The Alabama record under Coach Nick Saban is nothing short of phenomenal. In his nine years at the Crimson Tide helm, including a first-year record of 7-6 in the 2007 rebuilding year, that incredible record is 105-18 and includes four national championships.
No coach wins at that 85-plus per cent rate without good players, and Saban – who is responsible for recruiting and developing those players – has had excellent players.
An interesting exercise is assessing those very good players at various positions. Such an endeavor is objective in great part, perhaps impossible subjectively. Nevertheless, interesting.
No position on the football field is more important than quarterback, and at the same time no position is more dependent on the players around him. And, in some respects, dependent on the players on defense, who make the stops and give the quarterback and his offense opportunities for success.
Over the next days we will look at those who have performed so admirably for Alabama (and for Saban) in these nine years at different positions, and we begin with that quarterback position.
Three of them have quarterbacked Alabama to national championships, and all of them have glittering numbers. AJ McCarron was the quarterback of back-to-back national championships, Greg McElroy was the quarterback of what may be Bama’s most impressive national title (and Saban’s first at Alabama), and Jacob Coker was the quarterback who led what Saban has unabashedly proclaimed his favorite.
Here is how we would rank them, but we are open to disagreement. There are good reasons to support several of them as the best of the Saban era.
As a sophomore in 2011, his first year as a starter, McCarron led Alabama to the first of his two national championships as he completed 219 of 328 passes for 2,634 yards and 16 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions. In 2012, another national championship year, he completed 211 of 314 passes for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions. His senior year in 2013 he completed 226 of 336 passes for 3,063 yards and 28 touchdowns with 7 interceptions. His career 9,019 yards passing and his 30 touchdown passes in a season and 77 TD passes in his career are all Bama records, as is his mark of throwing only 3 interceptions in 314 passes in a season and only 15 in 1,026 passes in a career. He has the Tide record with 291 consecutive passes without an interception. He also quarterbacked a Bama best 36 victories.
2. Greg McElroy
In 2009, his first year as a starter, McElroy led Alabama to the national championship as he completed 198 of 325 passes for 2,507 yards with 17 touchdowns and only 4 interception. In 2010 he was 222-313 for 2,987 yards and 20 touchdowns with 5 interceptions.
In his only season as a starter, Coker led Alabama to the 2015 national championship as he completed a Crimson Tide record 263 completions in 393 passes for 3,110 yards and 21 touchdowns with 8 interceptions.
4. Blake Sims
Sims led Alabama to the 2014 Southeastern Conference championship and into the inaugural College Football Playoff as he completed 252 of 391 passes for a Crimson Tide record 3,487 yards and 28 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
5. John Parker Wilson
Saban inherited Wilson who had started as a sophomore in 2006 with 216 completions in 379 attempts for 2,707 yards and 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In his first season of the Saban Era he completed 255 of 462 passes for 2,846 yards and 18 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. As a senior he completed 187 of 323 for 2,273 yards and 10 touchdowns with 8 interceptions.
Those are the objective numbers. Subjectively, we would rank McElroy first as a leader, followed closely by Coker and Sims.