Friday, May 09, 2003
Shula: Connections to the Past?
O.k., Mike Shula has a nice pedigree. The winningest pro coach is his father. He played QB at Alabama, and he has been NFL assistant for nearly 15 years. On the other hand:
Is this what they mean by winning tradition? It took weeding him out of Tampa for Tampa to win. It took Jay Barker (!!!) and an improved defense to provide the only post-Bear championship. Being the son of a famous coach or athlete does not guarantee success.
Also, I don't buy that he brings great knowledge of the NFL and that will make him better than college coaches. Coach Fran had no pro experience, yet he transformed the DuBose squad from underachievers to achievers. What QB did he develop in the NFL? Do we credit him for Trent Dilfer and Jay Fiedler? Is this how he's going to recruit star, pro-style QB recruits to Tuscaloosa? If they were going for tradition, the better choice was GB running backs coach Sylvester Croom, who worked on Coach Bryant's staff for almost 10 years. And he's got all that NFL experience that's supposedly so important now.
But, I'm not sure tradition is what they need. They need a person who's politically astute enough to deal with the boosters, an organized person who manage an enormous staff of coaches and recruiting duties, and keep the players disciplined on the field, playing together. All else being equal, I'll put my faith in somebody who's head coached before. It's not clear that any of the candidates were cinches to take graduate to coaching status.
What will be interesting to see is how the fans handle the probation and Shula's performance. This is the second year of scholarship restrictions, and I believe they have at least one more, so we'll see steady effects on the talent pool. This is where Shula benefits from his race, reputation, and Alabama history. Because he has those positive things going for him, fans will do their best to make excuses to look past awful losses in the coming year(s). I'm curious how much time it buys him. I think if Croom had come in, on top of not being the prodigal son that Shula is, he would have had to deal with latent (and overt) racism in the alumni association, too. That it would be harder for him off the field doesn't justify passing him over though.
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