TUSCALOOSA — For the fourth time in 14 months, Alabama is in search of an offensive coordinator.
The Buffalo Bills named Brian Daboll their offensive coordinator on Sunday afternoon, returning the 42-year-old back to his hometown and leaving Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban in a familiar situation.
Saban’s cycled through three offensive coordinators since last January — Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and, now, Daboll; a 15-year NFL coaching veteran who returned to college this season for the first time since he was a graduate assistant on Saban’s Michigan State staff in the late ‘90s.
A West Seneca, N.Y., native, Daboll returns closer to home and to work under a familiar face. Bills coach Sean McDermott was a senior at William & Mary during Daboll’s first coaching job — a one-year stint as a restricted earnings assistant for the Tribe.
“We are excited to hire Brian as our offensive coordinator and welcome him back to western New York,” McDermott said in a statement. “I know how much this area means to him. He is a good coach and a good teacher and has a been part of winning programs in the NFL and in college.”
Daboll was technically listed as the Crimson Tide’s co-offensive coordinator along with receivers coach Mike Locksley, a former head coach at New Mexico and an offensive coordinator at Illinois and Maryland who could get consideration for Daboll’s now vacated role.
At a base salary of $1.2 million, Daboll was under a three-year contract that ran through 2020.
Daboll’s first game at Alabama — a 24-7 season-opening win against Florida State — was the first collegiate game he’d attended since that stint with Saban in East Lansing.
Under Daboll’s guidance, Alabama scored 37.1 points a game, averaged 6.59 yards a play and produced a 1,000-yard rusher — Damien Harris — for the second straight season.
“Brian did a tremendous job for us this past season at Alabama, and I know he will do a great job for the Buffalo Bills,” Saban said in a statement released by the school. “He is an outstanding coach and coordinator who put us in position to be successful each week. We appreciate all that he did in terms of his time and his dedication in contributing to the success we had this season. We wish Brian, his wife Beth, and their entire family all the best.”
Though he and Saban touted balance throughout the season, Daboll’s play-calling skewed heavily toward the run, given a stable of four running backs and the mobility of starting quarterback Jalen Hurts.
The Crimson Tide ran 612 times and threw just 332 passes, the fewest it has thrown since 2012. Though his quarterback rating shot up by 11 points, Hurts’ completion percentage fell and he threw for 699 fewer yards than he did as a freshman.
Hurts was benched at halftime of the College Football Playoff Championship Game in favor of true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who tossed three touchdowns and led his team to a comeback victory against Georgia. With Tagovailoa in the game, Daboll called 23 runs and 24 passes.
“You always make adjustments at halftime,” Daboll said after the game when asked how Tagovailoa’s presence changed his play-calling. “You make adjustments throughout the game. He did a really good job of executing the stuff that we called.”
The national championship victory was Daboll’s sixth championship in his coaching career. Five Super Bowl victories with Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots staff preceded it.
Now Daboll heads to an inter-division rival to try to add more.
“(To) have an opportunity to come here at the University of Alabama and be around coach Saban and all the administration here, the players, the fanbase is unbelievable,” Daboll said after the CFP Championship Game. “The atmosphere out here is just awesome. I’m blessed. I’m very fortunate. I can’t tell you how happy I am for the players and the assistant coaches that worked so hard and put in so much time.”