The glory days of daytime drama have passed. No longer do shows like “General Hospital” or “All My Children” and the other soap operas of the past tell fictional stories of personal crises. They’ve long since been supplanted by “reality shows” ranging from Jerry Springer to The Kardashians to The Alabama Offensive Coordinator Job.

By the way, if you think Executive Producer Nick Saban originated the genre at Alabama with his latest creation, “Days Of Our Lane,” think again. There’s been speculation and second-guessing about the Alabama offensive coordinator almost since the position evolved into what is common today, going back to Mal Moore’s first tour of duty with Paul “Bear” Bryant and probably beyond that, although I don’t know who Xen Scott had calling the plays. Still, anyone old enough to remember the Gene Stallings/Homer Smith days knows what I mean.

The three years of Kiffin and the six weeks of Steve Sarkisian certainly were lively, in part because no matter how successful Alabama’s offense’s were – and three College Football Playoff appearances and one title speak for themselves – there was something about Kiffin’s persona that attracted attention, no matter where he has been or will go in the future (surely, Boca Raton isn’t the final stop.) Sarkisian was certainly his own person with his own particular set of baggage, but in some ways, his elevation from analyst to offensive coordinator seemed in some ways like a second chapter to the Kiffin saga. But the Atlanta Falcons swooped in and ended all that on Tuesday, leaving the question of what Nick Saban will do. The default answer – “whatever he wants” – is correct, but not revealing.

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin celebrates Eddie Jackson’s punt return for a touchdown against Ole Miss during the first half in Oxford Saturday, September 17, 2016. Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.

The immediate flurry of detective work blasted past the usual suspects and to the highest profile name out there, former Oregon, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49er head coach Chip Kelly. If nothing else, his resume was almost as circuitous as Kiffin’s. For another, he’s a proven architect of college offenses, at least in his Duck days.

The idea never seemed plausible – what are the odds that, even if hired, he’d still be around in 2018? But it did allow for thought about what, exactly, Saban is seeking. Sometimes, people forget Saban didn’t hire Kiffin for name recognition or shock value. He hired him to adjust the Alabama offense in ways that would increase the Crimson Tide’s chances of winning. That’s always what it boils down to, in Saban’s world.

We can only guess what Saban wants implemented now, or how flexible he will be in granting leeway to install something new. He can be flexible, which is why I never bought into the notion that some sort of philosophical discord was at the root of Sarkisian’s departure.

But if I had to guess, I’d say the question gnawing at Saban after Alabama’s last-second loss to Clemson is how he could field a defense that was just about as good as you could possibly have in modern college football (and the 2016 defense was that) and still not win a championship or stop a final drive. Clemson was good, no mistake, but the Tigers were much better after Alabama’s best defenders had been in the field for 100 snaps.

The reason for that, paradoxically, was offense, not just the number of points scored but the ability to stay on the field, play physical football and complement the defense in that way. Look at Alabama’s recent recruiting class and that seems to be where Saban is headed, not to some version of what Oregon once did. That doesn’t answer the question of who might be the top candidate, but it does provide a signpost, possibly, to Saban’s direction.

 

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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