As has been widely reported Wednesday morning, Alabama Football assistants, Bill O’Brien and Doug Marrone have been diagnosed as having COVID. In a statement released by Nick Saban and Tide Trainer, Jeff Allen both men are said to have mild cases.
The coaches are recovering at their homes. Neither is expected to miss the Cotton Bowl, CFB Playoff semi-final against Cincinnati.
The odds are this development is no reason for a high level of concern. That is not to say Nick Saban is unconcerned. Illnesses from COVID are not always predictable. There is a small chance either one of the coaches (or both) may not be available when the Alabama Football team travels to Dallas on December 26.
How concerned is Nick Saban? This is what he said when discussing COVID possibly disrupting the team.
"Am I concerned? I’m always concerned when there’s an issue out there. We want to do the best we can to help our players be concerned about the issue and respect it so they have the best opportunity to stay safe."
According to Saban, over 90 percent of the Alabama Football team are vaccinated with a booster shot. The same is likely true for O’Brien and Marrone. It is generally expected in the medical community that such levels of vaccinations will prevent individuals from having a severe case of COVID.
‘Generally expected’ and other expert assurances are good, but Nick Saban will, in addition, be diligent in following every possible safety protocol. Part of that caution will be a plan to have replacements available for O’Brien and Marrone should their return to the team be delayed.
Will Alabama Football need another play-caller?
In an extreme and unexpected situation, the Alabama Football offense might be short two coaches when practice begins in Dallas. The last, pre-Christmas practice was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Players will then be allowed to travel home for the holidays.
If O’Brien and Marrone can make the trip to Dallas on Dec. 26, coaching in practices and the game should not be a problem. If either one can’t, Nick Saban will adjust his staff as required. Could either of Tide offensive assistants Holman Wiggins or Robert Gillespie call plays in the Cotton Bowl? Neither has been an OC in their careers.
Would Nick Saban bring in an emergency replacement for O’Brien? With Texas A&M, because of COVID infections among its players, suddenly unable to play the Cotton Bowl, Jimbo Fisher might be available. That would never happen of course, just like bringing in Urban Meyer will never happen. Beyond the other reasons why neither of the pair is an option, they don’t know enough about the Tide’s offense. Not even Jimbo, who was a Saban OC many years ago. Anyone, other than O’Brien, calling plays in the Cotton Bowl, must fully know the Crimson Tide offense.
One thing is sure. Absolutely everything Alabama Football can do will be done – and Nick Saban already has a plan and a couple of contingency plans.