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Doomsday Prep: Getting ready for a post-Nick Saban Alabama football team

Want to know what a post-Saban Alabama Crimson Tide might look like?

This tweet says all you need to know. Kevin Scarbinsky tweeted, “Mark McMillian on Smashmouth: Dabo Sweeney texts me, says Roll Tiger. He’s a Bama guy. When Saban retires, lot of alumni will push for Dabo.”

The future of Alabama football could be an internecine struggle between factions wanting their own candidate.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It has been how every single coaching search in the post-Bear Bryant era has unfolded.

Factions have wanted everyone from Rick Neuheisel to Jackie Sherrill to Mike Dubose when job openings have occurred.

And the track record has left much to be desired.

Alabama’s post-Bryant coaches have included the competent Ray Perkins, the inept Bill Curry, the sounds like Bryant Gene Stallings, the joke Mike DuBose, the coward Dennis Franchione and the clueless Mike Shula and that is not even counting the horny Mike Price.

Each coach came to power in a unique circumstance with a unique claim to power. The most instructive of these is the DuBose fiasco.

Mike DuBose was elected the head football coach at Alabama by the insistence of a large majority of Alabama alums and fans. The fax campaign intimidated the athletic department leadership. OK, leadership is too strong a word for anything lead by Bob Bockrath. But, the point remains that the majority of fans selected DuBose.

In this case, Vox Populi was not Vox Dei. It was more Vox Idiota.

There were other candidates with support when DuBose won the job.

It was during this time a faction of Alabama alums wanted Neuheisel. The thinking was that an innovative offensive thinker with youth and energy would invigorate the Alabama brand.

Would Neuheisel have worked out any better at Alabama than DuBose?

It is hard to imagine anyone failing as spectacularly as DuBose.

Whatever the possibilities, the outcome was one faction winning while other factions were left irritated. Disappointment has been the most common result of an Alabama coaching search. When names like Jackie Sherrill or Howard Schnellenberger or Bobby Bowden are mentioned, but you end up with Bill Curry and Gene Stallings (who at the time had a losing record as a head football coach), there is going to be profound anger.

If a candidate like Curry or DuBose is named a coach there is another problem—a leadership vacuum.

Whatever criticism there is of Ray Perkins and Gene Stallings, at least these men had personalities strong enough to deal with assistant coaches and the chaos of being Alabama’s head coach.

This is Nick Saban’s greatest strength. He is the leader of the organization. No other voice rivals his within the Alabama community. Saban holds people accountable.

Need a roadmap to the DuBose debacle? He never held anyone accountable for anything. This resulted in NCAA troubles and losses on the field.

Alabama must find a coach capable of managing the entire program. While there will not be another Saban, Alabama can find a person who can be successful in Tuscaloosa. This person must be of sufficient stature to squelch the factional griping that inevitably will follow the coaching search.

If there is one thing to take away from that Scarbinsky tweet, it is that factions are already forming to plan the post-Saban era. Because of this, Alabama fans need to begin putting together not only a list of potential names, but more importantly, a list of traits necessary to be a worthy successor to Nick Saban. Otherwise, the next coaching search at Alabama could result in what has happened too often in Alabama’s past.

28 thoughts on “Doomsday Prep: Getting ready for a post-Nick Saban Alabama football team”

  1. Picking a new coach will be a heated argument.

    So first things first, enjoy Saban while he’s here. It’s as simple as that. Soak up every crimson second of it.

    I’ll say this though, I’d definitely root for Dabo Swinney to be a coach at the Capstone.

    If I remember right he was on the 1992 championship-winning squad and later a WR coach for the Tide. He’s from Mobile, a UA grad and on and on and on.

    But here’s why I’ve been pulling for him since Alabama played Clemson a few years ago in Atlanta——he plays SEC teams more than any non-SEC school in the country every single year.

    I know Clemson doesn’t necesarily win every game they play against SEC teams, but they always schedule them. That means a lot to me. They play South Carolina every year, and they schedule another SEC team on top of that rivalry (this year they beat Auburn, what’s not to love about that?). In 2012 Clemson played three SEC teams. The only teams in the top ten in 2012 that weren’t in the SEC played exactly zero SEC teams in the regular season and lost to them in the bowls.

    Well, except for LSU. They lost to Clemson.

    But for all the pre-season top 20 teams and fans crying about an SEC team being ranked higher during the season despite having an extra loss or two, Clemson schedules at least two SEC teams every year. Can you imagine if Oregon, Kansas State, tOSU, Notre Dame, So Cal, or Boise State did that? It’s been so many years of the SEC being at the top now, I don’t understand why more teams besides Clemson don’t schedule AT LEAST one SEC team. Clemson leads 2013 with Georgia. Brilliant.

    I’m not saying Clemson is spectacular so please don’t start an argument about how good an ACC East school is or isn’t with me. But Dabo recruits very well every year at an ACC school with a geographic disadvanatage and an in-state SEC up-and-comer with a living legend for a coach. He’s won more at Clemson than anyone else has since Clemson won* the title in the early 80’s. He plays pick-up football rather than the hurry-up crap too many people still think is working.

    And he fits Alabama.

    I was at Alabama with Shula. I liked Shula. When Saban came in I was one of the few people that were a little upset because I didn’t think Shula got his full test.

    But Saban fit Alabama. Not just the football part, but the culture. “Never Again.” Focus on yourself instead of your opponent. Discipline, the biggest part if you ask me, is as intrinsic to Alabama’s success as it is Saban’s. And while nobody can match Saban’s level of discipline and accountability, I think Dabo matches Alabama’s culture better than anyone I can think of right now. I read he took a large pay cut to get the coordinators he was targeting. Tell me Saban wouldn’t do that. He’s a young coach with very good success and clearly Nick Saban would at least serve to help Dabo after his coaching run is over, right?

    I’m sure lots of Alabama fans would disagree about Dabo coaching the Tide. But he seems like a great fit to me, and, like Shula, it would be a dream come true for Dabo too. It would be a hire I think we could be proud of. You just can’t replace Nick Saban, and you can’t expect to.

  2. I second the motion to hire Dabo. With Alabama’s talent, his desire to win, his intensity, we could keep the tradition going

  3. Dabo would be a safe pick for the Alabama job
    after Saban retires. I would rather have Kirby
    Smart as the next head coach of the crimson
    tide!! I really don’t think Dabo Swinney would
    take the job at Alabama because of the PRESSURE
    of being the coach of Alabama and he has a
    good thing going at Clemson in the weak ACC!!
    Let’s just hope Lord Saban sticks around for a
    few more years and ties Bear Bryants 6 NC’S.

    1. @BamaDon

      Say what you want about the ACC, but Dabo’s team beat all but the highest-ranked team in the conference this year, and two out of three SEC teams. I don’t think he wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure because he already schedules at least two SEC teams every year and don’t forget he already coached at Alabama.

      But Kirby Smart would be a great choice. If it was a choice between Smart and Swinney, well, Roll Tide.

  4. Pingback: It Won’t Be Pretty When Saban Retires : BamaFootball4Life

  5. Dabo rhymes with Honcho…. I had a friend one time who confesses to me had done a spread for Playgirl magazine and pulled his butt checks apart – went under the name ‘Mike Honcho’.

    I’d be worried that one Dabo might confess the same thing – just saying his name does rhyme with Honcho…

  6. Never ever hire anyone born and raised in Birmingham as the head football coach at Bama because no one in the last 29 years that has come from Birmingham connected with football has been worth the time it took to interview them. The mindset “he graduated from UA” is what got us in the mess we were in before Coach Saban got there!!!!!!

  7. So you guys want to hire Dabo? That’s funny. You dismiss Guz Malzahn’s offense as dipsy-do, trickeroo, high school, fake football; now you want to hire a guy who built his entire team around an offensive coordinator who is a Malzhan disciple that admittedly built his entire philospohy around Malzhan’s sytem. Before you all rush to say that Chad Morris isn’t that important to Dabo, you might want to recall that Dabo made Morris is the highest paid coordinator in college football at $1.3 million per year out of sheer terror that someone might hire him away (which was roughly the same amount that Malzhan was making as offensive coordinator at Auburn.)
    Here’s a link to an article entitled “The Right Call: With help from Gus Malzhan, Chad Morris has Thrived”:

    1. You just sunk Dabo’s candidacy. 🙂

      I don’t think Dabo is ready for Alabama. I’m not sure he will ever be ready. However, the best situation for him is to be successful at Clemson.

      He is learning on the job.

      This is something Alabama cannot really afford to do. In the past, Alabama was job training for DuBose and Shula. Those situations were regrettable since neither individual knew how to be a head coach.

      There is no substitute for experience.

      I also warn against falling into the trap of demanding a Saban lineage coach or an Alabama legacy.

      This is one reason Alabama fans need to begin talking about this. There are great candidates inside and outside the Alabama family. Getting the right guy is most important.

      1. That’s why I wonder what the fascination with Kirby Smart is. Truthfully, no one has the slightest idea of how good a coach he truly is. You don’t even know if he’s really that great of a coordinator, because he’s never been anywhere else as a coordinator. Do you have any doubt that Bama would have been just as stellar on defense the last 4 years even without Kirby? Saban is going to put great defenses on the field, period. That’s not to say that Kirby might not have been a huge part of it, nor is it saying that Kirby might not be a great head coach one day. All I’m saying is no one will know until he gets out from under Saban’s shadow and proves himself at other places like Muschamp did. Even then, you don’t know if the Peter Principle is going to kick in like it did with Chizik (promoted to his level of incompetence; awesome coordinator, unable to translate that success to being a head coach). If Kirby stays at Bama the whole time Saban is there and then Bama hires him to succeed him, I think that would be a huge and unnecessary risk. As much as it pains me to say it, Bama could hire just about anybody they wanted.

        I’ll say this about Dabo, he’s smart enough to get out of Chad Morris’s way and let him run his offense. If Chizik would have let Malzahn do that he might still have a job today.

        1. Chizik did get out of Malzahn’s way. It’s not like he didn’t win a national title and then leave.

          Oh, wait, that’s exactly what he did.

          But if you’re comparing Swinney to Malzahn, I’d still pick Swinney. He fits the culture at Alabama. That’s so important. It’s underestimated and difficult to quantify.

          You ask if Kirby Smart would be a good coach. You can’t know. Nobody can. That’s why coaching hires are so exciting.

          But one thing we do know about Smart is that he fits the culture. He knows what is expected. He doesn’t know he has to win; he knows he has to win championships.

          He also knows an awful lot about being a good coach, even if he’s never been the head coach. Nick Saban’s process works, I don’t think that’s a question now. I’d rather hire someone at least familiar with part of that process than someone who doesn’t know anything about it from outside the organization.

          Also, I would contest the part about Clemson having a system based entirely around Malzahn’s coaching policies. Clemson for the last two seasons run a faster offense. It’s not hurry-up. It’s not check-offs. It’s not trick plays. It might be coming from a guy who learned a lot from Malzahn, but it sure looks a lot like Alabama football, moreso than Auburn’s in 2010.

          I watched a lot of Clemson football this year. Dabo Swinney might not be the best candidate. But I’d give him a shot, absolutely. I might even argue he would be the best candidate. You simply can’t replace Saban. Dabo knows football and knows discipline and knows how important getting the right support staff is, and he’s going it without tricks and scandals.

          We just don’t go all ape sh*t when a person who had anything to do with Auburn might in some way have anything to do with Alabama. We’re actually really good at taking talent from Auburn and making them shine at the Capstone. Roll Tide.

          1. Conduit, on what freakin’ parallel universe did you watch Clemson last year where they more resembled Bama than Auburn in 2010? Clemson ran out of a shotgun spread formation on 98% of their offensive plays; they ran a hurry up, no huddle offense that averaged 82 plays per game; they had a running quarterback the offense expected to produce solid rushing yards (and did to the tune of over 500 yards for the season); and they ran the zone read as a staple of the offense. That is EXACTLY what Malzahn’s system is based upon. Does Bama even have the zone read in its playbook?

            You’re right, Chizik did get of of Malzahn’s way in 2010. Then he made Malzahn slow the offense down in 2011 after the Clemson game because he was scared the young defense was getting gassed. It’s really pretty silly to argue with that because no one seriously disputes that’s what happened.

            Here’s my favorite passage from your post: “He also knows an awful lot about being a good coach, even if he’s never been the head coach. Nick Saban’s process works, I don’t think that’s a question now. I’d rather hire someone at least familiar with part of that process than someone who doesn’t know anything about it from outside the organization.” I’d swear I was listening to an endorsement of Derek Dooley from when he was hired at Tennessee when I read that.

          2. No, you’re wrong, Clemson did not run a hurry-up, no-huddle. They ran a faster-paced offense deliberately to execute more plays.

            I suppose we could stand and argue about the difference in speed versus the difference in position-based execution, but I don’t want to argue. Good grief. You explicitly look for ways to argue instead of discuss, and I still fall for it.

            So now if I start talking about how good Tahj Boyd was last year I’m afraid you’ll just argue that he’s the reason for Clemson’s success, or Dabo Swinney wouldn’t be able to do anything without (insert name here), etc. Or you’ll try to argue what hurry-up is or isn’t.

            What Clemson did that represented Alabama the last two seasons is a reliance on a game manager at the QB position and, most importantly, solid fundamentals rather than opportunistic talent showdowns. Dabo coaches fundamentals and discipline. That is what I mean. Football isn’t simply X’s and O’s and a play clock. So when you start saying Clemson looked more like Auburn than Alabama, the scores at the end of the game the last two years have to mean a lot—–Clemson winning more than they have in 30 years, and Auburn breaking down into arguably the worst-performing BCS-winning team in the era.

            Clemson winning football games resembles Alabama more than Auburn for that reason alone. Winning is important here. Fundamentals are important here. Trying to argue about why it’s working isn’t important here. Roll Tide.

          3. Now you’re also talking about a coach at Tennessee?

            We’re talking about hiring a coach at Alabama.

            Not Tennessee.

            Let me put it to you this way; I like Derek Dooley. But Derek Dooley does not get hired as the head coach at the University of Alabama.

            I’m not sure if you’re trying to use Dabo or Smart as the example, but still, the University of Tennessee is not the University of Alabama. Derek Dooley is not Kirby Smart.

          4. No, I’m not going to argue about what a hurry up no huddle offense is. That’s because there’s nothing to argue about. It’s not subject to multiple interpretations. Hurry up, no huddle means that the offense runs at a fast pace by rushing back to the line of scrimmage after each play without huddling in attempt to run plays before the defense gets the chance to get fully set and to limit the defense’s ability to substitute. It also plans to get the defense gassed by the time the 4th qtr rolls around. Some teams pass more with it, some teams run more with it, but it doesn’t change the principle of HUNH.. Contrary to your shocking statement that Clemson doesn’t run a HUNH, that is in fact exactly what Clemson has been running since Chad Morris got there. That’s what Malzhan runs. That’s what Chip Kelly ran at Oregon. That’s what Kevin Sumlin runs at Texas A&M. Art Briles at Baylor. Dana Holgorsen at WVU. Mike Leach at WSU, etc, etc. Most importantly, that is the offense that Nick Saban specifically disavowed, and said he hopes it doesn’t take over college football (and the only offense that beat him last year). Furthermore, the QB is not expected to simply be a game manager in the HUNH. He’s expected to put up big numbers. (unlike in Saban’s pro style). Frankly, you sound ridiculous trying to say the offense Clemson is running and what Bama is running are even on the same planet, much less similar. I assure you that even your fellow Bama brethren are quietly shaking their heads as they read your posts and are wondering what in the world you are talking about.

          5. Again, all you want to do is argue.

            Even if I was wrong, it would be incidental. You don’t want to talk, you just come here to stir trouble because you can’t stand Alabama. If I say it’s a hybrid, you argue it’s based on what you want. If I say the point is fundamentals and game management, you respond only by arguing about who left Auburn to do what now? I get it, but I don’t get it.

            Let me tell you something. Success brings clarity. When you have success, you can recognize and appreciate the struggle and the sport of football, among other things. Alabama has had lots of success in my lifetime. It’s allowed me and many of my friends the opportunity to have enough clarity to enjoy football and not to harbor so much hate for the wrong reasons.

            Auburn has had success, but it’s tainted, even if they think it’s not, because mostly it hasn’t given them any clarity.

            Make no mistake, I hate Auburn. But I don’t go out of my way to read Auburn blogs just to comment and complain and stir trouble on them.

            Tennessee hasn’t had success in so long that I think they’ve lost all the clarity they had in their culture. Some teams have never had it. The teams that handle losing the worst seem to have the least clarity.

            I’m not going to argue anymore because it serves no point. You don’t want to talk, you want to point fingers and bug people. You pick and choose which sentences to focus on in an attempt to simply make trouble. I can’t relate to that. I don’t understand it.

            The worst part is you often sound like you understand football. It’s like a surgeon who, instead of surgery, spends his time smashing rocks with a metal baseball bat.

            Clarity. Roll Tide.

          6. Given that you don’t even know the difference between a hurry up no huddle offense and a standard pro style offense, it doesn’t sound like success has brought you much “clarity”. By your own definition, I guess that means Bama’s success is tainted.

            Apparently, you are as confused about the definition of the word “clarity” as you are about the definition of a HUNH offense, because that incoherent diatribe failed to offer anything resembling clarity. My personal favorites were the statements, “It’s allowed me and many of my friends the opportunity to have enough clarity to enjoy football and not to harbor so much hate for the wrong reasons.”, soon followed by, “Make no mistake, I hate Auburn.” Yeah, that’s some real “clarity” right there.

          7. But that’s exactly my point, and that’s why you can’t do anything but argue.

            You can’t understand. You argue about clarity because you don’t have it. You hear me say “I hate Auburn” and you assume it’s for the wrong reasons. Make no mistake, I would hate any team that has done a lot of the things Auburn has done and the way their culture thinks it’s “us against the world” and their hate for the WRONG reasons.

            But I’m also an Alabama fan. So hating Auburn is easy and second-nature. I don’t expect you to understand it, because you simply think it’s for the wrong reasons.

            Yet you keep coming back to Alabama pages to yell and scream at them? That’s not clarity. You use whatever you can to hurt people, but I tried to pretend that makes you feel better, except it doesn’t, does it? How can it?

            You know a lot about football. You could be helping other people learn about it. You could be doing some good for your Auburn friends right now——Lord knows they need the help right now, and not everyone is capable of helping (in fact, most people can’t). Maybe you can.

            Instead, you come here and smash rocks with metal bats.

            Clarity isn’t something you have to argue. Once you’ve seen the Matrix, you can’t forget. I used to think it was just the success of winning a national championship that was enough to bring clarity, and for some at Auburn it was. For most, and for you, it wasn’t. And that sucks. Because you probably won’t get that opportunity again.

            And in the meantime, all you can do is fight it? It makes no sense to me. It’s sad, to me. I wish all college football fans could have the clarity we have, and had even before Saban. I knew I would see another title in my lifetime. I knew we weren’t going to be great every year. Notre Dame lost the national championship in a bad way, yet I’ve still met plenty of fans that knew they would be in that position, and that have clarity, including before the 2012 season. I wish you were capable of it. I honestly don’t think you are. It kinda just makes me sad. There isn’t anything I can say or do, or anything that Alabama can do that would make you feel better.

            If Alabama players all tested positive for massive quantities of deer-antler-spray and all championships and wins from the past 5 years were vacated, you wouldn’t be happy—–you’d come to scream about how there are some Alabama fans who would think the wins count and on and on and on. I can’t imagine you would accept it and enjoy it. You wouldn’t.

            Why not? Why so much hate? Why is the “me against the world” syndrome so intrinsic to the heart of the culture at Auburn? I know so many Auburn fans who aren’t like that, but they’re still exposed to it all the time, and then there are the ones that just need a push, but you come here to an Alabama site to do that? What’s the point?

            Swinney coaches fundamentals and discipline. To you, all you see is x’s and o’s. How am I supposed to react? It’s like asking your dentist for a pizza and a tattoo.

            Sorry about your loss. Roll Tide.

  8. I say hire Scott Cochran.

    At least that way we’d get to hear him talk more often.

    And you wouldn’t see guys talking back to Cochran. Yikes.

    I will also say that Saban must be aware he’s not going to be the coach at Alabama for the next 30 years. With that in mind, it’s hard to believe Saban himself isn’t already trying to groom coaches in the program, letting them understand how it works, trying to find the right “apprentice” and doing what he can to develop them to be the next coach, even while knowing they won’t be Nick Saban.
    We all question if Kirby Smart is going to leave every year and he doesn’t. Maybe Saban is explicitly the reason why? I can’t imagine Saban is doing nothing to prepare for the end of his tenure, that’s all. That’s why it’s called a process.

    1. I agree. Bama should hire Scott Cochran as its next head coach. I think it’s entirely logical to hire a strength and conditioning coach who has never played football beyond high school and has never even coached a single position as head coach at a major BCS program like Bama. I can tell you without reservation that every other program in the SEC would applaud the hire.

      1. Thanks Abraham. Thanks.

        I’m gonna leave the comment here—-the Alabama fans will get it. No worries. Roll Tide.

  9. We just won 3 of the last 4 National Championships, let’s celebrate and worry about tomorrow tomorrow…

    Scarbinski is alway looking for a dark cloud behind Alabama’s silver lining!

    1. That cloud isn’t as dark as what is on the plains right now.

      Just another reason to give thanks for not being an Auburn Fan.

      Roll Damn Tide!

  10. The man to succeed Saban.
    That’s scary. Real scary.
    Sort of like the man to succeed Bryant.
    Took a long time to find him, didn’t it. But that’s because idiots botched it. Bowden wanted it, and the bozos wouldn’t give him a shot.
    Boy, imagine what might have been.
    But the man to succeed Saban.
    Dabo? Doesn’t really sound right.
    Kirby? No HC experience, no way at Bama.
    Peterson? Would he take it? It’d be worth a look.
    Who’s a guy out there continually producing dominating defenses, national recruiter, sound system in place?
    Hmmm…I guess that’s the 500 million dollar question. Better get a good search team in place when the time comes.
    The guy to succeed Saban. Well, David Shaw is doing pretty well at Stanford, but he probably wouldn’t have many recruiting ties here in the Southeast. he is a black guy, which would more than likely help bring in some bigtime guys.
    I keep going back to Chris Peterson, though. Still…
    The guy to succeed Saban. Man, Kirby needs to go be a head coach somewhere for a few years then I’ll get back to you on it.

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