You won’t see it on 30-second sound bytes from a press conference, but Nick Saban does have an understanding side. He knows reporters aren’t asking about the quarterback position simply to be annoying.
He has been in the coaching business for a long time and, except for those rare years when he’s had an established veteran starter, he’s been asked about the competition at that position.
It was probably true at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU, and might very well have been the defining theme of his two years at with the Miami Dolphins. So Saban knows that at nearly every press conference, some intrepid beat writer will summon up his or her courage and charge the topic full speed ahead.
On the other hand, some words can trigger a slightly testy response from the Alabama head coach. “Depth chart” famously raises hackles. So does the closely-related “first string.” And then there is “timeframe.” That one, or the synonymous “timetable” can take a press conference from DEFCON 5 to about DEFCON 2 in a hurry, for two reasons. The word “deadline” would probably take things to DEFCON 1, which is “tune into SportsCenter and watch the fireworks” territory.
First, a “timeframe” implies there is some schedule out there that might compel an answer before Saban is ready to give one. Which will not happen. Second, experience has proven over and over that Saban is not going making that call in the spring, or even in the first few weeks of August and he may not make it until the Crimson Tide has traveled to Orlando for the season opener.
Hence the response to a question — a fair question reflecting the insatiable interest out there for any crumb of information — about Tua Tagovailoa’s injured hand and how it would affect “the timeframe” for naming a starting quarterback.
“First of all, I don’t have a timeframe so how could it affect it?” Saban said. “I mean, you have a timeframe. I don’t. From your perspective, maybe I should ask you the question, but from my perspective if there’s no timeframe, how does it affect it? I can’t answer that.
“This is not something we’re going to keep score on so when you ask me this question, I can’t really give you any answer that’s going to satisfy your needs,” Saban continued.
He did note that Tagovailoa was limited by the injury, and Jalen Hurts and Mac Jones “both did a nice job” in the scrimmage, particularly considering the uncharacteristically raw spring weather.
There were no statistics available: the days when Alabama would at least release a leading rusher and a leading receiver, much less the prehistoric times when reporters could chart the entire scrimmage, are gone with the mastodons. Tagovailoa played less snaps than the other quarterbacks, if that counts as a statistic.
“I don’t think that anytime a player gets hurt at any position that he should be penalized,”Saban said. “Does it give other players more of an opportunity to show what they can do? Absolutely. (Tagovailoa) probably got 15-20 snaps, something like that, early in the scrimmage and did well. Jalen, I thought, started out a little bit slow, but he really made some really good plays as the scrimmage went on.”
That’s enough information to carry the discussion for another week. That week won’t bring us any closer to some sort of spring decision. We’ll know next Saturday that the likeliest answer to a timeframe question will be “don’t ask.”
But we will — because we must.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.