It wasn’t long after Steve Sarkisian departed Alabama for the Atlanta Falcons that the guessing began as to whom Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban might tap as Bama’s third offensive coordinator in the past month and a half.
And they are guesses, even though the list expands almost daily and there is a chance that someone will actually nail it. The problem with outsiders — and that’s basically everyone except the man who will make the decision — is those who are not Alabama head coach have a severe shortage of information. Nick Saban, who has hired every Alabama coach over the past decade, will make the selection based on his knowledge of the candidates (dozens of them, not just the handful we can think of), his understanding of the Crimson Tide squad, and Saban’s preference for what he wants his new man to accomplish.
Alabama has the advantage of many, many coaches having a desire to add “Coached at Alabama under Nick Saban” at the top of their resume´s.
Because every offensive coordinator under Saban at Alabama has also been the quarterbacks coach, it is a reasonable assumption — but just an assumption — that the new hire will have both duties.
Does Saban want primarily a teacher of quarterbacks? After all, the depth chart at that position shows a sophomore with one year of experience (albeit a very fine year, Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year and leader of a team that won its first 14 games before coming up just short in the national championship game) and two true freshmen arriving in time for spring practice.
The sophomore, Jalen Hurts, is joined by Tua Tagovailoa, who entered The University in January, and Mac Jones, who is expected to enter on Monday.
Teacher is always a primary aspect of being a coach, but the offensive coordinator also will have great responsibility in how the offense is run.
Saban has had a philosophy of new coaches bringing new ideas, but also being able to fit into the Alabama offense, not reinvent it. But Saban also has shown flexibility in moving from a pro-set offense to more of a tempo, dual-threat quarterback style to take advantage of how the college game is being played.
He has also shown that he thinks at a different level than most, as demonstrated by his surprising selection of Lane Tiffin for the job beginning in 2014. That move resulted in three SEC Championships, one national title, and two other appearances in the College Football Playoff.
Just as Sarkisian had been elevated to the job from offensive analyst on the Bama staff, Saban can look to Mike Locksley, like Sarkisian a former college head coach and offensive coordinator. Locksley’s duties were not specified when he was made an offensive assistant coach.
We have heard many other names, of course, including the current head coach at SMU, Chad Morris. It is hard to imagine a head coach giving up his position to be an offensive coordinator, even at Alabama.
Chip Kelly’s name was out there for awhile, but that rumor seems to be running on stumps rather than legs.
Recently fired Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich is said to be interested in a coordinator’s job, and he certainly knows the fast-paced offense.
Many believe that George Godsey, most recently offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, is high on the list.
Oklahoma has had a high-powered offense and Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator for the Sooners, is considered one of the best in the business.
TCU is considered to have one of the nation’s most improved offenses last season with Sonny Cumbie as offensive coordinator.
Alabama played Washington in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, and one of the top names on the Huskies coaching staff is Jonathan Smith, the offensive coordinator.
In bit of irony, two offensive coaches left the Alabama staff at the conclusion of the season to take offensive coordinator positions.
Mario Cristobal, an outstanding recruiter and coach of Bama’s offensive line before taking over just tackles and tight ends last season, is now the co-offensive coordinator at Oregon.
Billy Napier, who was the Tide’s wide receivers coach, was hired as offensive coordinator at Arizona State.
Those two might seem like long shots, but if they have been slow to sign contracts…
Rest assured that Saban is aware of all these possibilities. And also rest assured that he is aware of many others.
When will it happen? Don't be surprised if the answer doesn't come quickly.
One might also count on Saban having to make this decision again in upcoming seasons. College football teams looking for success are naturally drawn to getting coaches from the nation’s best program, which means coaching turnover in Tuscaloosa.