way to rise to the top despite the circumstances?

28 Comments

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  1. 1
    Tim

    I make my practices hard because if a player is a quitter ,i want him to quit in practice not in a game.

    If wanting to win is a fault, As some of my critics seem to insist, then i plead guilty. I Like to win. I know no other way. it’s in my blood.

    They say i teach brutal football,but the only thing brutal football is losing.

    I’ve never posted here been a long time reader and itk said this might be hazardous to his health and he was right been a Bama fan all my life. These were Quotes from from Coach Bryant which i had the privilege of meeting at the Holiday Inn on Bessemer Super Highway in about !974 when they stayed there on there way to the Iron Bowl. To assume he couldn’t do it today is almost blasphemy.I played football all four years of high school not so sure i could play with a broken leg?? So to itk…yes he could do it today he’d coach his ass off and we’d still be winners.

  2. 2
    Coach Bryant Ain’t Nothing But A Winner : BamaFootball4Life

    […] From The Capstone Report Could Paul “Bear” Bryant be the coach he was in the sixties and seventies if he were alive and operating in today’s world of college football? Recently this question was posed by a friend. The point he was making was that what Coach Nick Saban is doing at Alabama right now is special. Not a flash in the pan, he has built a program that is in the hunt year in and year out…as opposed to one questionable hit then falling off the face of the earth. Indeed, the game has changed in the last fifty years. But this was the man among the first to integrate in the south after a beating at the hands of USC. He’s at least the co-inventor of what we know as the wishbone offense. He’s the architect of toughness made famous by the boys of at Junction, and the creator of the mind games that still are the stuff of compelling stories told today. [More] […]

  3. 6
    bamatruth77

    Absolutely!!! Coach Bryant had a winning Psyche about him. Throughout his career asvyhe game evolved he incorporated new offenses and went across racial boundaries to compete and WIN! there is no doubt in my mind that in todays game he would overcome and adapt to the style of today just as he did when he incorporated the wish bone and started recruiting black players to play for Alabama!

  4. 7
    WhoreEagle

    Bryant won through 3 decades where the college football changed tremdously. One platoon to two platoon, substition rules, scholarship limitations, etc. Bryant adapted and won. I believe he would still be able to adapt and win in todays environment.

    Darrell Royal once said that Bryant and Woody Hayes would call him more than any of the younger coaches combined, asking what he was doing, always wanting to stay on the cutting edge of new offenses, practices, recruiting, etc. In fact it was Royal that taught Bryant and his staff the Wishbone. Of course, Bryant and Mal Moore added new wrinkles to it, like throwing more out of that formation.

    Bowden and Paterno managed to win and adapt to the changes of the football landscape during their tenure, and we all know that Bryant was a much better coach.

  5. 8
    WDEinTTown

    I think it all depends on whether he was willing to sacrifice his offensive and defensive philosophies. Also, in today’s world, his legendary motivating practices might not be allowed or viewed as they were back then. Moreover, I think it depends on which stage of his career we are talking about.

  6. 9
    BamaBrando

    I don’t think it is the same game anymore. But what Bryant did is something that would be hard for any coach to duplicate in todays college football. When Paterno goes, that will be the last of the long term coach for life college football coaches. I think Saban may be a little better than Bryant in some areas that have become more important today than in Bryants time.

    But still, Saban is a 10-year coach, which is about the norm for coaching today. The money is more, the pressure to win quickly is higher, and the science, size and speed has increased since Bryants time. These are the areas Saban excels in understanding. But Bryant accomplished so much, and sustained it over an incredible amount of time. It will never be duplicated.

    But yeah, I tend to think Bryant would still be successful today, because he would hire the good coaches that knew what he didn’t, and coaches lined up to coach under him, like the recruits did. That does sound a little familiar now, doesn’t it?

  7. 10
    Crimson Tide Zone | Coach Bryant Ain’t Nothing But A Winner

    […] From The Capstone Report Could Paul “Bear” Bryant be the coach he was in the sixties and seventies if he were alive and operating in today’s world of college football? Recently this question was posed by a friend. The point he was making was that what Coach Nick Saban is doing at Alabama right now is special. Not a flash in the pan, he has built a program that is in the hunt year in and year out…as opposed to one questionable hit then falling off the face of the earth. Indeed, the game has changed in the last fifty years. But this was the man among the first to integrate in the south after a beating at the hands of USC. He’s at least the co-inventor of what we know as the wishbone offense. He’s the architect of toughness made famous by the boys of at Junction, and the creator of the mind games that still are the stuff of compelling stories told today. [See More] […]

  8. 11
    finebammer

    Coach Bryant was a winner because he surrounded himself with winners.

    The Man won 6 National Championships. What else needs to be said?

  9. 12
    RC

    I can’t believe I’m halfway agreeing with WDE in TTOWN. This will NOT become a habit, though. Think of it this way. Even Saban combines new age with old school discipline. I couldn’t imagine Coach Bryant even doing some of the things Saban does such as hiring full time sports psychologists. Bryant would have scoffed at the idea. Furthermore, the playing field is little more level now because of scholly reductions, even though Auburn oversigned for decades and their fans won’t admit to it.

    THe boot camp “Junction” tactics would not have worked because players today at over 300 lbs (or even 230) couldn’t have withstood the heat. Also, if Mike Leach (“The Pirate, arrgh”) could get fired for locking a player in a dark closet, imagine what would have happened to Coach Bryant. IT’s just a different era.

  10. 13
    BamaBrando

    It is a different era, but one reason Bear Bryant was such a great coach was he was able to adapt to the times. Look at the culture changes from the 50s to the 60s, 70s and 80s. He was able to win even when they changed the rules to take away any advantages he had. He knew psychology and how to use it on his players. When he walked into a room and spoke, people naturally just shut up and listened. He had a lot of natural gifts to make him a great motivator. I just think Saban is probably better at the X and O part of it, and has similar motivational skills.

  11. 14
    Hoopie

    Whore eagle has the most compelling argument. Changes in society affect coaching as much as changes in schemes. super tuffness in a coach can cut both ways.

    Coach Bryant’s ability to adapt to changing football and society from the late 50’s to the 70’s is the best barometer of his greatness.

  12. 15
    Hoopie

    One other comment. The Bear could very well choose not to coach today. The politics and rule changes would be maddening to someone from his generation.

    He would also be very disappointed in the classless cursing, gossiping and rumor mongering of today’s fans. Too many of today’s fans spend more time and energy spewing at other teams than knowing the Xs and Os of their own teams.

  13. 17
    Nicket the Ewok Coach

    That was the first cut BamaBitch. Hoopoe was being respectful, at least give him that.

    Bryant was a great coach that changed the game over decades. It is retarded to think that he would not adapt and still win. Because we all know he would. Could he be in the hunt year in and year out, without a doubt.

    And BamaBendover, I am a retard AU fan on a retarded blog site, so who frackin cares (c/o Battlestar Galactica).

  14. 19
    finebammer

    Why Coach Bryant would be successful today:

    DRIVE. MOTIVATION.

    Coach Bryant was driven to be the best at what he did just like any other achiever of any other time or trade. It amazes me how quickly Bryant’s legacy is being forgotten even here in this state.

    No coach in the history of organized college athletics has been more successful through a more tumultuous societal period than Bryant was through the sixties and seventies.

    Coach Bryant took the black player with the specter of the segregation forever, racist mantra of George Wallace on his back bumper and won championships.

    At the same time he adjusted to the more permissive attitudes of the seventies.

    I think one of today’s problems in analyzing Coach Bryant’s accomplishments is we look at it in terms of what he did at Alabama. Coach Bryant was a winner long before he came to Tuscaloosa.

    He made a winner of Maryland. Trivia question: When did Kentucky last win the SEC and who was the Coach?

    Saban’s a better X’s and O’s coach than Bryant?

    You must be joking.

    Bryant took the best of what was at the time and made it better. He was the BASF of college football.

    Nick Saban and coach Bryant have much in common.

    The one thing that separates them is four National Titles.

    Come talk to me when Saban starts getting close.

  15. 20
    BamaBrando

    I do think Saban is a better X and O coach, mainly because the defenses and offenses of today are more complex than in Bryants time. Bryant, much like Saban, managed people as well as anyone. But Bryant hired in good coaches to call the plays. Bryant coached the coaches. The difference with Saban is that he has his own system, that his coaches have to adapt to, and Bryant would not have a problem adopting someone elses and putting his touch on it. He even said he wanted to hire coaches smarter than him or he didn’t want them. His role was the leader and motivator for the whole program, and he had to be Athletic Director too. Saban is similar. They are both hands on coaches that focus on technique and fundamentals.

    I just think Alabama is fortunate to have lots of good coaches through the years. Bama was a multiple National Championship winner before Bryant came, and Bryant played in that system that groomed him to be a great coach. He added to the legacy, much like Saban is and was expected to do. But I meant no disrespect in saying I thought Saban was a better X and O coach at all. I think a lot of coaches were probably better at that than Bryant. Bryant is one of the greatest overall coaches, but I think his greatest strengths were motivation and psychology, and creating a team mentality. Areas that Saban hires in help for lol.

    I don’t think Saban will match Bear Bryants National Titles. I don’t think any coach will, because there won’t be anymore 30 year coaches in todays game.

  16. 21
    ITK

    Everyone is making some great points here. From my view, college football from every perspective is much more difficult today than it was 20+ years ago.

    You either have to work or cheat your azz off to stay ahead. Alabama has a head coach that does the former.

    2011 will be the fourth season in a row where Alabama will be in contention for all the marbles. That doesn’t just happen.

    No disrespect intended, it’s simply my opinion that what Saban is doing today may be harder than what Bryant did in his era.

  17. 22
    Tim

    What i think Coach Bryant did that maybe Saban can’t do is take a marginal player and make him great. He wanted players that didn’t know they were superstars ,of course he wanted those also. “Jerry Duncan I like To Practice Award” he said i saw Jerry Duncan actually crying because he couldn’t practice hence the award to him. Can Saban get those kind of emotions out of a player? Bryant said on his way to the Rose Bowl Coach Thomas told the Athletic Director of LSU he’s my best player. Bryant said he was building me up i’d have done anything for Alabama to win that day. My next Question is can Saban do the same thing??

  18. 23
    finebammer

    look, i really don’t care for these “could Coach Bryant do it today” debates because it always seems to devolve into a Saban v. Bryant contest.

    i grew up with Coach Bryant. i remember what a lot of Alabama fans don’t. in the X’s and O’s debate people automatically associate him with the simplistic wishbone and have forgotten Coach Bryant ran a pro-style offense for years before he went to the wishbone. His pro-style produced Joe Namath and Ken Stabler, two of the greatest pro quarterbacks in NFL history.

    (let’s not forget His only heisman trophy winner at Texas A&M, John David Crowe was out of the pro-set too)

    Coach Bryant won THREE National Championships running a pro style offense in the sixties (with smaller, all white teams that the liberal northeast media HATED) and should have won FOUR.

    and Coach Bryant was ACTIVELY involved in running those offenses. i remember it and have old videos that prove it.

    yes, Coach Bryant called plays.

    but The Coach is mainly remembered now for switching to and running the wishbone in the seventies and mostly for the late seventies when Alabama won two National Championships in a row and it should have been THREE.

    (recall that in the 1978 Sugar Bowl Alabama soundly trounced “the ohio state” university 35-6 but was leapfrogged by #5 Notre Dame after they beat #1 Texas in the Cotton)

    Alabama went on to win the National Championship in 1979 in the now famous “Goal Line Stand” (thank you Daniel Moore) over Penn State and the 1980 Championship over Arkansas. (Lou Holtz)

    By his own admission he was not as actively involved in running the gameday playcalling, but he ran a tight ship as any successful Fortune 500 CEO would.

    Warren Lyles told this story to Mickey Herskowitz for his book, The Legend of Bear Bryant:

    “Lyles had talked about him the day before the game (1981 Auburn v. Alabama) recalling how closely he still monitored them. That fall, during two-a-day drills, the word had reached Bryant from the cooks in the kitchen that many of his players were skipping breakfast.”

    “Most of us were just too tired to get up,” said Lyles, “so we slept in. One morning one of the guys heard a funny knock at his door about seven-thirty. He shouted and didn’t get an answer. He heard the knock again, got out of bed and threw open the door so he could unload on whoever was there. But it was Coach Bryant. He just said, ‘Son, have you been to breakfast this morning? He said , ‘No sir, but I’m on my way right now.’

    “Coach Bryant just walked down the hall knocking on doors. None of us missed breakfast after that.”

    Understand that in one of the most historic times for Alabama Football, one where we were in the national spotlight year after year after year, (i recall expecting Alabama to win the National Championship every year. when we lost it wasn’t just what it meant losing to that particular team but what it meant for our national title chances) Coach Bryant was in failing health and knew it. in all likelyhood had Coach retired 5 years earlier as he likely should have, he probably would have lived 10 years longer than he did.

    in his last years Coach was asked about retirement and spoke openly of his love for the university and concern for the assistants under him and what they would do after he retired.

    He did retire only after he saw the failing condition of the program and understanding he was too sick to be up to the task of revamping the program like he did when he went to the wishbone twelve year earlier.

    To sum it up, Coach Bryant literally ran himself into the ground for The University of Alabama.

    I went to the Rose Bowl Championship in ’09. I was elated to see my Alabama back on top. But deep down inside it wasn’t the same. My wife later, unsolicited made the same comment. It wasn’t the same as the ’79 Sugar Bowl.

    I’m proud Coach Saban is in Tuscaloosa and not Baton Rouge, trust me.

    But Coach Bryant was one of us.

    And He was the greatest in EVERY ASPECT of the game.

    Every one.

    (and Mother Nature has weighed in on this debate in the past couple of weeks:
    http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/06/search_for_black_bear_could_co.html )

    (a Coach Bryant joke from the day: Did you hear Coach Bryant has been hospitalized after being hit by a motorboat?

    He was out walking his duck.)

  19. 24
    Crimsonite

    What coach Bryant did speaks for itself. I don’t need to lay it all out here. If he had had good health his record would’t have fallen off in his last 5 years and with that good health if he had coached as long as Bowden and Paterno we would now be #1 in every single record and statistical category. He would have a won-lost record that would never ever be approched and more national championships than Bama claims as a whole right now. He was set in his ways with his approach to the way the athletes and the game was played as is Saban. But he was very flexible and innovative. He never let the changing times set him back. As for the Wishbone, he was not the co-inventor. The Wish bone was invented at Texas and the VeerT was invented at Houston, or at the least that’s where they were implemented. What Bear did was take the run-run Wishbone formation and combined it with the Houston VeerT to use the passing game effectively. The result was the most devastating, unstoppable offense ever created. (Cont)

  20. 25
    Crimsonite

    (cont) Even todays point a minute Spread offenses have not proved to be near as consistenly effective and with the innovative defenses coaches like Saban have created, the Spread is as good as dead. Even Texas abandoned it. Oh it will continue to hang around’ but only because it’s the only way a team with inferior athletes can compete with the big boys. Case in point it reached it’s zenith with the 5 star studded rosters at Florida, Oklahoma and Texas which actually was never any better than the Spreads put out by Boise State, Oregon and TCU with their 2 and 3 star rosters. Go back and check the O’ stats from Bama’s Wishbone. They were for the time and even for today amazing and Bama was the only team ever able to throw effectively out of it. Yes, Bear would be just as successful today as in 1950 and could do it at any level too. RTR!

  21. 26
    finebammer

    Just for the record, let’s look at the Man’s record, when most folks in his condition would likely have been at home or a retirement home:

    1978 – won 11, lost 1
    SEC Champions
    A P National Champions
    Defeated Joe Paterno and Penn St 14 – 7 in the Sugar Bowl.

    1979 – won 12, lost zippo
    SEC Champions
    Consensus (A P and U P I) National Champions
    Defeated Lou Holtz and Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

    1980 – won 10, lost 2
    Defeated Baylor in the Cotton Bowl 30 – 2

    1981 – won 9, lost 2, tied 1
    SEC Champions
    Lost to Texas 14 – 12 in the Cotton Bowl.

    1982 – won 8, lost 4
    Defeated Illinois in the Liberty Bowl.

    28 days later Coach Bryant was was gone. I remember walking in the door from work to my wife’s tears.

    Regardless, in the last 5 years of his life, Coach Bryant was 50 – 9 – 1.

    Three SEC Championships

    Two National Championships

    4 – 1 in bowl games.

    (think about how fast the last five years of your lives have got by you)

    (I have a poster from the day framed on my “Coach Bryant Wall”. He’s standing in front of Bryant Hall with seniors Tommy Wilcox, Robbie Jones, Mike Pitts, Steve Mott, and Jackie Cline. In his condition, he was still as tall or taller than all of them. Coach Bryant was a man. He was The Man to the very end)

  22. 27
    Hoopie

    Coach Bryant was loved by his players and the folks in the University and fanbase. Check out Plaxico Burress’ book. Check out this blog from someone thatknew him form way back:

    http://www.jackfertig.com/wordpress/?p=758

    http://collegefootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2008/08/13/a-decade-later-burress-still-hates-saban/

    At the end of his reign at Bama, Lil’ Napolean ..errr ..Nicky won’t be loved. He may have taken some anger management classes so that he now treats secretaries better, but he still has psycho-anger issues. He is too smart to punch a player like Woody did, but his anger will eventually be too much for even the folks in T-town to stomach.

  23. 28
    finebammer

    Hoopie says:

    “Coach Bryant was loved by his players and the folks in the University and fanbase.”

    Yeah, hoopie, and when he was mopping the floor with your red-headed stepchild ass for 9 years in a row, he was a cheat, a drunk, and a womanizer.

    Go fuck yourself.

    Coach Saban may be Tony Montana, but he’s our Tony Montana.

    Plexico Buress.

    Please.

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