For those who are tired of hearing “it was a great week of practice!” only for the team to flop around like first day of Pop Warner, I’ve got some bad news.
Alabama, in fact, had another “great week” of practice. But, as Saban admits, that doesn’t translate to how they’ll actually play on Saturdays:
But can Saban tell how a team will play based on a few days of practice leading into a game?
“No, I can’t tell,” Saban said. You hope that when guys practice well — and I believe in this — that they will play better in the game. But there’s so many things that happen in the game that you have to be able to maintain your individual momentum to be able to play the next play and execute when your best is needed.
“I mean, when an ‘Oh shit’ moment comes up in the game, you gotta be able to play the next play just like you gotta do the same thing in life. We all have issues and things that happen in our life. Some we create, some we don’t create (but) we still have to deal with, but you gotta have the right mindset to be able to sustain the right energy level and regain momentum when those things happen. And that’s one of the things that we need to get better at.”
Ole Miss by 50.
The Lane Train is unafraid to counter the narrative that Alabama is slipping:
“When you really dive into coaching, not just the result of the game, you say, OK, Tennessee is the loudest place and if Alabama just makes a kick, Tennessee can’t win the game and Alabama wins the game. Then you go down to a 2-point play (at LSU) that’s 50% either way. The guy is literally one foot from being stopped short or the guy misses the throw, one play, then they are either No. 1 or No. 2 in the country.
“So, those statements — if they were getting beaten by 14 or 21 points or something, that would be different. So it really is ridiculous but I understand that’s what you need to do in the media to have to talk about.”
In the mind of the future Alabama head coach, talk of the current one’s dynasty dying is a bit premature.
One of those critics was Greg McElroy. The Ginger Anti-Bammer frequently calls out Alabama for the most bizarre sorts of criticism, but I don’t think he’s wrong to say that this program is an inflection point:
“I’ve always thought regardless of where the program was at, that as long as Nick Saban was there, they’re going to be just fine. I’ve also never gone as far to say that Nick Saban should leave, or, ‘This coach should be fired,’ and, ‘This guy is terrible and needs to be benched.’ I’ve never gone about it in that fashion. I don’t believe in it. I’m not a hot-take artist. I’m not one that’s gonna go into the whole, ‘Well, if this doesn’t work, everyone should be fired.’ I’m not a, ‘Well, everything’s always greener on the other side,’ type of guy. That’s just not the way I look at it.
“I try to be pragmatic, I try to be understanding and I try to be thoughtful. Well, right now, Alabama feels like it’s at a little bit of a crossroads. Nick Saban is a guy that has always preached discipline, effort, toughness, pride. If you don’t believe me, those are actually the pillars of the Fourth Quarter Program, which is the foundation of what Alabama football has always been about.”
Those remarks were addressed by Saban yesterday, which honestly I did not think he would dignify
“We work every day to try to get our players to play to a standard,” Saban said Wednesday. “We’ve had a lot of good teams around here for a long time. We lost two games by a total of four points, both on the last play of the game. Are there a lot of things that we could do better? (Yes.) Are we satisfied with where we are as a team? Absolutely not.
“But at the same time, sometimes when the standard is so high, there may be some occasion where you don’t quite meet the standard and the expectation that everybody has for you. I do think that standard and expectation has not been something that has helped this team focus on the right things, stay focused on the process, not get so concerned about the results but what you’ve gotta do to get the results. And that’s something that we’ve been trying to emphasize with them.”
But, I do think Coach has to realize at the same time this program is not playing to a standard, nor are the coaching staff demanding accountability for that — and hasn’t for a while. Shit rolls downhill, but heads roll upwards, and ultimately he owns all of this team’s shortcomings.
“Where are the dogs” is a question many people have asked of this program the last couple years. Saban had some interesting thoughts yesterday that bookend his 2019 remarks. In essence: Kids are finding it harder to attach meaning to the internal goals rather than what others think of them. And we’ve made it harder for people to both persevere and to take accountability.
“So there’s so many things these young people can get attached to. I think it affects their ability to have goals and aspirations of their own and to get self-esteem from themselves in terms of what they accomplish and what they do. So the whole concept of getting them to be the best they can be is almost foreign to them, because they’re wanting to be the best in terms of what somebody else might think, not what they think of themselves. I think that’s really important.
“So what we try to do is to get people to make actual commitments to goals and aspirations of things that they want to do, and then try to get them to edit their behavior to get them to do it and actually confront them when you see them do things that isn’t actually doing contributing to their ability to accomplish the very things they say they want to accomplish.
That still doesn’t explain why the defensive line forgot how to tackle in the fourth quarter.
Those 2019 remarks were a bit more pointed, but addressed a similar issue from a more critical light:
“I think players have changed. I think they’re a little bit of a victim of our culture that we have now. Because — and I don’t mean this in a negative way — I think we have to be careful about the way we do things. Are we helping people think that they don’t have to compete in a very competitive world?
“Because perseverance is something that is — I told the players this the other day. I said, ‘Some of you guys are victims of a permissive society.’ Because every time things get difficult, you don’t have to persevere. Every time things get difficult, you want to leave and go start over someplace else. Things get difficult, you want to quit. Things get difficult, I’m not gonna do this anymore.
And, ultimately, it’s leading to the same thing: Either an inability to step up when you need to, or the ability to maintain focus when you’re having success. Momentum, in a word.
Finally, here are the complete highlights of the weekly teleconference. Please note this remark on tackling:
On how good of a tackling team he has this year; if it’s hard to improve that during a season…
“We haven’t tackled poorly in all games. But when we haven’t played well on defense, we’ve had too many missed tackles and too many mental errors. So those two things contributed to poor performance at Tennessee and LSU, those are the two major factors in those two things. But there’s been other games when we’ve had very few missed tackles. It’s just not a thing that has been a major concern the whole year.”
“Not been a major concern” — the number one thing that doomed Alabama in the fourth quarter is not a major concern, apparently.
Hearing that is not going to make critics of Golding too pleased: missed tackles and other fundamental breakdowns have been a staple of his tenure at the Capstone. You can point to how well the defense has done as a whole, but to say whiffs aren’t a concern seems to be unwarranted optimism / defense of his staff at best, and willful blindness at worst. Sure, he make recognize that it was an issue that cost a game, but when it’s treated as a non-issue, then it will continue.
We’ll be back with the Jumbo Package shortly. Dive in.