Revisionist history is a funny thing, and the history of Alabama Football is no different. As we move further into the future, winning coaches become the stuff of legend. We perceive them as heroes who were always successful and never did anything wrong. Likewise, losing coaches become synonymous with ineptitude and failure with no regard to any positive impact they may have had on the program. Ultimately, a legacy of a coach is determined by how much they win and how long they can sustain it. Often, as Harvey Dent eloquently put it in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film The Dark Knight, “you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are once again approaching one of those crossroads in a legacy,
Alabama Football: Bear Bryant Makes a Change
The year was 1970, and Bear Bryant had just finished one of his most disappointing seasons with the Crimson Tide. Alabama had finished the season 6-5-1, following a 6-5 finish the year before, and the Bear knew a change needed to be made. As chronicled in Don Yaeger’s excellent Turning of the Tide, Bryant felt his teams needed a change and called his friend Darrell Royal at Texas to learn about his Wishbone offense. Bryant quickly fell in love with the physical nature of the offense and implemented it the following offseason. The change to a more physical style of football, along with the racial integration of the football program had a dramatic effect. The Tide opened the 1971 season against a USC team that had beaten them 42-21 at Legion Field the previous year. The Crimson Tide upset the Trojans on the way to an 11-1 season. Bryant would run the Wishbone for the duration of his career and go on to three more National Championships before retiring.
Crimson Tide: Moving Forward
Alabama football under Nick Saban is rapidly approaching a crossroads. It may sound ridiculous to hit the panic button on a team that has lost two games and is still firmly in position to make a premier bowl game. However, at Alabama, the expectations have become Atlanta or bust (at the very least) and to be out of the running for the playoff this early in the season has been shocking to the fanbase. The trajectory of the team has been trending downward over the last 2 years, and not just in the wins and losses but in the overall level and style of play. The Alabama Football program is still in good shape, the cupboard is far from bare, however, changes will be necessary going forward. Saban has hit the reboot button in the past when he felt a stylistic change was needed. It will be interesting to see if he does so again, and if doing so can propel the Crimson Tide forward, into the future.
An opportunity for a first step forward comes Saturday afternoon in Oxford, against Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels.
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