Right off the bat, I would like to applaud the Alabama Crimson Tide for hiring Washington Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer and not in an unironic way. This was a self-aware move by Bama athletic director Greg Byrne and an intentional attempt to avoid the mistake the last time a legendary UA coach retired.
In 1983, Alabama fell into despair for years after Bear Bryant because they kept chasing the Bryant legacy and trying to hire proteges of Bryant. The same thing happened to Tennessee Football with Robert Neyland in the 1950s and is happening to the Lady Vols now with Pat Summitt.
Byrne, however, hired a coach who had never been connected to Saban or any Saban assistant. He also didn’t overrate DeBoer’s lack of SEC ties. Saban himself had no SEC ties before he went to the LSU Tigers. Les Miles didn’t either before LSU, and Urban Meyer didn’t before going to the Florida Gators.
On the other hand, Will Muschamp, Derek Dooley and Jeremy Pruitt had deep SEC ties when they were hired at their schools. Simply put, that doesn’t matter. Lack of SEC ties don’t hurt you in recruiting if you make sure to hire the right assistants.
Finally, Kalen DeBoer is a departure from what Alabama has always wanted to build its program on: Defense. Byrne made an offensive hire, looking for a creative mind to generate a splash, and once again, he didn’t cave to pressure.
Simply put, this may be the best hire Alabama could have made given the circumstances. However, the circumstances is what should make Vol fans, and Auburn Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs fans for that matter, thrilled about what happened.
See, one of the reasons Byrne didn’t go for a renowned recruiter in the area is because, well, recruiters are only as good as their school infrastructure, and Alabama’s infrastructure isn’t great right now. Sure, Saban’s name will help them get No. 1 classes.
However, short of getting Jim Harbaugh or Urban Meyer, they don’t have any options to get them those classes anymore. Alabama is not in Georgia or Louisiana, and the NIL collective in Tuscaloosa has the Tide competing from behind.
Last year’s ON3 ranking of NIL collectives didn’t include the Tide in the top 20. In fact, in the upcoming 16-team SEC, there are at least nine teams ahead of Bama. Why do you think Dan Lanning didn’t want to leave the Oregon Ducks? Their collective is ranked No. 5.
Honestly, DeBoer may have made a mistake leaving Washington. Their collective is No. 15, and they don’t have to worry about SEC play the way Bama does. See where we’re going with this? Alabama had to think about offensive creativity with its hire more than a coach who could get the Jimmys and Joes.
That leads us to DeBoer. While the principles behind the DeBoer hire were good, he’s not a generational offensive mind. The guy did benefit from a weak schedule and a quarterback this past year in Michael Penix Jr. who could look generational with that schedule. Look what he did against a good defense like the Michigan Wolverines.
Beyond that fact, DeBoer will likely find himself on our weekly Football IQ segment a few times next year. This is a guy who almost cost his team a College Football Playoff victory against the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl because he ran a play late when he should have run out the clock.
Not being able to make basic decisions like that, and not being forward-thinking enough to realize he was in a better situation at Washington, suggests Kalen DeBoer lacks some intellect to help his teams overachieve. That’s commonplace in college football, but if you can’t win on Jimmys and Joes, it’s costly.
Again, though, Byrne didn’t have a choice. Sticking with the Saban legacy is a mistake given the nature of Alabama recruiting. Ole Miss Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin is probably the best offensive mind he could’ve gotten outside of DeBoer, but Kiffin brings some baggage with him.
Remember the last offensive-minded head coach Alabama hired from a school in the state of Washington? Ironically, Kiffin would remind people of Mike Price rather than DeBoer. They don’t want to have to deal with that situation again.
Taking all this into account, Byrne actually had to somewhat limit his options, and that’s how he landed on Kalen DeBoer. He’s to be applauded for making all the right decisions on the hire. However, it shows that Alabama is limited going forward, and that should excite SEC rivals.