With losses to LSU, Tennessee, and Auburn for two consecutive years, it's tempting to declare this another annus horribilus in Tuscaloosa. But three other losses better explain this year's campaign -- namely those of Tim Castille, Ray Hudson, and, most damning, the Brodie. Before the season started, if you told me that Don's son would take this team to a bowl without benefit of the entire starting backfield, I'd suggest you fit yourself for a jacket that buckles in the back.
However, depending on the outcome of tomorrow's SEC title game between the Tigers and the Vols -- a match-up that offers Bama fans all the comfort of being asked whether you'd prefer dying of syphilis or gangrene -- the Crimson Tide will be headed to Nashville or (no, really, I'm not kidding) Dallas. The casino cognoscenti say Nashville's a lock.
And so is Shula. Although after what Our Lady of the Golden Dome did to her coach, it's hard to extend comfort to any of them these days. Beating Michigan at home and UT on the road wasn't enough to spare him the axe. Offering up a top draft player and a title game showing the same year isn't enough to save whoever coaches in Faulkner's back yard. So much for the past not being the past.
Shula seems on surer footing. And he has respective advantages over his two predecessors: His recruits are panning out. He leaves the partying to the fans.
And come the end of the year, we actually have something to party about. Not our wounded offense's performance (Shula is so blessedly boring that he makes Gene Stallings look like Urban Meyer), but their persistence. The progress is incremental, but it's visible. All boats rise together, as the pinkos say. And if your recruits make the grade, your defense plays their positions, and your coaches stick with what works, a school like Alabama will eventually have enough talent, will eventually be so fast and so big and so consistent, that posting the playbook on the Jumbo-tron wouldn't make a hell of a lot of difference.
Eventually seems like a long time though.