Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What hiring Nussmeier and Thompson tells you about Nick Saban

image Nick Saban is a man on a mission. Relentless, driven and seemingly unstoppable, he surrounds himself with people who share his philosophy.

When he hired Doug Nussmeier to replace Jim McElwain as offensive coordinator and rehired Lance Thompson to replace linebackers coach Sal Sunseri, Saban just bolted in parts that keep The Process churning along.

What sets Saban apart from other college football coaches is that he has an overarching philosophy and has been building a program designed to pursue it. It’s recruiting, it’s coaching hires, it’s front office personnel. Everything is geared towards executing the plan.

If Kirby Smart had left the program after the Tide’s second BCS title in two years (and Saban’s third), he would have been replaced with a nearly identical twin. The defense would be all but indistinguishable from the one that led the country in every statistical category and the new guy would recruit just as hard as Smart does.

The 2012 version of the Alabama Crimson Tide will look an awful lot like the 2011 version. And the 2010 version, and the 2009. So forth and so on. The faces and names change but The Process rolls on.

There is absolutely nothing being written about potential offensive philosophy changes following the addition of Nussmeier because nobody expects any deviation from Saban’s Neanderball.  Alabama was no more expected to hire a “guru” than I expect to win the lottery.

Placing a program’s fortunes in the hands of an ambitious wizard is too risky. One of two things is bound to happen and neither bodes well for the long term success of the program. Either the guru fails miserably and leaves the program trying to rebuild and catch back up to the rest of the league, or the guru is successful and takes his ambitions to another level, forcing you to find a replacement who can continue the success with his own system and your existing personnel.

Going from a spread to a power pro-set always comes with a painful transition. See Texas and Florida for recent, high-profile examples. Going the other way—from pro set to spread—creates the same problem. See the Rich Rodriguez experiment at Michigan for an example. When your head coach has a governing philosophy and is gearing everything about the program to execute it, these transitions never take place.

Flip-flopping back and forth between approaches means you might be bringing in quality staff but you’re never quite in rhythm. You beat up on conference doormats, you blow out non-conference patsies and go 8-4 or 9-3 but you almost always lose to the programs that matter. Bill Curry, anyone?

Bringing Lance Thompson back to Tuscaloosa is another example of bolting in nearly identical replacements. Sunseri is a high-energy position coach known for lights-out recruiting and excellent player development. Thompson is a high-energy position coach, known for lights-out recruiting and you get the idea. Six of one is a half dozen of the other and The Process rolls on. Process, process process.

No one should bother asking what changes might be expected from Alabama with Nusssmeier and Thompson on board. There won’t be any.

Saban’s coaching hires tell you that Alabama is a football program totally governed by a single philosophy. Everyone associated with the program knows what that philosophy is and knows their role in executing it. The results speak for themselves on the field, on the recruiting trail and on the coaching carousel. They’ll speak loudly on NFL Draft Day, too.

UPDATE: Oh, about that NFL thing.  Read this from al.com beat writer Izzy Gould.

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1 comments :

adam cochran said...

Ha. Neanderball. awesome.