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INTO THE ANNALS OF HISTORY: what can 2007 Alabama teach us today?

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I get it.

No, really, I do. You had hope coming into the 2018 season, didn’t you? An expensive, slick-talkin’, championship-winnin’ fella named Coach Jimbo left a modern day blue blooded program to come to College Station. How could you not be hopeful?

And yet, here we are again - it’s the first week of November and the Texas Aggies are looking for lipstick to slather on what’s shaping up to be another pig of a season. We might not make the College Football Playoff this season.

The gild is off the lily. There are question marks all over the depth chart - chief among them - quarterback, offensive line, and secondary.

I don’t need to belabor you with stats. They don’t make a whole lot of sense anyway. The defense can’t turnover a sheet of paper. Kellen Mond gets sacked in the face more than a passed out fraternity pledge. The defense frequently turns 3rd and long into a red carpet for the opponent. It’s maddening.

It’s also Year 1 of a new coach tasked with building a championship culture at a program that’s never really had one. In the toughest division in the toughest league in America.

Where’s a man to find perspective in these weeds? Perhaps - just maybe - there is something to be learned from the first season Nicholas Lou Saban was in Tuscaloosa.

A disclaimer before you flex in the ‘mments - this is NOT a comparison of the history of Alabama football and Texas A&M football. It’s also not a comparison of Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher. What it IS is a dose of perspective when you’re trying to evaluate a football program during Year 1 of a new coaching regime.

Alabama Football | 2007

Preseason

Miami Dolphins Head Coach Nick Saban was hired by Alabama after Rich Rodriguez turned down the Tide to stay at West Virginia. See? I told you history was fucking cool.

Saban replaced Mike Shula who was in hot water for the olde “improper benefits” and for not being Bear Bryant. Mostly the latter.

The Tide were coming off a season where they lost to all their rivals - LSU, Tennessee, and Auburn - and the Independence Bowl to Oklahoma State. Thanks, interim coach Joe Kines!

The Season

Game 1: vs. Western Carolina

Tide Record: 0-0

Tide Ranking: NR

Result: W 52-6

Fun Fact: Redshirt freshman (and my arch nemesis) Greg McElroy had his first career touchdown pass in mop-up duty.

Game 2: at Vanderbilt

Tide Record: 1-0

Tide Ranking: NR

Result: W 24-10

Fun Fact: starting in front of Greg McElroy this season was dreamboat game manager John Parker Wilson.

AllState Sugar Bowl - Utah v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Game 3: vs. No. 16 Arkansas

Tide Record: 2-0

Tide Ranking: NR

Result: W 41-38

Fun Fact: Here are some of the names that played in this game - D.J. Hall, Glen Coffee, Casey Dick, Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis... Bama won this game with a TD pass with only 8 seconds remaining. Oh, and Houston Nutt was coaching the Pigs.

Game 4: vs. No. 22 Georgia

Tide Record: 3-0

Tide Ranking: 16

Result: L 23-26, OT

Fun Fact: Dallas Highland Parker Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno led the Dawgs to an OT win in Tuscaloosa.

Game 5: vs. Florida State (in Jacksonville? ok)

Tide Record: 3-1

Tide Ranking: 22

Result: L 14-21

Fun Fact: This was Alabama’s first neutral site game in over 20 years. Since 2007, they’ve played in over 500 neutral site games.

Game 6: vs. Houston

Tide Record: 3-2

Tide Ranking: NR

Result: W 30-24

Fun Fact: Art Briles coaching Houston! ZOINKS. And Case Keenum at QB.

Game 7: at Ole Miss

Tide Record: 4-2

Tide Ranking: NR

Result: W 27-24

Fun Fact: The win took Alabama’s record over Ole Miss to 41-9-2. Holy shit.

Game 8: vs. No. 20 Tennessee

Tide Record: 5-2

Tide Ranking: NR

Result: W 41-17

Fun Fact: Saban called an onside kick to start the game. Alabama recovered.

Game 9: vs. No. 3 LSU

Tide Record: 6-2

Tide Ranking: 17

Result: L 34-41

Fun Fact: Saban coached this one against a bunch of guys he had recruited to LSU.

Game 10: at Mississippi State

Tide Record: 6-3

Tide Ranking: 21

Result: L 12-17

Fun Fact: Aggies aren’t the only ones to lose dry, ho-hum games in Starkville in November

Game 11: vs. Louisiana Monroe

Tide Record: 6-4

Tide Ranking: NR

Result: L 14-21

Fun Fact: Alabama didn’t score in the second half. This is an actual quote from Saban - swear to God -

“Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event. It may be 9/11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to a catastrophic event. Pearl Harbor got us ready for World War II, or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event. And I don’t think anyone in this room would have bet that we could lose back-to-back games to Mississippi State or ULM, no disrespect to either one of those teams.”

Holy shit. Oh, and Alabama turned the ball over four times and forced exactly zero.

Game 12: at No. 25 Auburn

Tide Record: 6-5

Tide Ranking: NR

Result: L 10-17

Fun Fact: This was Alabama’s sixth straight loss to Auburn.

Independence Bowl: vs. Colorado

Tide Record: 6-6

Tide Ranking: NR

Result: W 30-24

Season Takeaways

Seriously - really try to put yourselves in the shoes of a Tide fan in November 2007. Look how shitty that month was! 0-4! Thank you, OC Major Applewhite.

  • Averaged 12 points per game over the final three regular season games - check
  • Lost to a Sun Belt Louisiana directional at home - check
  • Turned in a turd against a bitter rival - check

Tide fans had to be enraged! There was no benefit of hindsight. There was exactly NO evidence that things were going to get better. They were 15 years removed from their last national championship - a lifetime for Alabama Football.

What Happened Next

You know what happened. Nick Saban was building something. He recruited his ass off. Hell no, the outcome of the 2007 was not what anyone wanted, but he wasn’t just building the culture of a team. He was building the culture of a program that valued discipline, pride, precision, and toughness that would endure even as blue chip after blue chip recruit cycled through eligibility in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama won the SEC West in 2008. They lost to Tim Tebow’s Gators in the SEC Championship and then lost to Kyle Whittingham’s Utah Utes in the Sugar Bowl. Still below standard in Alabama.

In Year 3, 2009, Alabama won their first of five national championships under Nick Saban.

What We Can Learn

I’m not suggesting that Jimbo Fisher is going to replicate this success at Texas A&M. We all know he’s going to win six national championships after all.

What we can learn is that the on-field results early in a transition might not be very reflective of what is being built.

We can learn that sometimes to build something, you have to tear a lot down. Bad habits, entitlement, soft mentalities.

We can learn from Saban’s scorching hot (and alarmingly tone-deaf) quote that champions are psychotic. They’re laser-focused and they stomp on throats. They hate losing far more than they take joy from winning.

***

I’m still buying what Jimbo’s selling after two maddening road performances. Why? Because he’s been to the top of the mountain. He knows how to breakdown the insidious bad habits woven into the culture of a program. He’s going to recruit excellent football players that love to compete and love football. He knows how to identify that kind of talent. And thank God, because the state of Texas produces a lot of excellent football players that don’t love to compete and don’t love football.

I get why you’re pissed after the last two performances. Don’t let the rage distract you from what might be ahead.

Here’s to protecting the Hate Barn over the next three weeks which will help us build toward a bowl win which will help us build for a tougher, better 2019 which will help us compete for trips to Atlanta in 2020 and beyond.

I’m looking forward to it.

Beat the hell outta Ole Miss.

Gig ‘em.