So Sunday's acknowledgement by Dennis Franchione that he would be devoting more time to defense was hardly a surprise. "As a head coach you try to help solve problems where the problems are," Franchione explained. "I'll look at the defense more closely. I try to keep my hand in on all of it all the time. I will pay some attention."
Of course at Alabama the defense is principally Carl Torbush's job. Brought in last winter to return Alabama to it's past defensive glory, Torbush's arrival was almost universally hailed by Tide fans as a hiring coup. During his more than 25-year career as a coach, Torbush had earned a reputation for building stifling defensive units. And Franchione made clear that his new coordinator would have wide latitude on the defensive side of the ball.
So many observers worry that Torbush might resent Franchione's recent involvement.
But according to Torbush, that conclusion would be wrong.
"That really doesn't make me uncomfortable--not at all," Torbush said yesterday. "That's his responsibility as a head coach. He has to ask a lot of questions for everybody. He's responsible for all phases of the game: defense, offense, defense and special teams. When things are not going very well, common sense tells you that if you're the CEO or president then you're going to be more involved in that area.
"Fran wants to see us be more successful. He wants to understand when things are not successful why they're not. That's his prerogative and his responsibility as head coach."
It's certainly no secret that Franchione's resume as a former position coach tilts toward offense. But he learned long ago that a head coach is responsible for the entire program. "I keep a hand in with every aspect of this football team," Franchione said. "I have done what I would normally do. Sometimes I'm the troubleshooter of the group. I look for things that we can make better.
"Sometimes when you're the position coach you can't see the forest for the trees, and maybe an outside comment helps. That's what I do."
The Alabama defensive staff. Left to Right: Ron Case (safeties), Chris Thurmond (cornerbacks), Carl Torbush (D-Coordinator & Linebackers), Rick LaFavers (graduate assistant) and Stan Eggen (defensive line).
As his assistants explain, Franchione makes a regular habit of sitting in on any staff meeting, involving any aspect of the program--wherever he spots a problem. His normal procedure is to ask the hard questions. It's the assistant coaches' responsibility to provide answers.
Torbush explained; "He's the CEO and head coach and president. If things are not going as well as he would like, then he wants to know why they are not? What can we do to change? How can we improve?"
Alabama's defense has been spotty all year long, but the problems were brought into sharp focus in losses to Ole Miss and Tennessee. And Saturday's defensive debacle sounded the crisis alarms. "I've maybe spent a little bit more time over there (with the defense) the last few weeks," Franchione said. "I'm not trying to place blame on anybody right now. I think it's just something we're going through right now. We're going to work through it."
"When you come off good days, you feel pretty good about your schemes," Franchione continued. "But when you have a tough day, you're going to look harder and harder at that. Anytime you make a game plan, you're always trying to do schematically what is good against the opponent and what your players can do best."
"He's not doing a lot different," Torbush related. "He's set in on a few more meetings, but that's what should be expected. If he doesn't like what he sees, then he wants the chance to make some adjustments."
Torbush continued; "When I was (head coach) at North Carolina, I sometimes set in on more offensive meetings. That's part of being the head coach. As involved as Fran is on offense, it's still important that he knows exactly what's going on in every phase of the game. The questions about why or why not, he's got to be able to answer."
Hailed as a defensive guru scant months ago, in recent weeks many Tide fans have been pointed in their criticism of Torbush.
"I've been in this ball game a long time," Torbush said. "You're week-by-week. I'm here for a reason, and that's to help Alabama get back to where they once were. That's my responsibility. (Job security) is something I have no control over whatsoever. I don't intend to worry about it."
One of the running jokes in the world of sport involves the dreaded ‘vote of confidence.' All too often, team executives will express support for a given coach--only to deliver a pink slip when the season is done.
But Franchione's comments Tuesday seemed clear. "I have great confidence in our coaching staff on defense," he stated. "Carl Torbush is an outstanding coach. Ron (Case) and Chris (Thurmond) and Stan (Eggen) have all been at this for a long time. They're all good coaches.
"I know that we haven't played with consistency on that side of the ball, but we do have guys with proven track records."