Jan 2, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban prior to kickoff of a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

For Nick Saban, Like Bear Bryant, It's Time For A Change

Nick Saban is a creature of habit, and his rigid adherence to repetition have made him one of college football’s greatest coaches. Saban should now accept that it’s time for a change.

In Alabama’s last two games, they were completely outplayed and outcoached by teams employing a no-huddle offense that exploited Saban’s method of reading offensive sets and making adjustments before the snap. Auburn’s misdirection offense made a star out of suspect passer Nick Marshall, and Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight had a career night against the Crimson Tide.

While it’s true that the Crimson Tide offense has its own set of issues that need to be fixed, Saban’s calling card has always been a stifling defense. But the currently fashionable hurry-up spread offense has left 330-pound defensive lineman gasping in the dust, and the defense as an immovable object is – at least temporarily – becoming a relic of the leather helmet days.

College referees are also having trouble reacting to the shift, blowing calls due to the constant motion and not applying the current rules correctly or consistently. And with the casual football fan enjoying XBox-style, high-scoring games more than an exhibition of defensive strategy, there won’t be a huge push from above to correct the officiating.

And so the man who ritualistically eats the same meal every single day will have to change.

Another man whose intransigence was legendary is the one whose statue is just down Alabama’s Walk of Champions from that of Saban.

After consecutive five-loss seasons, Alabama played to a tie in the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1970. A missed field goal robbed the Crimson Tide of a victory in what was then a mid-level bowl game.

The team Alabama played was, ironically, the Oklahoma Sooners.

On the plane back from Houston, Bryant sketched out his plans to install the wishbone offense, then a radical departure from what Alabama had done up to that point under Bryant.

“We don’t awe anyone now,” Bryant said prior to the 1971 season. “We are back among the ordinary folk, and I don’t like it.”

Bryant’s decision to change paid immediate dividends. Alabama stunned the top-ranked USC Trojans in the season opener, winning 17-10 on the way to an 11-0 season. Alabama played for the national championship that season, losing to Nebraska.

Bryant’s decision to make a change in philosophy would add years to his career, and propelled Alabama to 123 more wins under Bryant and three national championships.

Defenses eventually figured out the wishbone and it went out of fashion, as did the Steve Spurrier-era fun-and-gun. So too, teams will eventually figure out a way to negate the no-huddle spread. But this will require a change in style, and  an emphasis on recruiting a different type of player than Alabama has been pursuing the last several years.

In short, it will require a change in the Process.

Given the success of the spread against Alabama, fans can expect more teams to throw the kitchen sink at the Crimson Tide defense in an attempt to have the same success. The spread offense isn’t going to die; defenses will have to kill it.

Which will require the one thing Saban seeks to avoid in his daily process – change.

Alabama fans are incredibly lucky to have had two of the sport’s greatest coaches leading the Tide. They also have seen the results of one legendary coach accepting and embracing change.

The jury is still out on whether we will see it again.

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Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide Football

  • Godwin Peak

    You lost….trees must die. Roll Tears Roll

    • John Jones

      Troll Godwin Troll

  • ND52

    Great article. Agree with every word.

  • http://cbcpm.net/ Michael Andrzejewski

    Nice. I like the insight and comparison to the Bear. It’s my first time stopping by here, but I’ll be back. Keep up the good work.

    • BamaHammer

      Thanks very much; stop by anytime, and feel free to join in or start the conversation.

      • http://cbcpm.net/ Michael Andrzejewski

        Will do. Just subscribed.

  • Kimberly Lott


  • Benjamin Smith

    Bringing back the wishbone with Henry, Yeldon and Drake would be epic

  • PhilipD

    UH NO!!!!…Alabama was attempting to do something remarkable …. win a 3rd straight national championship… yes, a THIRD STRAIGHT national championship.. so, let’s see… because you win 2 in a row and then don’t win the third you have to change everything you are doing… why? because the sports writers think it is time…. that is so typical… everyone knows more than Saban, the man that has led Alabama to 3 BCS titles in 4 years… name another team accomplsihed that…. I am waiting for that answer…. Alabama uncharacteristically beat themselves… twice… nothing more nothing less… Auburn nor Oklahoma beat Alabama…. Alabama beat themselves PERIOD! Out coached…. maybe… but he is still one of if not the best…. hell Texas would take him tomorrow…. Saban will figure it out…. but the process will remain

    • William Boot

      “The Process” is more than a stoic refusal to change. The process is a system of constant evaluation and, as such, requires adjustments. We’ve seen them do it many times. You can bet Coach Saban is looking at a variety of things, just as Bryant did. The championship teams of the early 1960s played an entirely different game than the early 70s teams which were different than the late 70s teams. Bryant never abandoned the fundamentals but he did stay ahead of the trends and fads.

      The Wishbone was an effective triple-option offense that required a few key plays that opted into several variations. It was designed to create confusion and negate the talent factor. Sound familiar? People figured it out 40 years ago and they will figure the current fad out as well. No one is saying Coach Saban should abandon “the process” but he should, and will, continue to evolve it. That requires evaluation and adjustment.

  • Greg Duke

    Bama did not have the personel or the leadership in defense this year to handle an aggressive offense, regardless of the style or type. CJ was like a feather in a windstorm, directing mis-guided players into position while the ball was being hiked. We did not have a disruptive D-lineman at all, with D-backs not covering many of the receivers on opposing teams. The spread, up-tempo offense of Auburn and Oklahoma accentuated the flaws in Bama’s defense, but did not expose them. I have a problem with Nussmeier’s ability to call plays, especially in tight game situations. With the talent that Bama has at WR and TE, you do not run a 3-yard run/stop pass play, especially when the defenses of Auburn or Oklahoma could not cover our speed. O-line had issues with protection, with AJ no where to throw the ball. Absence of Drake and Howard in offensive plays is quite puzzling too. I hope that these deficits in personel and preparation will be addressed, as well as the luke warm play calling.

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