Thursday, September 8, 2011

Can't Say I'm On Board With Saban's QB Challenge

Can't say I'm on board
with the way Nick's
shuffling these QBs.
I'm not totally down with how Nick Saban has handled the QB competition in Tuscaloosa. I understand that he is not to be questioned, but for just a moment hear me out, because - based on last week - Phillip Sims is not getting a fair shot.

I am anti-public auditions. That is to say that I am against having your starting quarterback (or any other position, or sport, for that matter) determined through competition in actual games. Isn't that what practice is for?

The game itself should not be an audition. Because, as Herm Edwards would let you know, "You play to win the game." You don't play games to figure out who should play, well, in the games.

You pick one and you go with him. And if he underperforms in the game, then make a change. And that can happen. There are great 'practice players' who, once thrown into the spotlight, don't respond. And - at that point - they can be replaced. By the backup QB. But until you give your starting quarterback the keys - that is, tell him and the team that he is the #1 guy, then you aren't getting a true representation of how that player would perform AS THE STARTER. Because, well, he isn't the "starter" yet.

And specifically why last Saturday wasn't fair - Phillip Sims didn't get the same effort and concentration level that AJ McCarron did. Alabama was already up 14-0, I believe, and it was obvious to everyone (players, coaches, fans, even Kent State players) that Alabama was going to win this game no matter what. The tone of the day had been set.

So by the time Phillip Sims took his first snap, the 'edge' had been taken off of his teammates. I'm not saying it's something that is consciously done, but in sports, it happens. You know the phrase, "playing down to your competition"? It happens.

I used to coach high school basketball. One year, we had a truly excellent team. Our kids were just bigger, faster, stronger, and flat-out better ball players than most anyone we played against. We would jump out to literally a twenty-point lead during or after the first quarter. Ballgame. But the game had to be played on, and even with substitutions, very quickly my guys would lose that fire they started the game with. Because, quite simply, they had already won the game. They had lost that focus of purpose that good teams have. Once we lost that, we were just average.

That's why I think bringing in Phillip Sims after three series against Kent State wasn't fair. Players (maybe coaches) would never admit it, but by the time
he had entered the ballgame, he wasn't getting 100% from everyone - whether they intended to or not. Some players may have still been going full speed, but not everyone. At least not like they were the first three series with AJ McCarron.

Pick one and go with him. I'm not saying it's easy, but that's what you have to do.

You know what to do when you just can't bring yourself to decide between one of two things? Allow me to sprinkle some knowledge on you...


Flip a coin.

Don't laugh. Try it. If you can take your options down to 2 remaining, and you're just stuck beyond belief on what to do, assign one side heads and one side tails. And flip that coin.

How did it come out? Girl B?

Now, here's the decider: Do you want to flip again? If you do, then you know which option you really wanted to go with in the first place. If you don't, then you've landed on your choice. Do it, and move on.

It's a real test of truth and honesty with yourself. Everyone knows what they really want to do, it's just whether or not they are willing to make that hard decision.

Pick one. Then see what happens.
Now, back to the QBs. It could be a different story if one quarterback is your 'running' QB and the other your 'passing' QB. Then maybe it makes some sense to do some swapping around in-game or game-to-game. As long as it's clear what everyone's role is, and the players understand it. No problems there. Clarity of roles and expectations is almost always the best policy. I actually can't think of an example when it's not.

But if both quarterbacks do the same thing (have the same style), and you don't select one over the other, I believe that you marginalize your opportunities. Benching one for performance is fine, but an ongoing audition for the starting job doesn't move the team forward. It hangs over your season and creates a distraction for a team that frankly, doesn't need an unnecessary distraction.

Alabama is contending for a national title this year. Why bring in drama when you don't have to?

Flip a coin. Pick one and go with him.

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