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Not naming any names here, but…
Gun to your head: What phrase would you use to describe the 2013 squad, a stacked veteran iteration of the Tide that could have pulled off an unprecedented modern-era three-peat…but that instead wound up finishing the season with a 12-2 record, and a second-place SEC-West finish.
Entitled? Waste? Potential? Leaderless?
Maybe it’s a play — like Kick Six?
Maybe it’s a coaching failure, like #RTDB?
We know that team wasted scads of NFL talent and another title against the weakest field of the BCS era. We know Alabama was the cream of the nation that season, and only played against itself when it stepped on the field. We know FSU and the Title IX Nightmare / Seafood Pilferer / Walking Interception would not have been within 10 points of a motivated Tide team.
And we also know that it never was to be, because it was also a team filled with brash headcases, that lacked leadership at some of its most critical positions, that had internal division, and that down the stretch had too many guys playing for themselves.
Turns out that diagnosis was so obvious, that it could not help but be true:
The talk-show host revealed Friday that he had a “25 or 30-minute” conversation with Saban the day Florida State’s national championship win over Auburn.
“I’ve never seen him more upset about his team,” Finebaum said. “In the moment in time, that night he might have said, ‘I’m leaving all of this behind. I’ve had enough.’”
What was driving Saban crazy, Finebaum said, was his frustration with his team’s entitlement.
“I have never heard more cursing and swearing from Nick Saban about his team,” he said. “He exploded in this conversation with me.”
In retrospect, we should have seen it coming.
Nick Saban warned us of it all offseason.
Worse, the writing was on the wall almost a full year earlier:
Entitlement is something that Alabama does have to occasionally combat: We saw it in 2010, when Nick Saban begged for leaders to emerge. We saw it in 2013, and again to some extent in 2018 and 2021 — teams have to have internal leadership. Usually the lack of that spark comes from younger guys not stepping up, or thinking that they inherited the hard work of the classes before them.
That is what makes teams like 2013 and 2018 so frustrating: They were veterans, they were absolute machines…and they also took plays off and prioritized their own NFL futures as the season wore on, culminating in two bad bowl losses where a completely alien roster was on the field.
It is hard to think of the 2010, 2013, 2018 and 2021 teams without a classic line from Remember the Titans coming to mind:
Titles are won in the locker room as much as on the field. And though last year’s very young team did eventually find some sort of identity, you get a sense that far too many other guys never bought in, had checked out by then…or never checked-in at all.
Fall camp opens up in just a week or so. Undoubtedly, Nick Saban will emphasize leadership, will praise those players that have the ears of their teammates, will draw attention to the dynamics of the locker room. And I daresay we will know by Labor Day if there is a title team in Tuscaloosa full of dogs, or if it’s another season of lost potential.
I’m betting on the former.