A Football Player Tide Doesn't Need

Every decade, Alabama football fans through 'BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com select an Alabama Team of the Decade. Over the past few months I have wondered how Andre Smith's poor decision last December might affect his position on the Alabama team of 2000-2009. We'll take the vote in a few months. My guess is Smitty would have been a unanimous pick before being suspended for the Sugar Bowl.

Andre Smith won't take time between counting his money and playing pro football to worry about his selection on the Alabama Team of the Decade for the first ten years of the 21st century. It is inconceivable that Smith wouldn't be voted to the team.

Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban didn't have to mention Smith by name when Saban made a point to sportswriters at last week's Southeastern Conference Football Media Days event in Hoover. But no one doubted who Saban was talking about.

Saban made what I thought was a most interesting point:

"We don't have one individual on our team that can make our team great. But we do have one individual, any one individual, who could destroy the team chemistry, destroy all these things that we're talking about by being a blinking light and making bad choices and decisions about what they do."

There probably have been other Andre Smiths in Alabama football history, many times, perhaps, not known outside the team. That likely would be true for the majority of teams in every sport at every level.

Saban is about building chemistry. To be sure, he wants the very best available football players, but with a condition. He wants good people; or maybe that should be good people who make good decisions.

The men who have made bad decisions in recent seasons were mostly good people. Andre Smith, Glen Coffee, Rashad Johnson, Simeon Castille and Antoine Caldwell are among those who have made bad decisions.

Saban got to the question of chemistry through a reminiscence from his days as an assistant to Bill Belichick, now coach of the New England Patriots. When Saban worked for Belichick, Saban said, "We had only one sign in the whole building, and that was 'Do Your Job.' And was defined for everybody, from the janitor, to the secretary, to the strength coach, to the equipment man, to the coaches, to the players. Everybody had an expectation of what their responsibility was to execute their job."

Saban said, "Those factors are going to have a lot to say about how our team develops. It's every individual."

Saban went on to say that the two critical areas in building a team are "how you bring players to your team, which you all refer to as 'recruiting.' And the second is how you develop the players on your team. I think that's critical."

Saban has a better reputation as recruiter than he does as coach. That is not to say that perception is reality. Alabama was a relatively young team last year, a team still in the rebuilding stage begun by Saban the previous year. It was a well-coached team for 13 games, 12 of those games Crimson Tide victories.

It was not so well-coached when the chemistry fell victim to Andre Smith's bad decision.

Hopefully Alabama won't have that chemistry-killer on this year's team.

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