We’ve heard him offer this sentiment previously, but never before has Nick Saban been this blunt in his language. The war for football’s soul is over and, according to the greatest coach in college football history, the bad guys have won.
“I want to be clear here. All these offensive coaches on here, I wish I could look at you when I say this to you: you guys are all part of the Taliban, man. Aight? You’re a part of Al Qaeda,” he said with a wry smile. “You have changed our game and made it so hard to play defense for all of us poor defensive guys. I can’t sit in church without shaking my leg because I’m worried about what you guys are going to do next. I do respect you, but I still think you’re part of the Taliban.”
Saban famously fought a losing battle against up-tempo offenses, opining “Is this really what we want football to be?” back in 2012.
“I think that’s something that can be looked at. It’s obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we’re averaging 49.5 points a game. With people that do those kinds of things. More and more people are going to do it.
“I just think there’s got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking is this what we want football to be?”
That year, Alabama was defending a 2011 national title in which gained a “paltry” 429.6 yards per game. That title was won on the strength of a generational defense, allowing 8.2 points per game and 3.32 yards a play. No one has approached those numbers since, and it’s fair to question whether anyone ever will. In 2020, Iowa led the nation at 4.34 yards a play and Marshall’s 13.0 average led the nation in scoring defense.
(By the way, even as Saban ranted against tempo offenses in 2012, Alabama would still go on to win that season’s national championship.)
On Twitter, Lane Kiffin offered a pointed rebuttal.
Have you watched your offense lately?? @CoachSark ran a lot of the same plays we do and worked under your guidance. So doesn’t that also make you one of us since you have bought in??🤔 @AlabamaFTBL @OleMissFB 😂😂 https://t.co/UxocxpG5LU
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) April 1, 2021
Kiffin is exactly right of course, and Saban admitted as much recently.
In fact, just last week Saban said his 2014 hire of Kiffin was what changed his mind. The success Kiffin had with the RPO taught Saban that, in not so many words, the rules are now so slanted in the offense’s favor it’d be stupid not to base the offense around the RPO.
“The game is different now. People score fast. The whole idea – like I grew up with the idea that you play good defense, you run the ball, you control vertical field position on special teams, and you’re going to win. Whoever rushes the ball the most, for the most yardage is going to win the game. You’re not going to win anything now doing that.”
“The way the spread is, and the way that the rules are, to run RPOs, the way the rules are that you can block downfield and throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage, those rules have changed college football. No-huddle, fast ball has changed college football.
“So I changed my philosophy five or six years ago, well it was more than that, so when Lane came here, and we said ‘We have to out score them.’”
Love him or hate him, Nick Saban was dropping some old school dimes tonight in the @TheLHSCA coaches clinic.
He also discussed his philosophy changes and when he knew he needed to adapt or die. pic.twitter.com/8V6w7Vxo23
— Michael Cauble (@Cauble) March 26, 2021
To put some numbers behind Saban’s point:
|Year||Points For||Points Against||Yards For||Yards Against||End Result|
The state of offense in today’s college football is absolutely “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” territory for Nick Saban. He may not be happy about it, but he will absolutely bludgeon the rest of college football with the weapon his competitors have handed him.