Times are tough in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is alone in fifth place in the SEC West (no, really), and the Tide's margin for error in the Playoff race has all but evaporated after a 23-17 loss to Ole Miss. In the resultant sturm und drang, Alabama fans have been second-guessing everything about the program, in particular the Crimson Tide's offensive philosophy.
Former quarterback AJ McCarron, now with the Cincinnati Bengals, addressed this while taking calls on his weekly radio segment in Tuscaloosa. Here's more from AL.com:
I don't know if that's Lane doing that or if coach Saban is kind of putting the handcuffs on Lane like I've known Coach to do in the past on his offensive coordinator and we're going to be very bland and run this play and do this and we'll throw it on third down if we have to. It's going to be interesting to see how they bounce back against Arkansas this week and what kind of offense comes out this week.
I understand [Amari Cooper] is an unbelievable player. He was that for us when I was there, but when you target somebody so much ... I think that was one of the best things we did while I was there. We spread the ball around to everybody. I mean, I think in numerous games ... where we had almost everybody on offense catch the ball that was eligible to catch the ball. Teams could never really pinpoint and play their defenses to cover Coop, and I think that's one of the things they're struggling with right now.
The numbers bear out McCarron's point: Cooper has 52 catches for 746 yards and five scores thus far; the receiver with the next-most receptions is DeAndrew White with ... 12. Yeah. And first-year starting quarterback Blake Sims didn't have his best game against the tough Ole Miss defense.
If anything, the imbalance may only worsen, as running back Kenyan Drake is likely lost for the year after suffering a gruesome leg injury against Ole Miss. Drake showed with a long touchdown against Florida that he can be a game-breaker on Cooper's level, so if Alabama's looking for someone to manufacture yardage, it's Cooper by himself until someone else steps up.
"AJ McCarron, he needs to be quiet," Tarkenton said on Jox 94.5-FM's The Opening Drive. "He was so fortunate to play in that program. He's an average quarterback at best. He couldn't have played anywhere else but Alabama and to make any kind of comment is just disrespectful. He shouldn't have made it and he should keep his mouth shut, praise Saban and Alabama for the rest of his life."
As has Alabama head coach Nick Saban:
Saban asked about AJ McCarron's comments that there's not a true leader on offense. "I don't really think it's true."— Marc Torrence (@marctorrence) October 8, 2014
Saban: "I actually think Blake does a really good job - well-liked by his teammates … Has shown leadership."— Marc Torrence (@marctorrence) October 8, 2014
Saban: "I don't know how AJ would really know. But I don't see that as the case."— Marc Torrence (@marctorrence) October 8, 2014