Alabama Football: A Leader Will Emerge


There’s an unwritten rule in politics that says former Presidents should not criticize current leaders. Granted, most Presidents do not always take that advice, but it is a wise path to follow as they fade into retirement and become elder statesmen cashing in on public speaking gigs.

The same rule should apply to former quarterbacks.

Once you leave the Capstone and retire to the NFL, or the business world, it’s just not acceptable to talk about the glory days (last year) and compare them to the current team — even if you might be right.

Earlier this summer, former quarterback AJ McCarron made comments about leadership issues among players saying the younger guys took success for granted and did not buy in. Coach Saban followed with comments that this year’s team might be a little different and didn’t have “alpha dogs” or sheep that needed a sheepdog.

Last week, McCarron again rocked the blogosphere with comments that this year’s version of the Crimson Tide does not have a “true leader.” After a somewhat animated response from Coach Saban, the Bengals backup clarified his comments to say he meant to say that the team does not appear to have a “vocal leader.

Too soon.

Whether AJ is right or wrong, he should take the ex-President approach (think Bush, not Carter) and be quiet.

Is he right? As fans, we don’t know for sure. There are plenty of leaders on the team and there are plenty of stars in the making. However, as Coach Saban said over the summer, are they still lacking an “alpha dog?” While it’s great that the leadership is more of a team effort, in times of adversity everyone turns to someone for direction. You wouldn’t want to ride into battle with a whole battalion of lieutenants—nor would you want to run a two minute drill by committee.

As Alabama gets into the meat of the season, already one loss down, it’s time for someone to declare “I’ve got this. Follow me.”


More than once on Saturday, as Alabama played out a very ugly win that wasn’t clearly over until the clock hit zero, the announcers commented that teams just need to stay alive until the playoffs.

I don’t like the idea.

The Saban era has been noted for disciplined football. Fans joke that Coach Saban will always spot something that they should have done better. That’s a sense of excellence—the notion that you can always improve—and it is why Coach Saban has rebuilt Alabama to reclaim its status as football’s greatest dynasty.

Opponents always bring their best game to play Alabama. You set your sights on the best—that’s why fans don’t rush the field after beating Auburn. It’s important for champions to constantly seek to improve. In his heyday, Michael Jordon still worked on his game. Phil Mickelson still takes off his green jacket to hit a few balls on the practice green. Alabama football can always win better.

There is a football cliche that says “a win is a win.” In the playoff era that may be true but a win is not always winning. There’s a difference. There will be games that are closer than expected but squeaking by with the attitude of “at least it’s a W” will not win championships.

Alabama still has a shot at the playoffs. If the Tide gets into the final four of football, it is going to take that sense of urgency, that sense of ownership, that sense of Alabama identity that refuses to accept mediocrity. Saturday’s game against Arkansas, which Alabama had beaten 104-0 in the two previous meetings, was reminiscent of the Franchione era holding on for dear life approach to football.

Maybe we’re spoiled too. In the past, if Alabama actually lost a lead in a game, we might have an anxious moment wondering when—not if—they would retake the lead. This season, as we await an identity, we cringe to see who will make a dumb mistake and put the team in a hole. Will it be a penalty, a fumble, or blown coverage? There’s room to improve, but there always is.

A leader always emerges—every season. This week determines a lot.