Top Five Candidates to Replace Bill O’Brien
Much speculation has been swirling recently that Bill O'Brien and the Crimson Tide football program will come to a mutual parting of ways after the season. The offensive coordinator's contract is set to expire after this season and many reports have indicated that O'Brien wants to make the jump back to the NFL.
O'Brien's former employer, Bill Belichick, is in desperate need of a real offensive coordinator, and multiple NFL teams are in need of a head coach, something O'Brien also has experience being.
So, for a minute, imagine that O'Brien has hopped on 59/20 to leave town for the last time. Who's the best man to replace him?
Here are five ideas.
1. Frank Reich
Reich checks two of Saban's favorite boxes. He's proven himself to be a winner, and is in need of a little coaching rehab. Reich was the offensive coordinator for the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles' magical Super Bowl run not too many years ago. During that season, Philadelphia finished third in points per game and seventh in total offense.
He has also been a part of teams that were able to have continued success in his playing days as the backup quarterback to Jim Kelly when the Buffalo Bills went to four Super Bowls in a row.
When Reich departed Philadelphia to be the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he wasn't able to maintain that same level of success, but he was able to field a more than serviceable offense in spite of GM Chris Ballard consistently providing him with mediocre or worse quarterbacks.
Now that Reich has been relieved of his duties in Indianapolis, he'll be seeking a new opportunity, preferably one where poor decisions by the general manager don't leave his offense ham strung in what it can do. What better place for that than Tuscaloosa?
2. Joe Brady
Alabama fans have fresh, vivid memories of what Brady is capable of. He served as the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator for the 2019 LSU Tigers, a team that is held up by many analysts and fans as one of the greatest of all time. Joe Burrow had one of the greatest seasons by a college quarterback ever and ran away with the Heisman Trophy thanks after being barely average in 2018.
What was the biggest difference between LSU in 2018 and 2019? The Arrival of Joe Brady.
Brady was also at least partly responsible for the development of college and NFL great wide outs Jamaar Chase and Justin Jefferson. Alabama seems to be lacking the ability to develop receivers as of late, and that's a problem.
More recently, Brady was the offensive coordinator of a dysfunctional Carolina Panthers team from 2020-21 and is currently serving as the quarterbacks coach for the Buffalo Bills where he works with Josh Allen, one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.
Alabama saw great success under the prolific passing attacks of Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin, and Mike Locksley. Bringing Brady's in could be the spark this team needs.
3. Garrett Riley
At first glance, it might not make a lot of sense for Riley to make a lateral move from another Power 5 program. He's having great success at Texas Christian University and if the season were to end today, they'd be in the College Football Playoff. However, it can't be ignored that Nick Saban is still in charge in Tuscaloosa, and Nick Saban's coaching tree speaks for itself.
Former assistants Lane Kiffin, Billy Napier, Kirby Smart, and Jimbo Fisher are all at the helm of SEC programs right now. Dan Lanning has the Oregon Ducks in College Football Playoff contention. Mel Tucker just earned himself a massive extension at Michigan State. Mike Locksley seems to be breathing new life into Maryland's football program. Brian Daboll has the New York Giants off to the races with a 6-2 record after years of being a laughing stock of the National Football League.
Spending time under Nick Saban's tutelage isn't necessary for someone to run their own successful program one day, but it indisputably helps a lot.
As for his own credentials, just look at what Riley has done with Max Duggan and the Horned Frogs this season. TCU is scoring 43 points per game, converting 44% of both third and fourth down attempts, and has run a very balanced offense, something that can't be said of O'Brien's system. About the same number of the team's first downs have come from passing and rushing, and the Horned Frogs have passed for 2,601 yards while rushing for 1,977.
Also worth noting, with the rise of USC, it's more than possible that the Tide would have to face Riley's brother, Lincoln Riley, in the expanded College Football Playoff.
4. Casey Woods
Woods currently serves as the offensive coordinator for Southern Methodist, but moving from the AAC to Alabama would hardly be a lateral move. Many would consider it to be a substantial promotion.
Woods is having prolific success at SMU this season. The Mustangs are putting up 40.2 points per game and 480 yards per game, have logged 2,979 passing yards and 1,332 rushing yards, and are converting two thirds of their fourth down attempts.
Perhaps the only criticism of Woods could be that he isn't competing against elite defenses, but that's okay when you still have the greatest college football coach of all time leading the team to teach Woods how to adjust his game to that. Additionally, the talent that Alabama is bringing in in the 2023 recruiting class stands to rival that of its legendary 2017 class. Woods could reach a whole new level with that kind of talent.
5. Kendal Briles
Briles is one of the hottest names for coaching vacancies in college football this year. He has helped develop KJ Jefferson into one of the better quarterbacks in FBS and is credited as being a large reason why the program has improved every year he has been there with Sam Pitman.
So far this season, his team has put up 2,258 passing yards and 2,110 rushing yards. That's about as many yards shy of Alabama's passing mark as it is ahead of their rushing total. Briles has been doing this in the same conference as Alabama and with inferior talent compared to the Crimson Tide. He, too, has also had his starting quarterback miss time.
Despite carrying a hefty monetary price tag due to his extension prior to the start of this season, and the fact that Briles will be widely desired on the coaching market, bringing him to Tuscaloosa should be a priority for a Tide team desperate for a fresh new look on offense.