What comes next for Alabama?

The old man and the Tide: What comes next?

By Hunter Ford

A few weeks ago Nick Saban said he was “too damn old” to start over as a head coach at a new school. That’s a good thing, because he will have his hands full rebooting the Alabama Crimson Tide after a disappointing two-game losing streak.

I’m confident there are many great games ahead for Saban and Alabama as we enter a new era of college football playoffs. Alabama will lose many of the key players that helped it win back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2012. But there will be plenty of talent for Saban to mold into another championship team.

Losing to Auburn in the last second, and being embarrassed by a fired-up Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl may be a blessing in disguise for Alabama. Saban’s pre-Sugar Bowl comments seem prophetic now.

“When you have a disappointment, sometimes you are more ready to respond,” he said.

Saban said players must “buy-in” to the standards of the program and to the goals set for it. And if some players don’t do that, they shouldn’t be playing. “We got away from that, and it caught up to us. If some players don’t buy-in, we need to play the players that do.” The Tide didn’t measure up in New Orleans, but Saban will continue doing what he does best.

Saban is a great coach. He’s a tireless worker on the recruiting trail and in game preparation. If he has a real weakness as a coach, it may be that he is not a great tactician on game day. In most cases, if one of his teams falls behind early to another talented team, they can’t recover. Saban seems to be all about dominance and consistency. As much as he preaches that, realistically, it is impossible to sustain. There has to be some failure mixed in somewhere along the way. As great as the thrill of victory is, the agony of defeat is sometimes required to put everything in perspective.

Saban’s legacy as a great coach began at Michigan State when his Spartans upset number one Ohio State and a highly ranked Notre Dame in 1998. However, the Spartans lost three close games to end the season at 6-6 and miss a bowl game. Those losses were mired by “turnovers, defensive lapses, and special teams misplays. ” Sound familiar?

Saban bolted for LSU following a more successful 9-2 campaign in 1999. He had never won more than nine games in a season as a head coach until 2001 when he led the Tigers to a 10-3 record and SEC Championship. His LSU record, which also included the 2003 national championship, was still an up-and-down affair, with two 8-5 marks and a 9-3 tally his final year in Baton Rouge.

It was only when Saban and his relentless pursuit of perfection joined with the Alabama Crimson Tide program that his “process” truly came to fruition. I believe his philosophy of “doing the little things right” and being “consistent” have finally taken full root in a program that was founded on those principles from Bryant and further back by Thomas and Wade.

Take away the 7-6 transition year of 2007, and Saban has won an average of 12 games per year for six years. That includes two SEC titles and three BCS championships. I believe Saban has finally found his true home in college football.

As for the season ending disappointments this year? I went to bed on the night of the Sugar Bowl, watching a biography of Ernest Hemingway. I was reminded about his story The Old Man and the Sea, where the old fisherman battles a huge marlin to his boat only to have sharks eat it before he can haul it to shore. This Alabama football season felt like that. We had the big prize lashed to the boat. We just couldn’t keep away from the sharks at the end. But:

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
—Ernest Hemingway- The Old Man and the Sea

“Is everybody going to go dig deep and get back to being the kind of players they’re capable of being in terms of being able to execute for every play of the game for sixty minutes? Until we go play, nobody really knows. That’s why we play.”
—Nick Saban- The Alabama Crimson Tide

Happy New Year, 2014. ROLL TIDE!


Add Yours
  1. 1

    Key Graduating Seniors:

    Kenny Bell, Deion Belue,John Fulton,Cody Mandell,AJ McCarron,C.J. Mosley,Kevin Norwood,Tana Patrick,Nick Perry,Anthony Steen,Ed Stinson,Kellen Williams

    Underclassmen that COULD leave early :

    Ha Ha Clinton-Dix,Jalston Fowler,Adrian Hubbard,Christion Jones,Cyrus Kouandjio,Jeoffrey Pagan,Brian Vogler

    So We are losing our greatest QB in the history of the program, 2-3 of our top WRs, 2-3 of our best O-linemen, Our best LB , and our best DB. I hope Nick is not too old to rebuild, Because that is exactly what he is going to have to do next season. I know we will have one of the best groups of RBs in the nation, but who the hell is going to block for them? With a new QB and a poor O line, Yeldon, Henry, and Company will see alot of 8-9 Defensive players in the box. And before some sunshine pumping fan gives me the typical spill that Saban/Bama just reloads, Who is going to replace A.J. , C.J., Ha-Ha, and the 2-3 spots at WR? Be realistic….

    • 2
      The Conduit

      I can’t be that concerned over graduating seniors or attrition simply because history has already taught us otherwise.

      Mark Ingram was one of Alabama’s best RB’s, replaced by Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, then TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, and if you aren’t impressed with Henry yet then at least give him the benefit of the doubt.

      Our greatest QB played for Saban. Then he was replaced by a title-winning QB, who was later replaced by a two-time title-winning QB. I remember seeing AJ at the Spring game and thinking how glad I was about Phillip Sims taking the starting QB role.

      I could go on, but don’t let me convince you to have a little more faith; let the roster and history do it instead.

      That’s not to say Alabama will necessarily be championship-caliber next year. But try telling that to all the true freshmen who won titles over the last four. Roll Tide.

  2. 3
    The Conduit

    Alabama failed in execution, and only on a few key plays. Meanwhile, it took Oklahoma’s & Auburn’s best games, being rested, the HUNH, and, yes, a healthy bit of luck just to be close to having success—–both of them were close enough, but the degree of panic and concern for this program, even with losing players like McCarron and Mosely, is something of a surprise to me, I admit.

    Alabama controls its own destiny again next year. It’s as simple as that. There’s no place I’d rather be. Frankly, I don’t think it gets any more exciting than a new roster and a new bowl system. Roll Tide.

    • 4

      Watch the missed field goal return,during Davis’ run back,you will see 3 Alabama players get flattened by blockers….Auburn players,sprinting down the field,knowing they have to execute,while you see several players from the Tide,trotting down the field,looking lost,getting knocked on their asses.The entitlement mentality runs rampant through out the Crimson Tide.This insane ideal that teams are inferior and should just cower down long bfore the opening kickoff,and when they do lose,it’s not because A team is actually better than them,it’s because of the refs,its an illegal offense,its because they didnt care because they weren’t in A title game..So you mean to tell me that all the players just went out there during the Sugar bowl and didnt try at all,crazy……BAMAGUMP NATION in full effect…good god???!?!?!?!!?

      • 5
        The Conduit

        You’re putting words in my mouth. I never said anything like that, or the refs were against us, or the HUNH is illegal. Nice try though, but good grief.

        For example, “Watch the missed field goal return…”

        There are already too many words in that sentence before it’s finished for the same argument’s sake. Why not start with, “watch the missed field goal,” any of the missed field goals, or at least the three easy ones, if not the two chip-in’s against Auburn? Then there’s no field goal return to talk about regardless—-there’s a couple of knees to run out the clock and win the Iron Bowl. I’m not trying to pretend Alabama wasn’t prepared for the field goal return at the end of the game; even the coaches weren’t prepared for that, so don’t put those goofy words in my mouth.

        My point isn’t that teams shouldn’t try to beat Alabama or that Alabama is better than everyone like you suggested. My point is at least in the last two games Alabama lost it came down to their own fundamental and preventable execution errors and, yes, that determined the fate of the game. A chip-shot field goal in the first quarter would have been the difference in the Auburn game. Dropping the ball, plus throwing soft and into triple coverage helped against Oklahoma and, well, let’s just put it this way; what is the result of those games without those errors? Are you calling those errors unpreventable and Albama was out-played, or are you saying I’m just completely biased for suggesting without such gigantic personal mistakes that Alabama might have beaten either Auburn or Oklahoma? Hell, even the Auburn game wouldn’t have mattered if not for the Georgia miracle, Auburn’s first sell-out game in three seasons.

        . You’re calling Alabama fans the blind ones here, but I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to be insulted by the suggestion that Alabama couldn’t have beaten Oklahoma or Auburn. That’s not to discredit either team outright, but I take it that’s the only way you see it because you hate “bammer,” albeit for the wrong reasons.

        And again, I only say this because it’s the exact position Alabama has been in when winning championships. You don’t have to be the top-ranked team, you don’t even have to win every game. Alabama controlled its destiny to the very end of regulation again this season—–the question above that remains is “what comes next for Alabama?”

        The answer was and will always be the process. I’ll take that over rooting against any team every season. Then again, that’s what we’re taught by the University of Alabama. Roll Tide.

      • 6

        Ok, C. Jones is going nowhere. I think Deandrew White returns, and a tandem of Cooper and Cris Black will be unstoppable. OJ Howard at tight end. Fowler is going nowhere, so good H Back. Henry, Yeldon, Drake and Tenpenny at RB is a 4 headed monster. The Oline can’t be any worse than this year. The Kwandijo Bros spent the whole season seeing who could fuck up the most. QB – Not Sims or Morris. Del Rio, Cornwell or maybe AJ’s high school backup will transfer from Free Shoes, and he was a starter. QB will be just fine, maybe better cause all those guys can run too. Defense, I let someone else take that, but we damn sure got lots of people some experience this year.

  3. 7

    ” Alabama failed in execution, and only on a few key plays. Meanwhile, it took Oklahoma’s & Auburn’s best games, being rested, the HUNH, and, yes, a healthy bit of luck just to be close to having success ”

    It is these type of statements that are being made by fellow Bama fans that is driving me crazy! You can argue the fact that there is luck in every win in College Football. If The FG at the end of the Iron Bowl was good , would that be considered luck as well? Was the 2 FG blocks by Mount Cody against Tennessee luck? Just because something is not the norm , does not always make it luck.Then for people to say that Bama did not play well? They did not play worth a damn not once,not twice But 3 of the last 4 games! Bama needed everything they had ( including luck) to beat Mississippi State! It is this type of arrgance that will be the downfall of the Saban era at Bama. It is this type of arrogance that killed runs of USC, Miami, Etc. Until we as a fanbase accepts that we got out played, and out coached, we will not get better. We will continue to fall behind . I love Alabama Football, but that does not mean that I have to make excuses for every damn loss. We are a 2 loss team losing very important players/leaders on both side of the ball. Then you continue to bring up the HUNH. The only reason you keep bringing it up is because the HUNH teams are the ones kicking our ass. 90% of Saban’s losses while at Bama have come against teams that run the HUNH. Not sure if it is arrognace or just Saban being stubborn as to why we have not figured out this so called ” High School , trick ” offense.

    • 8
      The Conduit

      See, no. Now your eyes are clouded. Let’s slow it down and break it down.

      Maybe there is luck in every football game, but I think the only team that really captured that facet in terms of direct success this year is Auburn, not Alabama, not Oklahoma, et al. You’re putting words in my mouth for what is considered luck though.

      But mistakes are costly, and when they are fundamental-based you can both point to the mistake as well as correct it.

      Remember Landon Collins getting an INT against Oklahoma? It was an incredible catch, inches from the ground, but the throw itself wasn’t an Oklahoma mistake. Now look at the throw McCarron made soft and slow into triple coverage.

      But wait, arrogance? You think I’m being arrogant for calling mistakes on fundamental execution the reason for Alabama losing football games? I’m not making excuses. But it just sounds like you can’t handle a loss, and that bothers me.

      No, HUNH teams are not “kicking Alabama’s ass.” Without gigantic mistakes, like missing 4 field goals including 3 easy ones or throwing into triple coverage or dropping the football, they simply wouldn’t win. Yes, it’s as simple as that.

      But instead when you say those mistakes equal being outcoached, I say where, and otherwise what’s the advantage of the HUNH? Why use it?

      If it makes you feel any better, Saban is recruiting smaller, faster players to combat the HUNH style. Complain about coaching in last season’s Texas A&M game, but if you can’t see fundamental execution errors being any different than coaching mistakes then I understand why you’re so upset. Yes, Oklahoma beat Alabama, and absolutely they deserved it, but not only was it not because of their talent alone or the HUNH offense, but the coaches did not lose the game for Alabama, and absolutely Alabama could have won that football game. This isn’t Auburn 2012 we’re talking about here where the wheels completely fall off the program. These were winnable games and under Alabama’s control, but instead Alabama made costly mistakes.

      Alabama is always going to get everyone’s best. That’s the advantage of being an Alabama fan—–we don’t have to watch boring football. But you can’t make the kind of fundamental mistakes that have cost Alabama the last two games and expect to win every game, especially against a team as talented as Oklahoma. This is absolutely not the “downfall of the Saban era.”

      For the record though, I hate the HUNH if for nothing else than it’s abrasive to watch. You don’t get to see replay, you don’t get to see the snap on many plays, even. The pace is abrasive and by design I don’t think it’s fair to say anyone shouldn’t dislike it.

  4. 9

    It is the same song and dance. When Bama wins it is because Bama is just that damn good. When Bama loses it is because someone cheated, bad refs, luck, etc. I can sit here and point out numerous plays that could be considered luck from Bama wins from the past few years. We need to accept our loses and learn from them. If you are going to call the Chris Davis return in the Iron Bowl luck, then you have to call Christian Jones return against Virginia tech luck. Us missing 3 field goals Vs. Auburn does not equal luck for Auburn. That goes back on coaching. Why continue kicking? Why try a 57 yard kick when we can not even make one under 30 yards? It just makes no sense when us Bama fans make excuses to losses just to cope. Now going back to your HUNH issue. Football is an ever evolving sport. From the introduction to the forward pass, Wing-T, Wishbone, West Coast, Air Raid , wildcat, and now the HUNH, The game is always changing. If you do not like change that is your business. Just do not act like it is the norm to not adjust to the game as it changes. You are also missing my main arguement while you select certain things to try to proove wrong in my post. Bama as a team struggled the last 1/4 of the season. If not for a weak MSU team , and Chattanooga we could have ended on a 3-4 game losing streak. There is no luck in giving up 300 rushing yards. That is proof that our D line is not up to par in the SEC. That is proof that our best LB was out of position all night because the HUNH works. Go back and watch the replay of the game and you will see our D line getting pushed 5-10 yards off the line of scrimmage all night. That is not luck. As much as it kills me to say it , that was a case where Auburn was the more physical and better coached team. If Alabama would have stepped up to the plate and whooped Auburn at the line , there would have never been a FG return for you to call luck. Stop using “luck” as your security blanket to get over an average season. We have got to get better and evolve!!!!

    • 10

      Again, Bamaboy, you put words in the mouth of the writer. No one is calling the field goal return “luck” – CNS and Bama player have all said they were not prepared for that scenario when the field goal was attempted. It was a mistake of fundamentals – it is correctable. Auburn wasn’t any more “lucky” in that game than they were in all of their games – they took advantage of a particular type of offense that used their personnel in the best way possible. Just because a Bama fan thinks that that particular offense is just that – offensive – is a matter of individual judgement. You can bet that, if the Barn had had a terrible season using this offense, then every one of the Barner fans would be calling for change and talking about how Gus’ hire was the worst thing the Barn could have done, and why didn’t they get Petrino when they could? But, for this personnel group, and this particular season, it worked. Who cares if luck was involved? But, we are talking about the Boog nation, we are talking about Alabama and what they can do next season. It is WELL within Bama’s control to fix all the things that went wrong this season. For what it’s worth, I don’t think any of Bama’s problems in the last few games had anything to do with “arrogance” as a team. (Arrogance from fans – which I think you are really aiming at – is another thing altogether. But, I think that has been earned over the history of the program) Alabama made fundamental mistakes that went against what the coaching staff had taught and coached. Some players were on the field that the coaching staff now admits should have been sitting on the sidelines. Players that should have been on the field – because they had bought into the process and program – were instead sitting due to some bad decisions either on their part or on the part of their coach. CNS has admitted this. Like Hunter said, these things are fixable, and – if history is any indication – these things will be fixed. Bama’s future is no less bright due to the past two games, and there is an incredible stable of athletes waiting for their chance to show their stuff on the field for the forseeable future.
      And if you’re a Bama fan, I’m a duck. And I’m not a duck.

    • 11
      The Conduit

      Stop it.

      You are blind. I never called the punt return luck, for example. Never.

      Look, I can agree to disagree if that’s what you want, but putting words in my mouth over and over doesn’t do either one of us any favors.

      The question is still, “what comes next for Alabama?” I can’t agree that it’s all doom and gloom. Frankly, I think it’s exactly the opposite.

  5. 12

    ummm Pete4Tide : per Conduit

    ” Alabama failed in execution, and only on a few key plays. Meanwhile, it took Oklahoma’s & Auburn’s best games, being rested, the HUNH, and, yes, a healthy bit of luck ”

    So yes luck was brought up. Now as far as you questioning if I am a Bama fan, Fuck off. Just because someone does not pump Crimson sunshine 24/7 does not make them a fan of another school . This is also typical of our fans when someone says something not sugary sweet about Bama. Get over yourself. Just like Conduit has the right to hate the HUNH , I have the right to be critical when Bama does not live up to expectations. It is this type of arrogance that took Bama to one of it’s lowest points in the history of the program. When the Bear stepped down , Bama Nation had gotten fat and spoiled. Yes we had 92, but that was a flash in the pan. Now here we are again at a fork in the road. We have to get better line play on both sides of the ball, and we have to get faster to at least slow down the HUNH teams. The HUNH is not going anywhere anytime soon , so we might as well recruit and plan for it. Now do not come back in the next few seasons and keep beating the luck dead horse because we seen it coming, but we were too damn stubborn to do anything about it.

    • 13
      The Conduit

      If you want me to be critical, we can do that all day, too.

      But that’s my point—-Alabama made its own mistakes enough to account for both the Auburn and Oklahoma losses. It’s not arrogant.

      Let’s put it this way—–would it really have been that much of a surprise to you if Alabama had made it to the national championship game for this, the third year in a row? It didn’t look like it was going to surprise anyone else, why you? I’m not being arrogant—-I’m only trying to show you that saying this team was capable of winning the games they lost isn’t arrogant or stubborn.

      But as far as “beating the luck dead horse,” I’m not the one doing that. Nobody’s saying you have to be “sugary sweet” about the Crimson Tide, I’m just saying it’s not fair to put words in my mouth. I was at the games. I saw what happened. And I still say they were winnable games.

      It feels like anything I say will be treated by you as either an excuse or arrogance, so I’m going to leave with this; Alabama was capable of winning a title this year and it won’t surprise me if they are capable of winning one next year. The one thing I do know, win or lose, is it certainly won’t be boring.

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