TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban would like to name a starting quarterback as soon as possible. He said so on Thursday afternoon. But make no mistake, Alabama’s head coach doesn’t feel the need to do anything. He doesn’t look at Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas A&M naming starters this week and think, "Gosh, it must be my turn." The notion of a timetable for making a decision holds no value to him.
And why should it? The benefit of saying, ‘This is our guy,’ is minimal, if not totally nonexistent. It would settle an anxious fanbase, sure, but it would serve almost no purpose inside the locker room.
AJ McCarron didn’t beat out Phillip Sims until several weeks into the 2009 season, and Alabama went on to win the national championship. Blake Sims wasn’t named the starter until the day of the season-opener against West Virginia last year, and Alabama went on to win the SEC and reach the College Football Playoff.
“Everybody thinks you've got to have all this continuity,” Saban said. “I asked an offensive lineman, I said, 'Which one of the quarterbacks do you like the best?' He said, 'Well, since we don't huddle, we don't even know who's in there.’”
That’s perspective for you.
Now you can look at it as Saban does and insist that all the QBs have looked good, that by playing well they’re making it a difficult decision. Or you can take a cynical approach and consider the fact Coker, Bateman and Morris had all of spring practice and all of preseason camp to separate themselves, and none of them has.
Right now, Saban doesn’t feel good enough about any one individual to name him the starter heading into the season-opener against Wisconsin. The fear, as he put it, is he’d have to “un-name him” with a bad performance. And then the already negative perception of the position would be made that much worse.
“So my question is, is it just like a known fact that you have to do this a certain way, that if you don't have a starting quarterback, that means you can't get ready to play well? If you play more than one guy, like, you know, that we can't play good? I don't know,” he said. “I have confidence in our guys that they will play well in the game. How we're going to play them in the game, I haven't decided.
“Look, I don't have a gun to my head saying, 'OK, if I don't know this by Saturday, I'm going to miss church and go jump off a bridge.' I'm not there yet.”
Past experience has taught Saban not to worry so much about these things. As he has said over and over from the end of the regular season until now, he’ll wait on someone to “Take the bull by the horns.” He knows he has a strong enough team surrounding the quarterbacks that he doesn’t have to worry.
Saban is, if nothing else, a pragmatist.
“You have to have some clear-cut evidence that a guy really has won the job,” he said, “and you can’t make that happen. As bad as I’d like to be able to say, ‘This is our starting quarterback’ -- I would really like to be able to say that -- that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a good quarterback. It means we may have more than one good quarterback.”
For now, we’re left in a state of limbo about whom Alabama’s starter will be, let alone how well he will perform. It’s not an ideal situation, of course, but it is what it is. If he has to play two quarterbacks against Wisconsin and figure it out on the fly then Saban said that's what he'll do.
After all, what’s the alternative? Sometimes making no decision is better than making the wrong one.