Monday, December 11, 2006

Free Advice for Alabama

It seems like a broken record with both Bama fans and mediots regarding their coaching search. You can tell the two apart based on the nature of the whine, with the fans bemoaning “no good coach wants us, we’re not what we used to be” while the talking heads chuckle and say “Bama isn’t what they used to be (and they’re making it worse.)” (Side note: when it comes to all-time great college programs, Bama is on the short-list, along with Michigan and Notre Dame, and yet 10-win seasons from Bama don’t prompt the kind of over-the-top media fellatio that always accompanies a Notre Dame resurgence. I don’t know why, but it does happen, and it bugs me.)

For the uninitiated, let’s review the situation: Bama fired Mike Shula, obstensibly because he kept losing to Auburn (and any other team that was half-way decent on a regular basis) but also because his offense was so exciting it made plain vanilla seem like Naked Hot Tub Hour with Kate Huson and Jessica Alba.

(You didn't expect an actual hot-tub pick did you? They made me sign waivers, sorry. But damn it was good times...)

Mal Moore then went off on a campaign to get multiple coaches (Steve Spurrier, Rich Rodriguez) raises and, in the case of Rodriguez, facility improvements.

Quite the humanitarian that Mal Moore.

Problem is, none of that resulted in an actual coach for Bama.

What they do have (at least for now), and did have with Shula is a great defensive coordinator. Joe Kines, he of the reviled “bend-but-don’t-break, but-often-especially-against-UT-and-UF-fracture-spectacularly” defense at UGA, picked up quite a few new tricks during his stint as Chuck the Chest’s replacement at LBs coach at FSU, and Kines Ds at Bama were consistently great. Now sure, it’s possible that the higher-ups could’ve called Shula into the office, said “Mike, hire an OC” and be done with it, but then they’d be paying Shula for…what exactly?

(No, not that
OC...but if she isn't doing anything, I'm sure Mal Moore can offer Ms. Barton the job, and she can get a raise at whatever movie she's working on.) His game-day decisions appeared limited to staring at his shoelaces, his clock-management was poor (and didn’t seem to improve), and he was no Pete Carroll when it came to recruiting (hell, some Bama fans would say Carroll Kane was a better recruiter.)

(Here, Ms. Kane's husband, Miracle Max, pronounces the Bama Head Coach search only "mostly dead.")

It’s not mere coincidence then, that two of the top 3 choices on Bama’s “wish list” (Spurrier, Rodriguez) are coaches known for piling up points (meanwhile, Nick Saban is known both for defense, and looking eerily similar to Mr. Leland Palmer, Laura Palmer’s possessed-by-wendigoian-evil-spirit-BOB father in Twin Peaks. I realized this whilst watching Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. While this may mean that Saban can influence possible recruits via backwards-talking dreams with flaming cards, midgets, and Kyle MacLachlan, he’s still unlikely to put up 50 points a game.)

(All he needs is a formica table top. Green is its color...)

But, humanitarian and friend of the barely-making-seven-figures-head-coach he may be, what Mal Moore hasn’t done is his homework. Let’s take the supposed first choice first: Steven Orr Spurrier, the Spawn of Satan himself. Terrorized the SEC during his glory days of the 1990s, currently terrorizing no one, but occasionally spooking or irking them, at South Carolina, and likely terrorizing many on golf courses near Columbia. A good fit for Bama? Maybe if they had convinced him to come to Tuscaloosa before the Mike Price debacle years ago (only problem: coach Fran was still pretending to like coaching a team on probation at the time). Now? Well, unless Mal Moore can offer Visor-Boy an Augusta National membership, he’s not interested, and his glory days are past anyway.

Rich (Must. Avoid. Obvious. Pun) Rodgriguez? He may have eventually become a great fit, but he was a lousy choice for 2007. See the inaugural year under Urban Meyer with Florida for a sneak peak at what a Rodriguez-coached Bama would’ve looked like: stout D and a clumsy offense hampered by a drop-back passer QB trying to run the option.

So what should Bama do? Send the private plane to Texas, load a pirate chest with booty (the gold doubloon kind, not the kind that fills out Bama coed-miniskirts under houndstooth hats…although the latter probably wouldn’t hurt, the NCAA and Legal System might have issues), and use every begging/negotiation strategy you can to convince Mike Leach to be the next head coach.

('Scuse me ladies, what's another word for 'Pirate Treasure'?)

Yes, that Mike Leach, head coach of Texas Tech. Often lumped by detracters into the same “gimmick offense” and “system QBs” derision as June Jones and Hawaii, or BYU and Houston back in the day. But remember this: Norm Chow fist got known tutoring passers at BYU, and his QBs seem to be doing well (see: Rivers, Phillip, Palmer, Carson and Leinart, Matt—and more on Chow a little later if he doesn't take a head coaching job soon).

Also, don’t forget that Urban Meyer’s O was called a gimmick, and, right up until he said “no thanks” some Bama fans accused the same of Rodriguez spread offense. Where Leach’s spread and the Meyer/Rodriguez spread share the “gimmick” insult from detractors, they differ in a key area: Leach’s spread has proven success in the SEC, Meyer’s hasn’t.

Leach, prior to becoming the Head Pirate at Texas Tech (and second-fiddle, popularity and media-attention-getting-wise to lightning rod Bobby Knight), was OC for Oklahoma (hold that thought), and prior to that, OC for Hal “Fear the mullet” Mumme’s best UK teams.

Leach took a former option QB in Tim Couch and made a big-time NFL draft pick out of him (and, since we’re limiting ourselves to college results, let’s leave it at that). Aside from NCAA rules violations, the other things that held UK back was lack of overall talent, and a good D. I mean, come on, it's Kentucky (wait, that stings to say...) Painfully reminders of the somewhat recent past aside, Leach had both with Stoops at OU and won a national title (beating their rival UT school by a spectacular margin of 63-14—go on Bama fans, imagine that margin of victory over a team with the initials UT for the Third Saturday In October.) At Texas Tech, Leach lacks the serious Oline, talent depth, and defense to contend for a national title, yet his teams are still able to occasionally beat OU, hang 70 on Nebraska, and scare Texas (and beat Coach Fran at Texas A&M), put up sick offensive numbers, and win over 8 games a year on average despite playing OU and UT yearly (and competing with both, plus LSU, Arkansas, TAMU, and others for good recruits.) He’s the closest thing to a mid-90s Spurrier, right down to the non-traditional coaching personality and lack of success his QBs have had in the NFL (however, it should be noted that none of his former protégés have stooped low enough to go on The Bachelor.)

Pair Leach with Kines, and you have a team that would stike fear in this UGA’s fan’s heart for 2007 (J.P. Wilson, a healthy Prothro, and DJ Hall, in a Mike Leach offense, with a top 10-caliber D, vs. Willie Martinez? I would be nervous.)

You want Bama back on the map? Give Leach talent and D: he’s shown already with OU that he can get big-time results, and quickly (I know you guys don’t have a lot of patience.) You’ve got great WRs and a good passing QB in place already. You’ve got Kines. Just add Leach. Now it’s true he says some odd things, often about Pirates, but come on—in a town where it seems everyone listens to Finebaum, and the sports pages have all the tact and restraint of, say the Boston baseball media, Leach is a perfect fit. It’ll be like Curt Schilling calling WEEI. Leach’ll probably call Finebaum weekly. And if you’re beating Tennessee 63-14, who cares?

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