It is finally official. Bill O’Brien has left the building. Now comes the task of filling his position as offensive coordinator. This new assistant will be leading a very young quarterback corps and will need to have a scheme that fits into the college game circa 2023 and beyond.
The belief is that Nick Saban and O’Brien had an amicable and expected parting. If this is true, might Saban already have candidates line up? There was a dead period between bowl season and January 12, 2023 and you know Saban did not spend those two weeks at the lake sitting on the dock, watching the ducks s--t in the yard.
Below are a few possible candidates that we have corralled for your pondering.
Greg Roman - Former Baltimore Ravens Offensive Coordinator
Roman has spent most of his career in the NFL. His one stint in the college ranks was with Stanford under Jim Harbaugh. He would follow Harbaugh to the 49ers and then on to the Bills for one campaign before joining the other Harbaugh, John, with the Ravens in 2017. There he would take Lamar Jackson under his wing and help mold him into an All-Pro caliber quarterback. Roman’s offense is a run heavy strategy, which is evident in Jackson’s breaking the myth that a dual threat quarterback cannot thrive in the NFL. Since his MVP season of 2019, many other quarterbacks have followed suit as a passer/runner. If Nick Saban truly believes in Jalen Milroe, Roman could be the perfect mentor for the rising RS sophomore. Add in the vastly talented stable of running backs the Crimson Tide will have this coming season and it could be a match made in heaven.
Jeff Lebby - Oklahoma’s Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach
Lebby has almost exclusively college coaching experience. He has spent time at Baylor, UCF, Ole Miss, and now the Sooners. Though only 39 years of age, he did not become an FBS offensive coordinator until 2019 with Josh Heupel and freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel in Orlando. The next year, he would move to Ole Miss with Lane Kiffin. There he would mentor Matt Corral to 2nd team All-SEC in 2021 with only Bryce Young ahead of him in the conference. In 2022, he would return to his alma mater Oklahoma with grad transfer Gabriel as his quarterback. However, it was a disappointing 6-7 season for the Sooners. Lebby seems like an obvious choice to many observers. But being an obvious choice might be the reason he is not hired. Saban tends to go for out-of-the-blue choices for his coordinators.
Joe Brady - Buffalo Bills Quarterback Coach
After a few years with the Saints, this wunderkind/savant/once-upon-a-time-Golden Boy burst onto the scene as the orchestrator of LSU’s unexpected National Championship in 2019. He is credited with turning formerly godawful Joe Burrow into the quarterback he is today. After one year in the college ranks, he returned to the NFL joining Matt Rhule at the Carolina Panthers as OC. However, Rhule only managed 10 wins from 2020-21 and was fired. Brady moved on to Buffalo as quarterbacks coach (not OC) this season to guide Josh Allen who up until last Saturday was having a pretty good season. The sheen has worn off Brady since his time in Baton Rouge. But in his defense, he had a revolving door of bad quarterbacks at his disposal in Charlotte. He is an interesting candidate but there are many questions. Can he handle OC or is he more of a QB coach? Is he more suited to coach the NFL or college? Does he want to go back to the college game? Would Saban go with such a young OC (33 years old)?
Brian Johnson - Philadelphia Eagles Quarterbacks Coach
No, not the lead singer of AC/DC. We are talking about the QB coach who has helped turn Jalen Hurts into an All-World quarterback these past two seasons. He too is young, 35, but has a decent resume. After a few years as starting quarterback at Utah, he would return to join Kyle Whittingham’s staff as quarterbacks coach a year later. He would be promoted to offensive coordinator but would switch gears to the SEC in 2014. For that season and the next two, he was with Dan Mullen at Mississippi State - the first two featuring quarterback Dak Prescott. You may recall MSU’s ascension to a number one ranking in 2014 before losing to Alabama. After a year in Houston, he returned to Mullen this time at Florida. His star pupil there was overachiever Kyle Trask who made his way to New York City as a Heisman finalist in 2020. Johnson seems to have a knack for developing quarterbacks. But can he play call and run a whole offense?
Kliff Kingsbury - Former Arizona Cardinals Head Coach
A more familiar name, Kingsbury (43) has had more success in college than in the pros. Among those who he has coached in college are Johnny Manziel at TAMU, Case Keenum at Houston, and Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech. He might be a long shot to land at Alabama. One has to wonder if his ego would allow him to take a demotion at this point if his career.
Dan Mullen - Former Florida Head Coach
If anyone needs a career rehab it’s this guy. He has a nice little gig going with ESPN but these ex-coaches-turned announcers always seem to get that itch to return to the sidelines. Is he willing to swallow his pride and be someone’s assistant after 13 years as a head coach? Surprisingly, he is only 50 years old and has a lot of years ahead of him.
Holmon Wiggins - Alabama Assistant Head Coach of Offense/Wide Receivers
After four seasons on the staff, is Wiggins ready for a promotion?
As he is apt to do, Saban often pulls out a name nobody has thought of. Who could that person be?
Who would you like to see as next Alabama OC?
Other (see comments)