It’d be interesting to see how many Alabama fans knew the name Kalen DeBoer before this season. Hell, I’d love to see the numbers a month and a half ago. It took all of two days for the Crimson Tide to find a replacement for Nick Saban, which feels fast, but with players diving into the transfer pool, expediency was necessary.
Maybe, just maybe, DeBoer should’ve taken a beat. He was coaching Fresno State three seasons ago, and the West Coast, let alone the Pacific Northwest, is a different universe from Tuscaloosa. No judgment, but here are DeBoer’s famous last words.
“I have always had an incredible respect for Alabama football and its commitment to excellence,” DeBoer said in a statement. “The tradition-rich history of this program is unmatched across the landscape of college athletics, and I look forward to continuing that moving forward. Following coach Saban is an honor. He has been the standard for college football, and his success is unprecedented. I would not have left Washington for just any school. The chance to lead the football program at the University of Alabama is the opportunity of a lifetime. My family and I feel truly blessed and look forward to becoming a part of the Tuscaloosa community.”
This is a suicide mission. I have no idea what it’s like to follow George Carlin or Richard Pryor at the height of their comedic powers, but DeBoer will be able to answer that question in a year’s time. There will be no patience for on-the-job training. It’s College Football Playoff or bust.
Save for Saban’s first year in Alabama, he only lost three games once. Every other season the Tide was a T-1000 that you had to plunk with a grenade launcher and dunk into a vat of magma to kill off. There were people, including Paul Finebaum, who wanted to write off Alabama after the loss to Texas and whatever that was against South Florida in September.
The Tide went on to win the SEC, and unseat the back-to-back national champ Bulldogs.
All that said — and that should be enough qualifier to give any candidate at least 72 hours pause — the hire is smart for a few reasons. The first of which is DeBoer has little to no baggage. Tide fans have seen, and beaten, pretty much every big-time coach in the SEC, and since they weren’t luring Kirby Smart away from Georgia or Josh Heupel from Tennessee, it was going to be impossible to find a coach with ties to the region that the fan base wouldn’t immediately judge like a dad meeting his daughter’s first boyfriend.
Second is the time factor. The longer a coaching search takes the less confidence it inspires in and outside the program. Right now, Alabama’s best asset is the infrastructure Saban left in place, but that can vanish over a couple of transfer windows with the current portal rules.
Re-recruiting the current roster is steps 1 through 3, and that starts with retaining Jalen Milroe’s favorite target, Isaiah Bond, and Milroe for that matter.
The last reason I don’t hate this is DeBoer expects to win. He’s won at every stop, so he’s going in with a positive albeit slightly ignorant outlook. Still, it’ll take years, and at least one national title, for Kalen DeBoer to truly become “a part of the Tuscaloosa community,” and I hope he’s at peace with that.
Big loss for Washington and the Big Ten
I’m not going to lay out the differences between Washington and Alabama, because you’re not a bunch of morons. There is little to no plug-and-play awaiting the Huskies’ next head coach as Michael Penix and his cadre of receivers are off to the NFL.
Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Jalen McMillan all declared this week, so the Big Ten isn’t even getting a cheap imitation of the CFP’s runner-up. It’ll be fascinating to see the direction UW takes because a lot of big names just turned down Alabama. Not sure Steve Sarkisian would be welcomed back to Seattle, or Dan Lanning would jump ship to a rival, and Lane Kiffin has a superiority complex that dictates he stays in the SEC. It’s either a depressing retread or an unproven, unknown coordinator.
And just when the Big Ten thought it was finally getting on equal footing with its Cold War rival. Isn’t that special?