When Nick Saban retires, Alabama should rest easy because there apparently are more than enough expert coaches watching from their living room couches who are ready to take his place.
During Alabama's 38-7 win at Mississippi State, Saban allowed star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to play the last series of the first half, and that decision couldn't have gone worse for the Crimson Tide football coach.
Tagovailoa went down with a hip injury and was flown by helicopter to St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham. Dr. Lyle Cain, the Alabama team orthopedic surgeon, said Tagovailoa's hip was dislocated and he will miss the rest of the season. Cain added that Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery.
Should Saban accept some blame for what happened to Tagovailoa? Considering Alabama already was up 35-7, should he have let Tagovailoa play that last series? Especially since Tagovailoa had surgery on his right ankle less than four weeks earlier?
Should Saban have not allowed Tagovailoa to play altogether and let backup Mac Jones handle this one?
It's unfair to place the blame on Saban. This is Division I athletics. Athletes get injured. Sometimes they're hurt, but there's a difference between being hurt and being injured. It sounds callous to say there's a difference, but there is. It's tough and isn't for everyone.
Men and women who play Division I sports are a different breed, and they willingly push their bodies to points that would make the rest of us curl up in a ball and cry.
Saban has abided by the philosophy that if a player is cleared by the team's medical and training staff and Saban agrees, then the guy will play. Saban said Tagovailoa went on the field before pregame warmups and appeared to be moving well enough to warrant playing.
Saban said that near the end of the first half, he had planned to insert Jones into the game, but Tagovailoa talked his coach out of sitting him. At halftime, Saban said part of his thinking was that it would be good practice for Tagovailoa to run the two-minute offense.
Was this an unnecessary risk? I guess that's the crux of the fan complaints.
Hey, defensive tackles Raekwon Davis and D.J. Dale got hurt, too. So did receiver Henry Ruggs. Should Saban have taken them out early, too?
Saban has left his quarterback in the game in blowouts through the first half plenty of times. (Alabama has had a lot of blowouts the past decade or so.) And, now, it's suddenly an unnecessary risk?
"If I had known anything bad was going to happen, I certainly wouldn't have put him in that situation," Saban said in his postgame news conference, with a bit of exasperation.
Former Alabama All-America lineman Barrett Jones posted through his social media account that Saban will take players out of a game to let others develop, not because of fear of injury.
"That’s 'The Process'. You can’t praise it one second and curse it the next," posted Jones, who played through the national championship game with a debilitating ligament tear in his foot.
Saban is pretty much like every Division I coach in the country, regardless of sport.
Are coaches sometimes too demanding? Should they show more caution on occasion? Probably so.
Check that — almost certainly so.
Was Saban expecting too much in this case? Probably not.
Besides, good grief, it wasn't like Saban kicked a puppy. He allowed a finely-tuned, well-conditioned athlete to have his way and play one more series in the first half of an important game. The athlete was cleared to play — and not "well, he can play if you really have to have him" cleared, but "he's good to go" cleared.
Think of it this way: if Tua hadn't gotten hurt, would so many of our social media coaches have second-guessed Saban on letting him go one more series?