The arrest over the weekend of Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Geno Smith calls to mind recent examples of teams that fell not due to a superior opponent, but to the demon of complacency.
Complacency – defined as a feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble or controversy – is one of the most common words being tossed around Alabama camp from coaches and players alike. It’s one of the very things that Nick Saban, among others, feel contributed to Alabama’s downfall in 2010, despite having an immensely talented team.
Alabama was coming off its first national championship since 1992 and was sitting atop the college football world. The buzz was huge around Alabama’s attempt to repeat as champions. ESPN came to town to film a special following around the Tide football team during fall camp. The documentary “Nick Saban: Gamechanger” was also filming during this time as well.
Then Alabama fell to South Carolina and LSU, and had a second-half collapse against Auburn that many fans still feel today. The comparison between that team and the 2013 Crimson Tide has already begun and will only increase. As in 2010, ESPN was in town and got a unique, up-close look at Alabama practices. CBS’ “60 Minutes” is filming a special around Saban and the football program as well.
In 2013, the biggest strength on Alabama’s team is an offense featuring some of the biggest weapons ever at Alabama. A seasoned quarterback is surrounded by a cast of talented receivers and backs.
In 2010 Alabama returned some of the biggest offensive weapons Nick Saban had ever had, with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Julio Jones, plus a seasoned senior quarterback in Greg McElroy.
All during camp Nick Saban has repeated the word complacency to everyone that will listen, from the local media to ESPN to most certainly the players. The biggest advantage this team has over the 2010 team is that the leaders of the 2013 Crimson Tide have experience in how to deal with trying to repeat as national champions.
Saban will rely on veteran leaders like AJ McCarron, Anthony Steen, CJ Mosley, Vinnie Sunseri, Kevin Norwood, and Adrian Hubbard to shoulder the load in keeping complacency out of the locker room and off the practice field. Nick Saban is doing his part, bringing in speakers like Herman Edwards, Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and Yankees manager Joe Girardi to come in and preach about not being complacent.
Ultimately there is only so much the coach and guest speakers can do. It’s the players that are in the locker room, in the weight room, in the dorms, in the classrooms, and in hanging out off campus together.
The leaders have to keep complacency from creeping in and biting this talented football team, as it did to the 2010 squad. AJ McCarron has been preaching about complacency about as much as Saban has from SEC Media Days until now.
Following the 2011 season, leading into last season, Nick Saban spoke about complacency and trying to continue the success from a previous season:
“Having success in a football program can have two effects, you can demand more success, or you can get a little complacent and be relaxed about what you have accomplished, really think more about what you did rather than what you’re going to do.”
The coming weeks will show whether the message has been received.