As fans we all enjoy Alabama games and whether we are able to go to the game in person or prefer to watch with friends or at home to avoid distractions (guilty), most of us have been around Bama football long enough to understand that the results are forever.
After reflecting on the 2013 team, I think there was such a sense of relief after the team won the LSU game that the most important people (the actual team) believed they had the SEC West won. The hug following the LSU game with Saban and McCarron was indicative of what both may have thought was a defining moment in the season.
The next week in Starkville, AJ McCarron was shown exhorting his teammates and being a vocal leader. The team won the game, but may have lost the war that weekend. Some players may have seen McCarron's vocality as grandstanding or brow-beating. While it was intended as neither, perception is reality and little thought actually went into what took place.
This isn't intended as a criticism of one of the best QBs we will ever see in Crimson. The fans, media, team and students all share some blame in being satisfied with beating LSU and thinking that the team could coast the next two weeks and then march into Auburn and win the SEC West and advance to Atlanta. When your head is wearing the crown, you must protect your neck at all costs.
The Tide made some uncharacteristic mistakes at Auburn. Dropped passes, fumbles, throwing interceptions and missed mid-range field goals were the indications that we should have seen as they happened. No player was immune and the coaching staff seemed impacted as well.
The same was true against Oklahoma. Three turnovers in the first half showed us the same issues that were present in the Auburn game. Turnovers, blown assignments, coverage breakdowns and other uncharacteristic errors persisted as Oklahoma played an excellent game. Even if Bama had played an 'average' games in terms of execution, Oklahoma did a great job breaking season-long tendencies and using the weaknesses they found on game film. As a collective group the fan base held out hope during the game based on the past performance, but this was not the same team.
During recent interviews, Saban expressed in recent interviews that the coaching staff didn't get to know the players well enough. This is an interesting revelation and one that may have led to the staff changes we have seen up to this point. The offensive scheme was often very predictable and the defensive line was not the aggressive unit we had seen in the past.
Chris Rumph came to Bama from an even man front that chased the ball up the field. He may never have gotten comfortable with that. His players enjoyed playing for him, but they were not as effective as past units.
Doug Nussmeier seemed to prefer calling passing plays, but became conservative to a fault in the red zone. There were a lot of explosive (20+ yards) plays and long distance scoring. Failing to convert 4th-and-1 twice was a symptom, but failure to produce in New Orleans told Saban where the problem on offense was.
Last season is behind us and the team is putting the pieces in place for 2014.