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Anti-Gump Day: Entitlement, Offensive Line Regression, and Generational Infighting

Sorry, there’s no way to sugar coat all of the news out of Tuscaloosa the past 24 hours.

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<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Texas v Alabama

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Ignore the fact that through 62 games Kevin Sumlin had a better record than Jimbo Fisher does presently at A&M, there is yet another thing that NIL is upending, and which makes the $94.5 million contract he signed in 2021 particularly indefensible: NIL.

The transfer portal should change the calculus even more dramatically. When Texas A&M signed Fisher away from Florida State, it gave him a 10-year, $75-million contract. After his single excellent season at A&M, in 2020, it reworked his contract, so he was signed for 10 years and $94.95 million.

Incredibly long-term contracts for college coaches were largely a recruiting pitch: If you come play for us, you will know your coach will be here for your whole career. But that shouldn’t mean much to players anymore. Players are constantly on the move, and they are well aware of their options. If their coach leaves, players can transfer and play right away. If their coach doesn’t play them, they can find a coach and school that will. Consciously or not, players are essentially making one- or two-year decisions when they pick a school. Why would they care whether a coach is signed for 10 years?

So much is changing so rapidly in college sports that it’s hard to keep track—and it is hard to see what all the ramifications will be. But Jimbo Fisher’s contract, like Jimbo Fisher’s success, feels like it belongs to the past.

It does seem as though that promise of long-term stability is no longer the selling point that it once was, or that it will increasingly play less of a role. Players are seeing value in programs, not coaches.

Who knows? Perhaps this will help effectuate an out-of-control salary reset? Aggie began this with its the original and absurd $10-year, $75 million deal, setting entirely new unsustainable longevity marks for contracts. And Michigan State exacerbated it with Mel Tucker’s indefensible 10-year, $90 million salary bump that was well 25% over market value, setting the new bar for salary ceilings. Then Texas A&M responded in kind with yet another raise and extension. It was a game that Michigan jumped into, giving Harbaugh an unheard of $11 million per year, and practically lifetime job security (see also: Alabama).

But if you’re paying attention at home, the combined records of those first two over the past two seasons is 12-16, with one being threatened by federal tax officials, and the other on unpaid leave after allegedly sexually harassing a rape victim. (And Sparty is already memoryholing his photos from around campus). Some of these guy are not even on the field, much less winning games...and none of them are within spitting distance of a title of any sort.

Do these deals make sense anymore? How do we put the genie back in the bottle? If one school balks, another will surely bite on the tempting offer to lock up a perceived winner for a decade, right?

I think the entire market is just going to have to collapse — carrier deals slashing bids, ESPN refusing to overpay for properties, eyeballs increasingly less drawn to Saturdays, fewer butts in seats, and aging a decidedly sportsless Gen Z aging into their consumer power and taking their dollars elsewhere (as they are already doing). That may really be the only way.

Fortunately, the commodification of the collegiate experience towards semi-pro leagues with NIL, transfer portal free agency, diminishing quality of play, and the destruction of conferences is making that prospect so much easier...and far too tempting.

Do we really want to live in a world where the Pac 12 has eight ranked teams?

Want it or not, we have it.

The old world dies and the world is born anew; for this is the time of monsters.

Increasingly, we’ve been seeing older players and alums of The Process level criticism towards the current generation of players. The present ‘Bammers are trying to shrug it off, and most are sticking to the party line that it really is about the season goals and embracing the positives while eliminating negative plays:

“All we can do is learn from our mistakes and move forward about it and just acknowledge our mistakes, go over it with coach and just move on and be a better team,” McKinstry said.

That’s the same approach running back Roydell Williams is taking. Forget about the criticism from former players, focus on the positives and building on them, then simply correct the mistakes.

Do that and Alabama still has the talent to compete for an SEC West title. Reach Atlanta and suddenly everything becomes possible again.

Sulking over criticism from former players isn’t going to help anything.

“Me honestly I don’t pay attention to none of that,” Williams said. “I don’t know if anyone else does, but we try to keep a positive head when coming away from a week like that. We try to look forward. Our goals are still the same: SEC, national championship. But we look at it one week at a time and we’re going to progress from there.”

I’m glad Roydell’s head is in the right place. If we could get him to stop falling down after two yards, that would be even better.

Still, some current players have fired back at “the old heads,” telling them that it’s just a different generation of players now.

I tend to agree with that camp. You have half the roster making more than their position coaches, guys sold on programs based on short-term NIL deals, and the like. It’s a different type of athlete now, with a different type of mentality — and finding ones who accept coaching, much less criticism, is increasingly a crap shoot.

The Process simply may not work in the NIL era, and veterans of those teams that could overpower, out-talent and out-tough teams have perhaps not realized that it is a more...nuanced generation of guys.

Hellams also chimed in, although he took a far angrier tone in defense of his former team...and, by proxy, his generation of players.

The reactions from former Tide stars are worth reading though. Because when things go bad, infighting is among the first things to emerge.

Which leads us to...

...the elephant in the Room

Whatever the answers are, Nick Saban best find it soon. The Tide faces Ole Miss and Aggie after a quick tuneup in Tampa, and Alabama can lose one or both of those games...or neither. But, until some fundamental issues get sorted out, there’s no reason to be so sanguine as that.

As Dennis Dobb notes (the same thing I said in January, BTW), this isn’t about losing games; it’s about program slippage — and it is appearing almost completely across the board too. And nowhere is it more evident than on offense.

And if there is one sure thing that will get you beat on the field or in the court of public opinion, it’s not having a quarterback. Jalen Milroe has the misfortune of following Bryce Young, Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts. All started for NFL teams in Week 1.

Milroe, at the moment, might as well be in the doghouse.

Let’s not heap this on an innocent kid. There are other holes the Crimson Tide must fill. The offensive line — that was supposed to be a strength — looked disorganized. In the raucous din of Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama was called for a false start. Penalties by the O-line nullified two touchdowns. The defensive backfield got torched by Texas QB Quinn Ewers, who isn’t exactly known for his deep ball. Saban coaches that unit.

Perhaps the scariest sign: Alabama is 6-3 in its last nine games. In seven of those contests, it played with perhaps its best player ever (Young) and the nation’s best defender (Will Anderson Jr.)

Emphasis added.

I don’t think there’s much that can be done to right this ship midseason.

Alabama is not a few plays away. A few plays could have decided that game, sure. But Saturday was lost in the previous 3-4 years of recruiting, in years of poor development along the lines, in years of hiring and staffing decisions that have resulted in underachievement at far too many positions.

There’s not only a seeming talent deficit, there’s a developmental deficit, a discipline deficit, a scheming deficit, a toughness deficit. In short, a coaching deficit. Texas lined up and whipped Alabama’s ass at the point of attack on both sides of the ball; they won their individual battles; they put their players in better positions to succeed; they executed better; and they did not take penalties in a hostile road environment.

If Saturday was a harbinger of 2023 and beyond, the better team didn’t win; the better program won. At no point in that game did you feel as though Alabama could control the game or pull away. And as the second half progressed, there wasn’t even hope that the Tide could win it. Most fans were just hoping that ‘Bama didn’t get smoked too badly on our home field.

I even bet on Texas at halftime to win by -1.5. I figured, if I have to be subjected to a team coached by Tommy Rees, Freddie Roach, Holmon Wiggins, and Kevin Steele, the least my alma mater can do is win me some money. And, I regret to inform you, that Alabama did in fact made $25 richer than I was at the 6:30 kickoff. Talk about Pyrrhic victories, eh?

Winning can cover up a lot of sins, but as many sins as we saw Saturday, it is gonna take a whole lot of winning. And I’m just not sure this roster and staff, as comprised, can do so. Nor am I certain that Saban wants to do a complete and deep reset of the program that it desperately needs. The time to do that was in 2021, during the staffing reshuffle.

I just don’t have the answers. What about you? But, either way, fans may just have to accept this is the team we have and the approach the Tide is going to take: Nick Saban’s remarks earlier this week seem to indicate that little is going to fundamentally change.

And one of those problems? Entitlement.

Yup. Top 10 team returning 20 starters, and the Tide locker room just assumed they would beat Texas

According to Alabama starting left guard Tyler Booker, yes.

“I feel like we probably just took winning for granted like we did last year,” Booker said on The Next Round as part of a paid weekly NIL spot. “We beat Middle Tennessee, and we just had to bring a different energy level and a different level of focus. There was energy and there was focus, but it wasn’t where it needed to be.”

Earlier in the interview, Booker said the team “didn’t have the best energy” in practice in the lead-up to the Texas game. Booker offered his “for granted” answer after Next Round host Ryan Brown pressed him on why the team didn’t have the best energy, given how close the game between the two schools was a year ago.

Hats off to Booker for admitting what we all saw with our own eyes, but that is simply inexcusable. I don’t know any other way to frame it. Too many people who care far too less are on the field far too often...and it shows.

And that offensive line? Booker stressed the need for patience:

Key members of Alabama’s offensive line spoke this fall camp about wanting to re-establish a physical and dominating presence. Days before the Tide’s opener, Nick Saban offered a subtle reminder that actions would be needed to back up the words.

“Well, I would say that’s up to them,” Saban said Aug. 28.

Through two games, Alabama ranks 70th in FBS in averaging 156 rushing yards per game. Alabama’s top two running backs, Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams, have 138 yards on 35 carries — less than a 4.0 yard-per carry average.

Alabama has allowed seven sacks, including five of Jalen Milroe in Saturday night’s 34-24 loss to Texas. And after a clean opener against Middle Tennessee State, Alabama’s line committed five penalties against the Longhorns.

Tyler Booker, the only starter on Alabama’s line not to commit a penalty, stressed patience with the group.

Patience isn’t my problem though. It’s the same old issues manifesting themselves: flat-footed at tackle, soft on the interior, poor communication, and simple lack of discipline. Far from being an improvement on 2022’s gains, this unit rapidly fell back to 2021’s woeful standards...only they’re fatter and slower now. I’m impatient with the lack of a palliative, not with this particular group necessarily.

You know Wolford likes a bigger line, and Saban is coveting Georgia’s program at the moment. But the Tide simply does not have that kind of talent — or, if we’re being honest, the coaching up front. And if Booker’s comments are to be taken at face value, perhaps even the character.

Maybe Booker is right? Maybe this unit will round into form, “greatness” as he calls it. But Tide fans can also be forgiven for lacking that patience when, in the same breath, he also accused the team of having bad energy and simply assuming they’d get a win.

Like so many other things, I’m not sure the line play is something that you correct as the season goes along — despite the fact it may improve — it’s something that’s fixed years in advance on the recruiting trail.

Wish I had some better news to report today, but...news is what news is. And there are a few other turds in the punch bowl, besides the likely death of The Standard.

Let’s start with this awesome story:

Shortly after Texas’ 34-24 win over Alabama on Saturday, video surfaced of Crimson Tide fans directing racist and homophobic language towards Texas players on the Longhorns sideline. On Tuesday, The University of Alabama responded to the incident in a statement provided to USA Today.

Alabama admins repudiated the meatheads, but the damage may have been done to an athletic department that could scarce afford more controversy

“We are disgusted by reports of vile language and inappropriate behavior Saturday night,” the statement reads. “To be clear, we condemn this behavior and it will not be tolerated in our venues. It is not representative of UA or our values. We expect all attendees to act with class and respect toward others. Fans are strongly encouraged to report issues to our security on-site. Gameday and delayed reports are appropriately addressed and anyone found to be in violation of our rules and expectations will be promptly removed and may be banned from future events.”

Wish that were the end of the bad news. Alas, it’s not.

Preferred walk-on Antonio Ross was arrested for sodomy on an underage victim:

Alabama football player Antonio Ross was arrested on a sexual assault charge on Monday, according records obtained by AL.com. Ross, a preferred walk-on wide receiver for the Crimson Tide, was charged with second-degree sodomy and released from Calchoun County Jail on a $50,000 bond. Details of the case were not immediately available, though Calchoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade told AL.com that Ross was taken into custody on Monday at a home in Weaver, Alabama.

According to the Alabama criminal code, sodomy of the second degree involves a defendant over 16 years old receiving oral or anal sex from a victim who is between 12 and 16 years old. The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the investigation involved a juvenile female victim.

Please not: PWO are not scrubs; they often see the field, and are among some of the first to be offered schollies when they open up.

Please also note, consent is not a defense to Second-Degree Sodomy, and it is a Class B felony: Ross is looking at 2-20 years.

This is just an absolutely vile story.

There was a lot of grim news to cover today: sorry, it’s just the luck of the draw and the universe conspiring against us on Gump Day.

But, let’s leave you on an upbeat note: Spectrum is getting The Mouse back, and with it, ESPN channels.

A joint statement on Charter’s website announced that “Spectrum viewers once again have access to Disney’s high-quality sports, news, and entertainment programming, in time for Monday Night Football.”

The site that once outlined Charter’s complaints with Disney now states “Good news! We have reached a new agreement with The Walt Disney Company.”

Read More: Alabama: Disney and Spectrum Decide on ESPN’s Fate | https://tide1009.com/alabama-disney-and-spectrum-decide-on-espn-blackout/?utm_source=tsmclip&utm_medium=referral

I fear it may be too little, too late for Spectrum though. I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve cut the cord for other options, and have done so for good — including moving their internet to things like AT&T Fiber.

Charter lost way too much goodwill here, and damaged its customers with no warning in such an extortionate manner, that a large chunk of those subscribers are never coming back.

And good on them for fleeing this sinking ship. Cable is dying, and streaming isn’t too far behind. Whatever comes next is going to have to rapidly emerge; this model isn’t sustainable, and customers have no stomach for it.


What has been the most disheartening news out of the football program over the last 24 hours?

  • 27%
    Team entitlement, and taking wins for granted
    (231 votes)
  • 18%
    Offensive line regression
    (155 votes)
  • 5%
    Nick Saban saying that Alabama’s issues are ones that can corrected midseason
    (47 votes)
  • 6%
    Generational infighting between alumni and players?
    (52 votes)
  • 36%
    (308 votes)
  • 6%
    Problems? What problems? Puts head back in sand
    (51 votes)
844 votes total Vote Now

Alright. There’s the grim news today. Rant below, because I’m sure you have thoughts.

Roll Tide anyway.