I have to admit I have found the reaction to Alabama’s most recent coaching hire a bit comical.
While many pundits knocked the hire, I chose to sit back and ponder. Here is what I’ve come up with: Nick Saban runs Alabama’s offense, defense, special teams, recruiting and possibly the janitorial department. Hiring an offensive coordinator or any coach will never be a program changer as long as Saban is coaching in Tuscaloosa.
ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum said Saban was “settling” when he hired Brian Daboll and I certainly understand that side of the argument. Daboll has the sizzle of oatmeal.
It’s been well established that Daboll’s offense wasn’t great during his time in the NFL. However, his statistical resume doesn’t tell the whole story. Daboll has coached for the Kansas City Chiefs, whose offense is run by coach Andy Reid; the Miami Dolphins, which has had erratic quarterback play; and the Cleveland Browns, who are just awful.
Some fans and, especially, analysts wanted a wow hire like Chip Kelly. First, why would Kelly grind under Saban when he can sit back, relax and get paid by the San Francisco 49ers? But even if Kelly had been interested, it probably wouldn’t have been a good fit. Saban wants a pro-style offense with spread concepts that controls the ball and the clock. Sure, it’s conservative, but when you have the best roster in the country, that’s the way to play it.
Daboll also is guaranteed to not be the distraction that former offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was. On the few chances he got to speak with reporters, namely Alabama’s College Football Playoff run this past season, it seemed like Kiffin almost would go out of his way to say something that would draw headlines.
So big was his distraction that he was essentially fired just days before the national title game at least partially for that reason. No, it wasn’t reported exactly like that, but you can read between the lines: Kiffin was purged by Saban.
Sure, there’s reason to be concerned about the Daboll hire, but it has nothing to do with his coaching acumen. If Alabama goes more pro-style, that may not jive well with the quarterbacks they’ve been recruiting recently. Something tells me Saban will be able to clear that hurdle. He’s shown the ability to adapt throughout his career.
Saban has a long history of coaching turnover and he keeps on winning. Now, after losing to Clemson in January’s national title game, he’ll be hungrier than ever. That’s bad news for the rest of the SEC.
Saban believes in a single general surrounded by loyal, hard-working soldiers. After Daboll’s career hit a bit of a lull, he’ll be that. Daboll spent the last four seasons as an offensive assistant and tight ends coach for the New England Patriots. That’s a step down from being an offensive coordinator for four seasons in the NFL. Daboll better be hungry to serve and recruit for Saban.
Saban certainly has an impressive coaching tree in terms of the number of coaches that have gone on to head coaching jobs. However, he’s produced as many duds as studs. It’s not about the coaching staff surrounding Saban. It’s about him.
Alabama is Saban’s program. Assistants are important, but not nearly as much as at other programs. Expect Saban to keep doing things his way, just like he did by hiring Daboll. And if Saban keeps doing things his way, that means the winning will continue.
(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)
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