After the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans on January 9, current offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will leave Alabama to take over the head coaching job at Colorado State. The CSU Rams are a great fit for Coach Mac, as his roots are out west and he has many contacts in Mountain West and Pac-12 circles.
As Jess Nicholas points out over at Tidefans.com, any “short lists” propagated by media members and “insiders” are largely guesswork. No one really knows the mind of the Evil Genius, nor does anyone likely have a firm grip on what kind of coach Nick Saban might be looking for.
I can tell you what kind of coach he isn’t looking for.
Don’t expect a “guru.” Don’t expect anyone who’s come up with a foolproof new offensive strategy that confounds opposing defenses and racks up 48,321 yards per game. There might be somebody like that willing to come to Alabama and coach the offense for Saban, but if you think he’s going to let some hot shot up-and-comer walk into the Mal Moore Athletic Facility and draw up a high-octane offensive attack, you don’t understand Alabama football.
Alabama is a power pro-set offensive football team. They beat you by pounding the ball between the tackles, hitting short screens, finding a crossing tight end and occasionally throwing the deep ball against man coverage. Anyone expecting Nick Saban to let his offensive coordinator sling the ball around the field 50 times a game is going to be disappointed.
Anyone hopeful for a spread devotee is going to be disappointed, too. Saban and his staff recruit to their style and the current roster is built for smash mouth Neanderball. There’s plenty of speed and athleticism on the team, but it has very few of the prototypical spread, veer or hurry-up no-huddle offenses run elsewhere in college football. Once you’ve recruited four years of players to power football, any transition to speedy spreads and funky veers would be painful to watch, and Saban’s too smart for that.
Because of the similarities between Alabama’s offensive strategy and those of so many teams in the NFL, you can expect the job to get some interest from current NFL coaches. They need not necessarily be current offensive coordinators, either. But someone without play calling experience at either the college or NFL level isn’t likely to make much headway. If current NFL candidates are there and Alabama is interested in one or more, don’t expect any movement to fill the position until their seasons are over (hint: good ones will be playing well into January).
There are literally dozens of qualified offensive coaches in the mid-majors and professional levels. There are a number of coaches at BCS qualifying league schools too, but only a handful of those would be interested in moving to Alabama if head coaching positions were open (and some are, still). Whoever Saban decides to hire, it’ll be someone he’s comfortable with. That includes promoting someone from within (Hi, Mike!). But if he does go outside the current staff and chooses a new face, you can fully expect to say: “Wait, they hired who again?”
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