When you fail to three-peat, fall to your biggest rival in an epic loss and then lay an egg in the bowl game, people usually want to assign blame or find an excuse. Last year’s excuse seems to be a lack of team unity:
“I would say the biggest takeaway that I get from this team is, I think that this team really and truly likes each other,” Saban said. “I think this team is much more bought into doing the things that they need to do to be successful. There’s not a lot of complaining. I don’t see a lot of negativity, I don’t see a lot of negative people and I think that’s always a good sign.”
The off season revealed some of the cracks in last season’s framework. Quarterback AJ McCarron, now a Cincinnati Bengal, questioned some of his younger teammates before the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma. He said some didn’t buy in completely. He also told the Jim Rome Show there was an entitlement issue with former top recruits.
I think Nick Saban’s comment in the first paragraph is really telling. He thinks “this team really and truly likes each other.” Hmm. That would lead one to believe that maybe last year’s team didn’t really and truly like each other. Interesting.
On the other hand, McCarron’s post-season comments painted a picture of a divided team, one, apparently, not totally united at buying into the process. Perhaps players didn’t buy in because they didn’t like the leaders. Just a thought, I guess.
Like I said above, when things go wrong, we want to find the problem and assign blame. In this case, I guess unity makes a pretty good default. The problems from last season can be, in a sense, swept out the door with the departing players. Those that are left behind can then rally behind the cry of “we’re all together now” and the coaching staff can use the issue to drive them harder.