The Peter Principle in Tuscaloosa

No snark here — I honestly thought Nick Saban was smarter than this.

Even before Nick Saban promoted Tosh Lupoi to defensive coordinator, there were internal questions within the Alabama program about whether he’d be up for the job.

Lupoi, who played defensive line at Cal, had zero experience working with the defensive secondary, a critical component of Saban’s defense. Lupoi was known as a tireless worker and talented position coach during his three years as Alabama’s outside linebackers coach but there were concerns about whether he’d be up to the task in areas like situational play-calling and recognizing what an opponent is doing in-game and being able to adjust on the fly, which had been a big strength of previous Tide defensive coordinators Kirby Smart and Jeremy Pruitt.

However, Lupoi was the staff’s best recruiter — he’s a big reason stars Tua Tagovailoa, Najee Harris and others picked Alabama — and he was going to have interest from other programs. If Saban didn’t promote Lupoi to defensive coordinator, he was likely to lose him. And after overhauling his staff to get more aggressive on the recruiting trail following the 2017 title, Saban didn’t think he could afford to let Lupoi go.

Well, he gone now.  And it sounds like Saban’s okay with that.

It wasn’t long after Alabama’s disastrous national championship game loss to Clemson that word began spreading Lupoi was unlikely to return to Alabama next season as part of a massive staff shakeup. But the inevitable breakup didn’t happen because of one bad defensive performance on a national scale. In fact, sources had indicated to AL.com for a while that Lupoi was likely to leave for another job after the season.

After some early struggles during the season, Saban stripped Lupoi of defensive play-calling responsibilities and handed them over to co-defensive coordinator Pete Golding, according to sources. Saban had poached Golding from UT-San Antonio in the offseason in part to alleviate concerns about Lupoi’s inexperience with the secondary and as a play-caller. Still, word is Lupoi seemed overwhelmed during practices and didn’t totally grasp situational play-calling. While he was still heavily involved in the defensive game-planning, there was no question Golding taking over play-calling represented a demotion of sorts for Lupoi barely into the start of his defensive coordinator stint.

Valuing recruiting chops over the complete absence of coaching chops?  Call that one of those classic blunders.  ‘Bama was so talented this season that Lupoi’s coaching flaws never caught up with it until the national title game.

Basically, it’s the opposite of Charlie Weis’ decided schematic advantage.

28 Comments

Filed under Nick Saban Rules

28 responses to “The Peter Principle in Tuscaloosa

  1. Bulldog Joe

    And we didn’t take advantage of it. Changes needed to be made at Georgia, too.

    Like

    • Funny thing is that it looked to me like Clemson clearly saw some stuff in Georgia’s offensive game plan it used to take advantage of the ‘Bama defense.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bulldog Joe

        True. Saban’s ‘copy-cat stuff’ statement was a self-indictment.

        But Clemson also thrived on his second-half adjustments.

        Like

      • dawg10mc

        You are correct. We stopped attacking downfield and that was our undoing. We need to let go of our OC and find one that…Oh…nevermind.

        Like

    • 79Dawg

      We didn’t take advantage of it? Did you miss the first 35-40 minutes of the SEC Championship Game???

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      • Bulldog Joe

        Did you miss the last 25 minutes of it?

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        • 79Dawg

          Sadly, I did not. But to claim we didn’t “take advantage of it” when we clearly did for the first 2/3 or so of the game, is inaccurate.
          Why we have gone into offensive shells for the last 20 minutes of the game the last 2 times we have played them, is another matter entirely, in my opinion….
          If you are up 3 scores, I get going into “just burn clock” mode starting with about 20 minutes left to go in the game. Up 2 scores though, you really can’t go into full “just burn clock” mode until there’s about 10 minutes or so left in the game. Hopefully everyone has learned this lesson moving forward and has it filed away for future reference….

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          • Macallanlover

            I agree we went “into a shell” in the 2nd half of the January game but attribute our 2nd half offensive issues in December to adjustments made by Bama. Our OL was horrible the 4th quarter and continued over into the Sugar Bowl; and this happened on both run and pass blocking. Concerned about the lack of adjustments from us, and cannot blame it all on the absence of Cleveland.

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            • Russ

              I agree that Bama adjusted in the SECCG and our line didn’t respond. The Sugar Bowl was a clear case of DGAS if you ask me.

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        • dawg10mc

          And the guy who stubbornly failed to do so (attack downfield) in 2017 and the 2018 SECCG is now calling plays in Obknoxville.
          Word I got is that he and Coley would get into arguments DURING the game/s about what to call.

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  2. Derek

    I bet they’d have been hell with a bunch of 3 stars and Dick LeBeau at DC!

    Coaching is helpful but players are essential.

    It’s only when the talent starts to even out that what coaches do starts to matter.

    Like

  3. Man, it sure sounds like Bama’s 2018 might be on par with Florida’s 2009.

    Beating the brakes off everyone, but behind the scenes, it was a miserable, chaotic clusterfuck.

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  4. ASEF

    I seriously think that last recruiting season got into Saban’s head. Kirby had the monster class (as did Ohio State, just not quite as monstrous), and Bama dropped all the way to 6th. And so Saban overreacted and put together a recruiting dream team that then got out-coached on the sidelines.

    Does he course correct or overreact yet again? Interesting to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Go Dawgs!

    Sounds like this guy’s going to be perfect for the Browns, though!

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  6. CEPH

    Plain and simple Ga. Lost to Ala. Because Chaney took his foot off the pedal in both games against them!!!!

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    • NGDawg

      +1000!!!

      Like

    • Derek

      You should sit down and have a chat with Shanahan and discuss the SB vs. the pats. Aggression paid off handsomely there!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Clemson only had to beat bama. We would’ve had to beat bama AND the refs.

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    • Aubrey E Walker

      Chaney did exactly what Kirby wanted him to do. I’m a Georgia fan for 70 of my 73 years. Until the Fan base hold Kirby and Greg as responsible for the failures as they do the successe then it will always be a position coaches fault. In the recent past it was always CMR fault. What change?

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  7. Granthams replacement

    Saban slipping? Inconceivable

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  8. Russ

    The story about how Saban didn’t know Enos had left for Miami was strange. I’m not sure who it spoke most badly about, Saban or Enos. Apparently Saban was raging in his meeting about “Where the F is Enos?”

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  9. 2675miller

    Kirby needs to take note when he makes his hire. There is no way, no how that UGA should be a proving ground for a coach who has never called a game. And no, Kirby won’t be able to make up for it a guy isn’t panning out. Too many other responsibilities on his plate if it comes to that.

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    • W Cobb Dawg

      I’m wondering how this works out. We went from having 3 experienced OC/QB coaches down to 1 (Chaney, Coley, Johnson). I would’ve preferred a hire that brought more experience to the table than Hartley, like perhaps Jay Johnson or Gran, or a similar coaching vet.

      Question now is whether this scenario gets repeated with the D assistant opening. We had two experienced DCs (Kirby and Tucker). I’m hoping we land someone who brings some coaching cred and not just another recruiter extraordinaire.

      Like

  10. 69Dawg

    If Saban can make chicken salad out of this coaching turnover, he is truly the greatest coach of our time. Never under estimate Saban when the SEC is on the line.

    Like

  11. The Dawg abides

    Looks like Nick is going old school on the hires. Just added Kyle Flood as OL coach ( breathe easy Pittman worriers!) and closing in on getting Sal Sunserri back from the Gators. And there still seems to be a good chance for Sark as OC. It seems like Saban’s Gearing up for one last big run by choosing the grizzled veterans that can coach ‘em up over the hot young recruiters.

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    • ASEF

      Sark is (was?) a renowned recruiter with deep Wsst Coast ties. Which was Tupoi’s biggest asset.

      But that balancing act – getting the players and then getting the most out of them – is the toughest part of running a college program.

      Like