FOOTBALL

Why Greg McElroy is concerned about Alabama football's future for first time under Nick Saban

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

On Saturday, Alabama football picked up its second loss of the season before the Iron Bowl for the first time since 2010, and all kinds of opinions have been flying about what has gone wrong and what needs to change.

Many of those opinions aren't as educated as the ones from Greg McElroy, the ESPN analyst who won a national championship playing quarterback for Alabama in 2009. He said he has watched just about every play of the Nick-Saban era, and McElroy shared some insights this week as to what he thinks is wrong with this team on his 'Always College Football' podcast.

"This is the first time I have ever actually been concerned about the future of the program," McElroy said. "The first time. I have seen them lose when people have said the dynasty is over. I've seen people back in 2014 say this team will never regain their prowess and their strength. I've seen coach after coach after coach depart for what they might consider to be greener pastures. I've seen everything that this program has endured the last several years. I have never been concerned about whether or not they would be better tomorrow than they were today. I always thought, regardless of where the program was at, that as long as Nick Saban was there, they're going to be just fine."

But now, that has changed in McElroy's mind. No. 9 Alabama (7-2, 4-2 SEC) faces No. 11 Ole Miss (8-1, 4-1) on Saturday (2:30 p.m., CBS) and is all but eliminated from the College Football Playoff before the second weekend in November.

"Right now, Alabama feels like it is at a little bit of a crossroads," McElroy said.

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Saban was asked about McElroy's comments during the SEC coaches weekly teleconference Wednesday. Saban pointed out Alabama has lost two games by a total of four points on the last play of the game.

"Are we satisfied with where we are as a team? Absolutely not," Saban said. "But at the same time, sometimes when the standard is so high, there may be some occasion where you don't quite meet the standard and the expectation that everybody has for you. I do think that standard and expectation has not been something that has helped this team focus on the right things. Stay focused on the process, not get so concerned about the results you get but what you've got to do to get the results. That's something we've been trying to emphasize with them."

McElroy said the problem right now is many on the roster and coaching staff didn't have much to do with creating the foundation of the program.

"I'm not discrediting Pete Golding, the defensive coordinator, or Bill O'Brien," McElroy said. "I'm not calling for their jobs. I'm not saying they need to be re-assigned or they need to be released. All I'm saying is there needs to be a legitimate effort from Nick Saban to bring in some coaches that understand what this program once looked like and what this program needs to look like."

McElroy wasn't saying Alabama needed to return to what worked style-wise in the beginning of the dynasty. He understands evolution is necessary. However, he said Alabama didn't need to abandon what it was "as much as they have."

"I do not think the Alabama run is over," McElroy said. "I don't. But I do feel like the program is on more shaky footing than it has been in quite some time."

Changes could very well be on the horizon for Alabama in the offseason. McElroy thinks there have to be some.

"If you look at how the players are performing and the lack of accountability and lack of improvement in some spots, and just some of the issues that just continue to crop up and the lack of discipline," McElroy said, "how can (change) not be (coming)?"