Steve Sarkisian’s run as Alabama’s offensive coordinator lasted all of one game.
In the wake of Kyle Shanahan’s whirlwind week that consisted of his being a hot-shot coordinator, Super Bowl scapegoat and the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach, the Atlanta Falcons named Sarkisian their new offensive coordinator two days after losing the first overtime Super Bowl in history, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The Falcons later announced the hire:
“We appreciate all Coach Sarkisian did for our program during his time here. He is an outstanding coach, and we wish him the best in his new role as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in an emailed statement. “As always, when we have an opening on our staff, we will use it as an opportunity to go out and hire the best coach available.”
Bama fans, take a deep breath, relax and try not to freak out.
While the idea of having three different coordinators in three straight games—Lane Kiffin vs. Washington, Sarkisian vs. Clemson and a new assistant vs. Florida State in the 2017 opener—is incredibly odd, Alabama is well-positioned to deal with this.
Mike Locksley was promoted from an analyst role—the same title Sarkisian had in Tuscaloosa during the 2016 regular season—to an on-the-field job after a big push from Florida. At the time of his promotion, he didn’t have a specific role. As it turns out, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, he gained the title of co-offensive coordinator less than two weeks before national signing day.
If that isn’t a sign that Saban knew something was brewing, nothing is.
Plus, several high-profile names are sitting on their couches just waiting to be scooped up, as Feldman noted on Twitter:
On top of those names, former wide receivers coach Billy Napier took the Arizona State offensive coordinator job days before national signing day when the recruiting dead period hit, and the ink on his Sun Devil contract might not even be dry yet.
You don’t think he might be in consideration, too?
Of course he will be.
Saban can pick his path.
If he wants familiarity, he can go with either Locksley or Napier.
Locksley’s Maryland offense topped the 5,000-yard mark in 2013, averaged 5.79 yards per play and did so despite star wide receiver Stefon Diggs going down for the season in Game No. 7.
Napier helped Alabama send Amari Cooper to New York as a Heisman finalist in 2014, Calvin Ridley become a star as a true freshman in 2015 and ArDarius Stewart become a multidimensional weapon in 2016. If anybody knows the offensive plan for the Tide moving forward, it’s Napier.
If Alabama wants a reclamation project—something Saban chose to do with Kiffin in 2014 and Sarkisian in December when Kiffin left to take over Florida Atlantic—Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich are there to check that box.
Kelly led Oregon to the national title game in 2010, had double-digit wins in all four of his seasons at the helm (2009-2012) and finished in the Top Four of the final Associated Press poll three times. His NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers didn’t go as planned, but there’s no doubt his tempo-based attack works wonders in the college game.
He left the cupboard stacked for Helfrich to lead the Ducks to the College Football Playoff National Championship following the 2014 season. The 4-8 debacle in 2016 that led to Helfrich’s ouster after his fourth year running the program left a scar. But his team was littered with injuries, and true freshman quarterback Justin Herbert did throw for 19 touchdowns and only four picks in a pinch.
If you don’t think either of those coaches would love to take Alabama’s offense—which is essentially an exotic, West Coast, spread unit with depth and versatility unlike either had in Eugene—you’re out of your mind.
Alabama will be fine, whichever direction Saban decides to go.
The crop of either available or attainable coaches who can fit what he wants to do is the same now as it was when he tabbed Sarkisian to be the full-time OC prior to the title game.
The timing is just a little odd.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on SiriusXM. Follow Barrett on Twitter and Facebook.
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