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SUPERLATIVES: 2021 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Report Card — Final Grade

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Overall, the season has to be considered wildly successful, right?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Cincinnati v Alabama Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well, we’ve reached the end of our thorough, winding journey recapping the 2021 Alabama Crimson Tide football season. We’ve meticulously catalogued each position unit, every coaching position that saw turnover, and nearly every player that saw action on the year.

If you want to review those, or you missed one, here’s the complete list of our post-season coverage, as well as the final grade of each. Today, we’re going to assign final grades, give a few remarks about coaching staff, let you sound off at great detail...and then we’re putting the 2021 season to bed for your SEC Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

Let’s begin.

DEFENSE: B+

Poll

Defense Final Grade

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A+
    (7 votes)
  • 29%
    A/A-
    (117 votes)
  • 39%
    B+
    (154 votes)
  • 24%
    B/B-
    (96 votes)
  • 3%
    C+
    (14 votes)
  • 1%
    C/C-
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (0 votes)
394 votes total Vote Now

OFFENSE: B-

Poll

Offense Final Grade

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A+
    (6 votes)
  • 17%
    A/A-
    (67 votes)
  • 30%
    B+
    (116 votes)
  • 35%
    B/B-
    (136 votes)
  • 9%
    C+
    (36 votes)
  • 3%
    C/C-
    (13 votes)
  • 1%
    D
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (2 votes)
380 votes total Vote Now

SPECIAL TEAMS: C+

Kicking: B+
Kick Coverage: B+
Kick / Punt Returns: C+
Punting: F
Punt Coverage: A+

Poll

Special Teams Final Grade

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A+
    (2 votes)
  • 5%
    A/A-
    (19 votes)
  • 18%
    B+
    (61 votes)
  • 26%
    B/B-
    (88 votes)
  • 24%
    C+
    (82 votes)
  • 17%
    C/C-
    (60 votes)
  • 5%
    D
    (19 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (3 votes)
334 votes total Vote Now

I think we should take stock of what the 2021 Alabama Crimson Tide was able to accomplish, the tremendous obstacles it faced, what went wrong...and yet where this team still found itself in the second week of January 2022.

The 2021 Alabama Crimson Tide was in a one-score ballgame with 7:13 remaining in the fourth quarter against one of the most veteran and talented teams in the nation, in a rematch against a foe that knew it intimately, that had been built in its image, that had been constructed to beat it, and which had the benefit of remaining healthy wire-to-wire for the entire season.

To even get there, Alabama would have to replace 89% of its offensive production, two Heisman finalists, field the youngest team of Saban’s tenure and the 7th youngest in the country. It would have to open the season by traveling to Georgia to face a veteran Miami team with three new offensive coaches in tow, and a de facto freshman quarterback making his first start with just 22 career passing attempts under his belt.

It was a team that would have to run the gauntlet of the SEC, including road trips to Texas A&M, the Swamp, and a season finale at Jordan Hare — Nick Saban’s personal house of horrors. It would have claim the SEC Championship over the best team in the nation in their own backyard. It would improbably make the playoffs only to face the most talented and well-coached midmajor in the nation.

Even getting to that point was a minor miracle after fielding the worst offensive line of the Saban era — a group that surrendered the most tackles for loss of Saban’s career; its 104 tackles for loss would be the 3rd worst in the nation, outpaced only by Southern Miss and Kent State. It was an offensive line that played soft, played undisciplined, drew too many penalties, could not find continuity, could not stay healthy, and would repeatedly fail to open holes in the running game, as Alabama fielded its second worst rushing attack of the last 15 years. It was a line that did Bryce Young no favors trying to learn his position, repeatedly placing Alabama in 3rd down after 3rd down, and surrendering 41 sacks (120th in the country) — by far the worst of the Saban years.

It would have to do so with a running back corps that suffered injury after injury, leaving the limited-but-fiery B Rob as Alabama’s rushing attack. It would have to play through the loss of its leading receiver and with a malcontent at tight end who had been counted on as a critical part of the passing attack. It would have to try and work in freshmen and reserves in the passing game, when it was clear that the moment was far too large for some, and for others that their hands would rather be the Twitter button rather than on the ball.

It would have to do so while repeatedly forfeiting field position on both sides of the ball, as yet again the Tide fielded one of the nation’s worst punting games, and which outside of Jameson Williams was able to produce nothing in the return game. It would somehow have to navigate this brave new world of aerial attacks with new starters and new role players sprinkled across the secondary, and in the face of one of the worst sophomore slumps we’ve seen.

But, for all that, it was also a team that saw Alabama field a true generational pass rushing talent who turned in one of the most dominant seasons by a defender of the last two decades. It would see Phil Mathis finally grow into the dominant interior player that had always peeked through in flashes. It would see Henry To’oto’o take leadership of the Alabama defense in a way that no one has since the loss of Minkah Fitzpatrick. It would see the emergence of freshman phenom Dallas Turner produce a freshman All-American season as the next pass rushing terror. And it would eventually become the best front seven Alabama has fielded since the 2016 season.

It would see a true Sophomore quarterback mature as the year went along, become smarter with the ball, make clutch plays as he grew more comfortable, find his touch on the deep ball, and involve every player on the roster in the passing game. It would see that same 19-year-old kid produce one of the most improbable comebacks in Iron Bowl history, as he put the Tide on his back and locked up a Heisman Trophy in Jordan Hare.

It would see a reserve transfer wide receiver become a Biletnikoff finalist, the nation’s most dangerous offensive player, and a First Round NFL Draft lock. That same offense that seemed to shoot itself in the foot over and over again, also saw Brian Robinson rip his bleeding heart out of his chest and wear it on his sleeve, as the Tuscaloosa native played with a singular purpose on every snap. The same offense that was in race to the bottom against itself too often, finally put it all together for 60 glorious minutes in Atlanta, as they lined up and had their way with Georgia’s vaunted defense and claimed an SEC title that seemed nigh-impossible with 1:47 remaining in the Iron Bowl season finale.

It saw the swagger and raw skills of a Kool Aid unleashed in the defensive backfield. It saw the much-maligned Daniel Wright finally find a way to use his athleticism and playmaking without being the goat of every third down. It saw Christian Harris make money each and every week, after years of being put in bad spots, as he was finally freed to play his game at his position. It saw Pete Golding become comfortable with his skills, the flow of the game, and his personnel to largely become the defensive coordinator that Nick Saban has promised us exists for the last four years. It looks like Coach was right again, huh?

It was an Alabama team that turned the much-hyped Ole Miss game into a laugher; that took a four-score lead into the fourth quarter against the Vols and one of the nation’s best passing attacks; that completely neutered the Bulldogs in Starkville.

In many ways, this was one of the least likeable Alabama teams of my lifetime. There were too many entitled players, too soft of a mindset by too many people, too poor of a coaching job done by the new offensive staff, too few plays made by those capable of doing so, too few leaders.

At the same it may have been the most impressive coaching of Nick Saban’s Alabama career to-date. It was a team that won despite itself, that was held together with youthful overachievement and raw talent often at odds against its own mistakes, dead weight on the roster and some meandering inertia by those who expected the jersey alone to win games..

Such a formula can and usually does destroy entire seasons for most teams.

With so many structural weaknesses, so many injuries, so many underperforming coaches, so much youth, Alabama had absolutely no business winning an SEC Championship, much less having a shot to win a national title. Yet, that is exactly where Alabama found itself: With 7:13 remaining against the best team in the country, the Tide had a chance to tie that ballgame, down five starters, with the line having one of its worst games of the season, with young players dropping passes, with DBs losing 50-50 balls, and with some players loafing, Alabama had a chance.

That alone made this season one of wild overarachievement.

If 2021 was playing with house money — an arrival at the party before the band has taken the stage, and it was, then 2022 is the title run.

Final Grade: B+

Poll

2021 Final Grade

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    A+
    (6 votes)
  • 42%
    A/A-
    (112 votes)
  • 36%
    B+
    (97 votes)
  • 15%
    B/B-
    (41 votes)
  • 1%
    C+
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    C/C-
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    D
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (0 votes)
264 votes total Vote Now