With Arkansas' Houston Nutt, Kentucky's Rich Brooks, Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom and Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson helping their causes this season with significant wins, at this point only one SEC coach's rear end appears to be seated directly on the hot seat.
In response to media inquiries,
Shula may have helped his cause to
some extent by opening up his playbook last week against LSU, but the Crimson
Tide still lost 28-14. Now Shula must find a way to beat
The spotlight that provides Shula with the opportunity to be a head coach at his alma mater and provide for his family is the same spotlight that will burn a hole right through a coach's career. Shula has seen it up close and personal as the son of legendary NFL coach Don Shula and the brother of former NFL head coach David Shula.
"When I was (young), I thought life was easy," Shula said. "Everybody loves my dad, and all he does is win games and Super Bowls, and it's easy. Then, it becomes not quite as easy. I can remember him coming home after tough losses, all hurt and down. But the only thing you can do is focus on your job and not let those things affect you."
There's a lot a son can learn from a father, especially in Shula's case.
"Obviously it was a disappointment,
but you have to put it behind you," Don Shula told the Birmingham News,
referring to the
Don Shula also wishes his son's critics would remember the past, particularly the difficult situation his son inherited when he took over in April, 2003.
"He came into that program when it was in disarray," Don Shula said. "He got it turned around and had a big year (10-2) last year. But he lost a lot of great defensive players and he's got a young quarterback. There are growing pains."
Most of those pains are evident on
offense and Shula is taking the blame for both the game plans and the play
calling. Offensive coordinator Dave Rader, who coached Mike Shula at
Alabama fans aren't going be too happy about Shula, Rader or offensive line coach Bob Connelly after former Alabama All-American John Hannah recently told the Birmingham News that the Crimson Tide's offensive line techniques are outdated.
"I can read stances and know what they're going to be doing - pass or run or a sweep," Hannah told Birmingham News columnist Ray Melick. "And if I can see it from the stands, then you know a defensive lineman on the field can see what I'm seeing."
Hannah said Alabama's particular zone blocking schemes were effective when they were first introduced by veteran NFL offensive line coach Jim McNally, but they no longer work against today's defenses.
"If you watch teams now, they're
beginning to realize it takes a specific type of offensive lineman to do what he
was talking about," Hannah said. "The (
"Football is a revolving game. The zone-blocking schemes were big for awhile, because certain defenses were not prepared to stop it. But now you've got light, fast guys on defense, with linebackers backing way off the line to get lateral pursuit. So it's back to being time to run it right down their throat. It's not new. It's just the way football runs in cycles."
"When you're out in the open field, you've got a lot of field to work with," Hannah said, "but you can't use the McNally approach if you want to score from the 3-yard line. You've got to run power ball."
It's possible someone will ask or
demand that Shula make changes but it remains to be seen if the powers that be
"Right now, people have different levels of blame, and that's not right," Don Shula said. "Everybody is in it together. You put together a staff and succeed as a staff. If you don't succeed, you don't pick out one guy and blame him.
"He's had success calling the plays. He bounces things off his offensive coordinator, but somebody's got to make the final decision. I'm sure he'll take all of that into consideration."
In the meantime, the Crimson Tide
takes a 6-5 record (2-5 SEC) into Saturday's home game against
"There was a lot that our kids were
motivated by this week," Shula said after the LSU game. "You aren't going to
have to motivate our kids for
Three weeks ago, coaches and
pundits argued about the worthiness of
Before we take another step, let's
try this: remove three teams from the SEC. Any three. Just for argument's sake,
Do any of those three Big East teams go undefeated in the SEC this year? Ever? How about ... never.
"Well, I think anybody would see
that the schedule in the (SEC) is tougher than probably the schedule in the Big
Fulmer was right about
"I was on a team that went 12-0 and we were denied an opportunity to play for the national championship," Meyer said. "Probably deep in my heart I felt that we did not necessarily deserve (to play for the championship). I felt that we had one of the best teams in the country, and on any given day we could play with anybody.
"But to think that that
One thing that would make the SEC
so much more difficult for
"I don't know if it's good for the
league, but it's good for those programs," said
It's certainly made life better for Brooks, Croom and Johnson to show some tangible progress.
"It's been fun to watch," Johnson
said. "Everybody had been down on
"It takes the pressure off. It shows people they're capable coaches and they have a good hold on their football program."
Last year at this time the rumors flew about Brooks being fired after just three seasons on the job, but Kentucky's improved recruiting (despite the harsh NCAA sanctions Brooks inherited) is finally starting to take hold and the Wildcats are 6-4 and bowl eligible after scoring 21 fourth-quarter points for a 38-26 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday.
"The fact that we were able to come back again speaks volumes to where the team's heads are at mentally," Brooks said. "When something is going wrong for us, we can make things start going right. You have to have ability and confidence to be able to do that, and this team has both of those things."
Add a win this week against Louisiana-Monroe and the Wildcats are assured of a winning regular-season record.
"It hasn't been an easy 3 ½ years, but you better believe we have the program headed in the right direction," Brooks said. "We've got a shot in this league now. We don't want to be cellar dwellers anymore."
Richard Scott is a Birmingham-based sports writer, author and featured columnist in Tiger Rag. Reach him at RScottfree@aol.com.