State of Denial

Mike Shula was a changed man, right? The Birmingham News reported a story out of the Shula camp Tuesday indicating Shula had an epiphany of grand proportions over the Thanksgiving Holiday, and was finally ready to bring in a new offensive coordinator and line coach as a part of his too-little, too-late enlightened plan for change.

But Mal Moore fired Shula before he ever had a chance to make this latest pitch -a pitch that wasn't made when Shula and Moore met the week prior, days after Alabama's 22-15 loss to Auburn and the end of one of the most disappointing seasons of the modern era for Alabama football.

It does no good for anyone at the University of Alabama to enter into a mudslinging contest with Mike Shula, nor is it in anyone's interest to worry about picking over the dead carcass that is Mike Shula's coaching career. But the woulda-shoulda-coulda Shula-spun narrative just doesn't ring exactly true.

There were 395 words in Mike Shula's statement issued to the media upon the announcement of his firing Monday afternoon, and surely each one of them was carefully examined by Shula and the people who are advising him. My guess is the statement was crafted by an individual close to Shula, pored over by others, and finally vetted for release by Shula himself.

It was a written in order to convey a very precise meaning. In this business words matter, and for Shula the statement was an important document of record in the Alabama-Shula divorce. And as carefully as these were presumably chosen, there's still one line that stuck out like a sore thumb after a closer inspection.

Shula said his singular mission was to return Alabama to its place among the elite programs in college football. He maintains that he and his staff were "moving steadily in that direction"

Steadily moving in that direction? STEADILY! Are you kidding me? Mike Shula did plenty of positive things for the football team, as has been well noted on this site and elsewhere, but could anyone with even a cursory knowledge of how Alabama's season went along really read and believe Shula's contention that at the conclusion of this season the program was moving steadily in the right direction?

He could have said he believed Bama was moving in that direction "despite certain setbacks" and it would have been plausible. Any admission that a course correction was needed would have been potentially believable, but instead we hear "steadily in that direction (to return the Crimson Tide to its place among the elite programs in college football)" to describe Shula's view of the state of the program after the debacle of 2006.

Thus we are given another problem facing Mike Shula as Alabama's head football coach - another demonstration (as if we needed any more) of the complete denial that anything much was really wrong - not even an acknowledgement of the possibility of a foundational crack in his approach to football.

That attitude flowed from Shula downward through his staff and team:

Alabama was close. Chris Capps was grading out a winner on nearly every play. It was no big deal that Alabama got whipped at the line of scrimmage more times than any Alabama team ever should. Up is down. Down is up.

Or as George Orwell put it: Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.

Consider Shula's own words and imagine yourself in Mal Moore's shoes. What more would it take to seal the deal on Shula's fundamental flaw?


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