Posted Oct. 30 at 02:18 PM
I'm going to let you in on a secret: I've been writing this column for more than 12 years, but I've only covered a certain topic once. It's a shame, because it's one of my favorites. But it comes up so rarely, I never get to write about it. And now -- finally -- it's here again.
I knew it would happen earlier this week when a friend of mine said something while we were discussing Alabama's college football dominance. Both of us have been impressed with the way they've dismantled opponents and the ease in which they seem headed toward a national title. And then he said it:
"You know, I think Alabama could beat a bad NFL team."
He could have said "come close to beating" or "compete with" and I would have written this column anyway. Make no mistake: The very best college football team today would be humiliated by the worst NFL team today. If they played 100 times, it would happen 100 times. Young adults would be laying on the field, bruised and broken, while parents would be searching the wounded for what's left of their children. It would be an embarrassing, unqualified disaster for whatever college team stepped onto the field. And I've never heard a cogent argument to the contrary.
I don't feel particularly bright for taking that position; it's just common sense. Unless you think Alabama will send 22 starters into the NFL next year, they're at a hopeless disadvantage. There would be match ups where a future accountant or attorney is going to line up against an NFL-caliber player...and it's not going to be pretty. In an NFL contest, there's nowhere to hide on the field. Any mismatch will be exploited; any disparity in talent highlighted. Repeat that several times on offense and defense, over 60 minutes, and the game is over before it begins.
Remember, every NFL team is a college Dream Team -- the very best of what the entire college football world has to offer. The very worst NFL team -- maybe the Jaguars, or the Chiefs this year -- is full of past college stars who have proven themselves in NFL training camps and pre-seasons. They got the job done in college, and in the pros they're surrounded by other players who have passed the same tests. Even if the bad teams will replace some of those underperforming players, they were all still good enough to get to this level, which is more than we can say for every position on Alabama's squad.
This isn't an indictment on the Crimson Tide, by the way. They're impressive, well-coached and have been a cut above their opponents so far. If you like football, you have to appreciate how they're playing. But think of every position: Quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, center, guard, tackle. If any one of those isn't NFL-caliber, the whole offense would be in jeopardy. On defense, if one corner, or safety, or linebacker, or defensive lineman isn't good enough to compete at the highest level in the world, an NFL offense would pick at them like an ugly scab. And I'm talking about just one drive. Give an NFL team that same mismatch for an entire game, and you can forget it.
I'm not even going into backups and shifting personnel, because the talent difference on the bench would be even more ridiculous. The longer the game went on, the worse it would get. Even if we acknowledge that Alabama has players who could hold their own in the big leagues (and I certainly believe that's the case, as we'll see next spring), they're playing with teammates who can't do the same. It might not hurt them at the college level, where opponents have the same problems. But it would hurt them badly against an NFL team, which will be faster and bigger than anything they've seen. "Slow" and "small" are relative terms when talking about the NFL. Every player is good. Every athlete is talented. The difference between the Patriots and the Panthers isn't all that great, really. It's enough to make a difference in the standings, but no organizations outside the NFL could compete with either of them. That's how talented the league is.
Let me also offer that the deck is stacked against Alabama when it comes to intangibles: College athletes haven't fully developed their talent, haven't felt the same competition for their jobs and haven't had access to the same programs and facilities as millionaire NFL athletes. However good their players are, they'll be even better in a few more years. They'll be nurtured, developed, and have access to the league's best personnel. Every NFL player gets to play with other NFL players, and that alone can make them better. And as far as coaching staffs go...let's be generous and say Nick Saban was a mediocre NFL head coach who left before proving he could lead a team at the highest level. I don't think he'd out-coach anyone in the league today.
When we watch the best of the best on Saturday, and the worst of the worst on Sunday, we can be tempted to compare those teams. As fantasy owners, we're often scouting (even subconsciously) who we see in college for their potential at the next level. And I enjoy hypothetical discussions about teams and players, especially considering fantasy football is really a game about hypothetical teams and contests. But, in my mind, there's no discussion here. Alabama could go undefeated and win the rest of their games by 40 points, and they'd still be destroyed by whatever team gets the first pick in the 2013 draft. And I'll feel that way no matter what happens at LSU. Good luck this week.
Youtube Clip Of The Week: Yes, professional and college football players used to play each other. Enjoy.
Do you disagree with me? Am I over-stating things here? Under what circumstances could a modern college team compete against a modern pro team? Make your case below.
Posted by Joe Savitsky | Oct. 30 at 10:01 PM
You are overlooking one very important element. A team is greater (or worse) than the sum of its parts. Otherwise, the team with the most talent would always win. It is why the Soviet Red Army hockey team would always embarrass a group of NHL All Stars. It's why Puerto Rico and other far less talented teams were able to beat the NBA's "Dream Team" a few years ago. I don't care what happened during Saban's brief NFL stint, he is a phenomenal coach. In fact, he would coach circles around at least half of the head coaches in the NFL today. Mike Shanahan and Bill Belichek both struggled in their first HC stints, but they turned out OK. Alabama is far more disciplined and better prepared than their opponent, week in and week out, year in and year out, even against the best the NCAA has to offer. If you put the Tide up against the KC Chiefs, I have little doubt that the former would have a significant advantage in terms of X's and O's and preparation. Finally, I would think that a bunch of hungry kids with a singular purpose and out to prove themselves would simply want it more than a bunch of comfy millionaires with mortgages and endorsements and Twitter feuds to think about.
Posted by Joe Savitsky | Oct. 30 at 10:14 PM
And not to nitpick, but to say that you don't think Nick Saban could out-coach anyone in the NFL today is just crazy. Norv Turner vs. Nick Saban? Mike Mularkey vs. Nick Saban? Romeo Crennel vs. Nick Saban? (Would Nick Saban ever not know why his best player only got five carries in a game?) How about Greg Schiano? He competed at the same level as Saban for the past several years, only with a fraction of the success. You don't think Nick Saban would have predictable Andy Reid's entire playbook figured out by halftime? Do you really think Jason Garrett or Gary Kubiak could have gone to Alabama and done what Saban has?
Posted by MICHAEL MURILLO | Nov. 01 at 11:11 PM
Well, I was being nice...but Saban is a liar and a quitter. When the going got tough, he headed for the hills (after saying he wasn't going anywhere). No doubt he's a phenominal college coach, and might be better at that level than any NFL coach today. I'd choose him over Belichick in a one-game matchup with college players. It's a different skill set. But that doesn't work with professionals, and you can't tell me that every starter on Alabama's DL can handle a professional NFL offensive line. There would be more pancakes than at breakfast time at IHOP. Once a pro team goes four wide, it's over. Alabama doesn't have four cover men that can handle elite NFL talent. They just don't. They don't have the pass rush to get to the QB against an NFL offensive line. And as good as their OL is, they can't handle a professional defensive front over four quarters. Assuming their quarterback could find an open receiver, he'd have two seconds to throw the ball...maybe. And once they sub in players, forget it. The guys on an NFL bench can handle their starters. Alabama's backups couldn't stay upright against an NFL team. Again, this isn't a criticism of Alabama. It's a criticism against the notion that any modern college team could compete with any modern NFL team. Schiano might even be an inferior coach, but he has an entire squad of professional football players. He'd be able to game plan for the mismatches and Saban couldn't out coach him. But I enjoy the discussion and I appreciate you bringing something to the table. Thanks, Joe.
Posted by Joe Savitsky | Nov. 02 at 09:05 AM
For what it's worth, my money would also be on the lousy pro team. I'm just pointing out a few factors that I think you overlooked or underestimated. Saban may have quit on the Dolphins, but it's hard to blame a guy for realizing he landed in a bad situation and cutting bait. That Miami organization was, and still is, a total mess and Bill Belichek couldn't even fix it. And Saban is certainly a liar, but that just makes him like every other pro football coach. I'm not sure how well Saban's style would translate to the pro game, but I would take him hands down over at least ten current NFL head coaches without thinking twice.
Add a Comment
Already a registered user? Please sign in to add comments.
To add comments, you must become a registered user of our site. To register, please click here.