Maybe as some have suggested, Bill O’Brien is a sharp offensive tactician. If so, it was not often seen during his two seasons in Tuscaloosa.
In fairness to the journeyman NFL coach, he was hampered by an offensive toolbox that did not include quality offensive lines. To many Alabama football fans, the only Crimson Tide offensive magic during O’Brien’s two seasons came from Bryce Young. Was O’Brien an effective quarterback coach? Or did Bryce’s special skills make up for team weaknesses that included its Offensive Coordinator?
To some college football insiders, O’Brien’s play-calling was inconsistent with the current college game. As a result, O’Brien’s Alabama offenses seemed to struggle to find any rhythm against quality defenses.
What is not in doubt is that O’Brien’s 2021 offense produced 546 yards (7.7 yards per play) against Georgia and three weeks later only averaged 4.7 yards against the Bulldogs. Injuries to Alabama offensive threats were a factor, but the Tide ran for a 4.4-yard average in the first game, compared to 1.1 yards in the title game.
Ten games into the 2023 season, a more serious complaint against O’Brien is that he failed to develop Alabama’s backup quarterbacks. Based on early season performances neither Jalen Milroe nor Ty Simpson progressed with O’Brien as their quarterback coach.
O’Brien had two seasons to develop Milroe and for whatever reason not enough progress occurred in preparing Milroe to start in 2023. Had O’Brien done a better job with Milroe, this season’s loss to Texas might not have happened.
At least one college football expert claims that O’Brien so undervalued Milroe, most of the attention given to a backup in the 2022 season went to Ty Simpson.
If the Crimson Tide beats Georgia in Atlanta but does not make the Playoff as a 12-1 SEC champion, some of the fault may lie with Bill O’Brien for wasting two seasons by not developing Jalen Milroe’s skills.
Alabama football fans may not have been excited by the hiring of Tommy Rees and Kevin Steele, but both now get strong reviews from October and November results. Credit to Nick Saban for trusting what many others did not in Rees and Steele.