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Alabama Crimson Tide 2021 Midseason Coaching Report Cards Revisited

Did Bill O’Brien and Pete Golding perform up to expectations over the course of an entire season for Alabama?

Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK

With all of 2021 in the books, it seemed like a good time to dredge up our pieces from the mid-season bye week grading Alabama’s two oft-maligned assistant coaches, Bill O’Brien and Pete Golding, and see how things have changed since then.

I’m specifically not waiting until after the National Championship game because all of our opinions will be to reactionary: if Alabama wins, any grades less than perfect will be too low, and if the Tide loses, everyone is going to want both of these guys fired.

Let’s start with the offensive mastermind, Bill O’Brien:

Give it a read to go back in time and see my thoughts.


This hasn’t changed, really. O’Brien is an established football mind with a developed philosophy. It’s still an offense built on a lot of curls and early down runs to get easy third down conversions.

As Bryce Young has improved his deep ball, O’Brien does seem to have loosened up a little with adding vertical shots to the offense.

I still don’t love the entire philosophy of relying on a consistent medium-distance passing game without emphasizing yards-after-catch, but it’s also worked, for the most part, so I can’t complain too much.

Mid-Season grade: B-

Final grade: B-

Strategy and Gameplanning

O’Brien has done some good things here. He’s shown the ability to alter his plan to attack specific opponents (run heavy vs Cincinnati’s light, speedy front, deeper-developing passes against Georgia’s heavy DL).

On the other hand, the total passing game meltdowns against the expected and obvious blitz strategies of Auburn, LSU, and Cincinnati never really got any better after A&M exposed that weakness. And, like most every OC out there, he gets a little antsy with wanting to call some inexplicable passes when the run game is working as well as calling the ridiculously obvious 2nd and 10 run plays after a failed first down pass.

As such, I’m docking him a letter grade.

Mid-season grade: A

Final grade: B

Communication and organization:

For some reason, Bryce Young had some major issues with this part in the Auburn game, and the Tide routinely struggled with getting snaps off. Of course, that’s seemed to happen in that godforsaken stadium for the last decade, so I think that’s a systemic problem above O’Brien and will consider it mostly an aberration.

There was also a few more pre-snap penalties against Cincinnati, but, overall, I’ve still been decently pleased in this regard. O’Brien is an extremely experienced and organized coach.

Mid-season grade: A-

Final grade: A-

Teaching fundamentals

This is an area where I think I may dock a tiny bit from his mid-season grade. The offensive line has regressed in pass blocking ability, the pass-catching group continues to drop balls and the perimeter blocking has been too inconsistent to get good yards after catch. Young also is still inconsistent with how he deals with pressure and is prone to take bad sacks or throw off his back foot with a rusher in his face.

The rushing game gets a mulligan because everyone was hurt, and then it exploded last week with Brian Robinson, Jr. finally healthy.

Mid-season grade: B+

Final grade: B-

At the time of the mid-season article, 69% of you approved of the nice job O’Brien had done. With the season having concluded, what are your thoughts now?


Has Bill O’Brien’s offense satisfied you in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    (414 votes)
  • 30%
    (181 votes)
595 votes total Vote Now

Moving on to the defense, we have the the man, the myth, the legend himself, Mr. Peter Golding.

Golding’s first season as DC was... Not great. Then in 2020, it started off bad before turning around midseason. In 2021, we saw something similar, though the start of the season wasn’t as rough as the start of 2020, and the defense has turned into a top-5 unit in the country.

In the time since our mid-season grades, The Alabama defense has been utterly dominant against everyone they’ve played other than Arkansas, and even in that one, most of the points came with the Razorbacks picking on a cornerback who wound up having to have foot surgery.


I still love Golding’s hybrid 3-3-5/2-4-5 with a focus on the 5th defensive back as a tackler and a major part of the run defense. It’s built to stop the horizontal spread offenses and RPO games that currently dominate college football.

Mid-season grade: A

Final grade: A

Strategy and Game planning

We’ve seen some definite improvement here. The blitzes are getting home and aren’t at bad times any more. His defensive strategies against Georgia and Ole Miss this season were elite.

As far as handling his personnel, putting Brian Branch in as the Star and using Daniel Wright as a dime back instead of a deep safety in order to maximize his explosive tackling and minimize his mistake-prone game has worked absolute wonders in the secondary the second half of the season.

Mid season grade: B

Final grade: A

Communication and Organization

This is still the weakest part of Golding’s resume, and, if we’re being honest, it’s to be expected as a guy that’s only been a DC for a very short time thus far. It’s improved a LOT the second half of this season, but the overall weight of the coverage busts and guys lost pre-snap from the first 23 of the season brings the total score down.

Mid season grade: C-

Final grade: B-

Teaching Fundamentals

No major change here, though we have seen the whiffed tackles from the linebackers get cleaned up a bit. Other than that, my comments from mid-season are the same.

Mid season grade: B-

Final grade: B

Offseason Improvement

This is where I’m going to give Golding a HUGE improvement from where I had him at midseason. Every single position group has improved from where they were in 2020 and even early in 2021. The defensive line has seen the best improvement, as the same roster/rotation from previous seasons has changed from a general non-factor to a unit that can generate pressure and have totally eliminated their opponent’s run game at the line of scrimmage. Of course, a lot of that credit goes to Freddie Roach, but Golding is in charge.

We’ve also seen the off-ball linebackers really clean things up, and the aforementioned movement of the secondary (getting Brian Branch and Daniel Wright into better defined roles) has worked wonders.

Mid season grade: C+

Final grade: A-


Golding is a top 5 recruiter in the nation this year. The dude is consistently awesome at it. He also secured the Signing Day flip from top-100 edge rusher Jihaad Campbell from Clemson and the last-second signing of top-50 receiver Shazz Preston out of Louisiana.

Grade: A+

Final grade: A+

Back on October 30th, only 26% of you guys voted in favor of Pete Golding and the job he had done to that point. Two months later, has that changed?


Have you been satisfied with the job Pete Golding has done this year?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    (615 votes)
  • 5%
    (36 votes)
651 votes total Vote Now