Alabama Football: Two biggest mistakes of Nick Saban’s career

Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports /
2 of 3
Alabama Football
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama began the 2018 season with Tosh Lupoi as Defensive Coordinator and play-caller. Golding was in his first season with Alabama in a Co-DC role, largely to counter a perceived weakness that Lupoi had no experience working with a secondary. Golding had considerable experience coaching defensive backs, but his primary coaching role assigned by Nick Saban was inside linebackers.

During the season, Lupoi failed as a play-caller and that job was assigned to Golding. Alabama’s 2018 defense was well below the Tide’s No. 1 ranked defenses from the 2016 and 2017 seasons. In 2018, Alabama was No. 24 among FBS teams in allowing opponents an average of 4.89 yards per play. The 2018 Tide was better in Scoring Defense at No. 12 and 18.1 points.

The January 2019 National Championship Game, was a 44-16 loss to Clemson that shattered beliefs defense wins championships. Going forward, Nick Saban, perhaps greatly influenced by Pete Golding, decided Crimson Tide defenses had to be faster and quicker which also required being leaner.

As a result, the Tide’s 2019 defense improved, but only slightly. Statistically, the 2020 defense regressed, but with Steve Sarkisian as Offensive Coordinator and a wealth of offensive talent, a National Championship was won anyway.

Overall in the team stats referenced above, the 2022 season was Pete Golding’s best performance. His results were nonetheless tainted by the fact that six teams averaged five or more yards per play against Alabama. The Tennessee game was the big shocker. The Vols gained 567 yards, at 8.1 yards per play.

Alabama did not win 24 games in 2021 and 2022 because of Pete Golding’s Crimson Tide defenses. It won because of Bryce Young being arguably the most exceptional quarterback in Alabama Football history.