Sunday, November 30, 2014

Don’t you just love basketball on grass?

I’ll be honest—last night’s Iron Bowl made me more than a little nervous. In Alabama’s last two attempts to match the tempo of teams that are recruited and built to play basketball on grass, things didn’t go well. Alabama went 0-2 against Auburn and Oklahoma.

Enter Lane Kiffin.

I was puzzled when Nick Saban hired the former Tennessee and Southern Cal head coach as his Offensive Coordinator. I wondered to myself whether this was a smart hire. But as the 2014 season has unfolded, it’s clear that when Mr. Kiffin is given the tools and materials to build a vehicle, he can build a freight train.

What continues to concern me is Alabama’s willingness to enter the Dark Side. Ok. Kiffin can call plays. He can even know when a play is going for a touchdown before the ball even leaves his QB’s fingers. But deep down, ask yourself. Meditate on this question:

Is this Alabama Football?

I am uncomfortable with Alabama playing teams that are built to do what the Tide did last night. It was (kinda) fun to watch Saban and Kiffin beat Malzahn and Lashlee at their own game. But I was also downright uncomfortable.

I’ve always been a believer that the game of football is won and lost on the line of scrimmage. When your big uglies can knock the other guys’ big uglies off of the line, you usually win the game unless you make dumb mistakes.

Basketball on grass changes that calculus.

It’s like playing what I like to call “bingo poker.” Bingo poker describes those kinds of games where there are bunches of wild cards (“Aces, Deuces, One-eyed Jacks!”) . Who the hell knows what cards are being held and played? Chips fly into the pot, and even a knucklehead who lucks into a four-of-a-kind with three wild cards can drag the pot.

I would much prefer that Alabama get back to playing Alabama Football. Don’t get me wrong—Kiffin has been an outstanding playcaller since arriving in Tuscaloosa. He finally has the tools and weapons he needs to be successful; things he really didn’t have at Tennessee, and things that NCAA sanctions thwarted during his stint at Southern Cal, despite his best efforts at becoming the Sith Lord of Roster Management in SoCal. Like I said above—give a good coach the tools and materials he needs, and he’ll succeed.

But getting back to the original point of this post: if you’re a long-time follower of Alabama Crimson Tide football, this has to be a bit unnerving. Of course, watching Coach Bryant unveil the Wishbone was probably a bit unnerving to those who saw Bart Starr through Kenny Stabler run a pro-style offense—and win championships doing so.

Times are changing? I need to move into the 21st Century? Ok. Maybe so. That doesn’t mean that my “dinosaur” offensive strategy of three yards and a cloud of dust isn’t effective. It has been for decades and if it keeps the “basketball on grass” offenses on the sidelines; forced to watch while the opposing offense runs the ball down your throat, how is that bad?

Is 21-10 a less impressive victory than 55-44? Nope. They both go in the “W” column.

I know some people will disagree with me on this; that the kind of football Alabama used to play is boring and out of synch with the modern game. But wins don’t bore me. Nor do championships and Alabama has won more championships playing smash mouth football than not.


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