Complacency: Excuse, or Reason?
Earlier today on The Paul Finebaum Show, former Tide receiver Amari Cooper made an appearance, discussing his career at Alabama and forecasting his future in the NFL. However, last year's loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl was brought up, and Cooper's answer struck a familiar tone with all the listeners.
"We thought we were the better team so probably let our guards down & got complacent."
This was Cooper's answer to Finebaum when the host asked about the tough loss at the hands of the Buckeyes in the semifinal game of the inaugural College Football Playoff.
This is a strangely similar comment that was made by many players in the past after Alabama losses: Nick Saban talking about the Oklahoma loss in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, "They were a little complacent, a little satisfied. Where we always prided ourselves in hard work, all the sudden we resented it;" A.J. McCarron also stated about the same loss, "In the end, success was our killer. Too much success and a lot of young guys coming in who didn't know what it took to get back to that point to win. They thought we'd just show up and we'd win."
And let's not forget the excuse from many fans when the Tide fell to Utah in the first of three disappointing Sugar Bowl performances from Nick Saban while at The Capstone: that the players didn't want to be there.
I think it's fair to criticize Nick Saban in the sense that he wasn't able to get his players in the right mindset for those losses. The job of a coach before a game kicks off is to make sure his players are ready to play for 60 minutes. In the previous examples, according to the comments about complacency, he didn't have them ready.
But let's not lose focus on what happens when a team loses: the other team must win. Credit must be given to Utah, Oklahoma, and Ohio State (the Buckeyes becoming the eventual national champions), no matter how bad or unprepared Alabama was to play, or how accustomed they were to winning that they just expected to win every time they stepped on the field.
Blaming a loss on complacency is a convenient excuse, especially for a team that is loaded with All-American talent at basically every position. Is that the true reason that Alabama lost those disappointing games? Absolutely not.
Well then Ryan, what is the real reason they lost, if they were the better, more talented team in each game?
The other team was better on that particular day.
Plain and simple.
To put fault in the preparation is perceived by an observer as taking away from the accomplishment of the other team for actually winning the game. In a sport that has rules that prevent ties, one team must win and one team must lose.
It's hard to come to terms with losing a single game, especially when the team you pull for has been as dominant as Alabama has been over the past eight years with Nick Saban leading the way, accomplishing feats that don't seem to be human, but teams can't constantly stay undefeated. Losses happen, and most likely than not, it's because the winning team was just better than the losing team on that particular day.
I don't have a problem with players and coaches answering questions about losing a certain game, unless they take away from the accomplishment from the winning team. There are two sides to every coin. In college football, you either win or you lose.
If you lose, admit defeat, credit the winning side, and move on. Blaming it on complacency months after the fact and saying you had the better team is disrespectful to the team that actually won.
Amari Cooper is one of, if not the, greatest receiver in Alabama history, and from all accounts, seems to be a good kid with his head on straight. But there's nothing wrong with showing a little humility from time to time.
Heck, if anything, showing humility can possibly make you sound more human at a place that has redefined what the term "dynasty" means.
And it might even loosen up the pressure on the future players if one were to leave alone the complacency excuse, and just admit defeat. If the future players are thinking about complacency, there's an added pressure for them not to fail, or else they'll be looked at as being complacent, and ipso facto, they'll be more inclined to blame losses on being complacent.