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CBS’ Danielson Backs Saban’s Comments About Hurry-Up Offenses “100%”

Last week, Nick Saban caused an uproar among coaches who run up-tempo, no-huddle schemes.  Alabama’s coach — fresh off a game with Hugh Freeze’s fast-paced Ole Miss offense — suggested that defensive players are put at such a disadvantage by those no-huddle systems that it could be dangerous and lead to more injuries.

Naturally, coaches using that offensive style responded negatively to Saban’s claim.  And many non-Bama fans said Saban was just whining because his team had won by only 19 points (which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to this writer).

I thought it sounded, however, like a defense-first coach who hates to see defense go the way of the dodo bird in college football.  That’s not crying.  That’s just a guy taking up for his own style of football in the same way that the speed-it-up coaches have said in the week since that there’s nothing wrong with their system.

Well, Saban’s finally found a backer in CBS color analyst Gary Danielson.

Yesterday on Paul Finebaum’s radio show, Danielson made it clear “finesse football” is not his “cup of tea.”


“I think it was kind of funny the way it was presented that Nick was crying.  I think when Penn State plays Northwestern, and both team run 98 offensive plays, and an NFL game has 65 to 70, the college powers-that-be need to look at their product…

There are so many times now that when I’m doing the game — I’m trained to do it, I watch tape on it — and I don’t even know who’s out there.  I know the people that are watching on TV might be able to recognize after the tackle, but most of the time people are going, ‘Where’d that guy come?  Why didn’t anybody cover that guy going out for a pass?’

What it is, people are playing trick ‘em football.

When yo have time to prepare for four or five weeks, or two weeks for a game and you can sort it all out, you can do it.  When you’re in the middle of a three-day preparation, and they’re trying to trick you, they have an advantage.

I don’t like the product personally and I think the officials should allow the defense more time to substitute.”


Interestingly, one of Saban’s NFL mentors is taking an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em stance.”  This past weekend, Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots used a hurry-up offense and ran 89 plays in a win over the Denver Broncos.  The Patriots rolled up a franchise-record 35 first downs.  CBS color analyst Phil Simms said NFL fans had just witnessed a vision of what pro football is going to become.

Well you know who was in Foxboro recently to hang out with Belichick and crew?  Oregon’s Chip Kelly… who’s one of those go-fast gurus at the college level.

Personally — and I said, “personally” — I’m not a fan of go-go football.  To me, it’s not traditional football.  It’s video game football.

But, it also happens to be a natural evolution of the game.  At one time the Notre Dame box and single-wing offenses were all about deception and sleight of hand tricks with the football.  Then came wishbone attacks.  Then run-and-shoot style offenses.  Now the many variations of the spread — some with option, some based on speed, some focused on passing — are all the rage.

Eventually, something will change and a new fad will take the current fad’s place.  Danielson said that he’s asked defensive-minded coaches like Saban and Florida’s Will Muschamp why they don’t push for rule changes, but the coaches told him their pleas have — to date — fallen on deaf ears.

The trouble with legislating up-tempo attacks out of the game is that it would likely a) stretch television windows by slowing down games (which the networks wouldn’t want) and b) open up officials for more scrutiny and more claims of bias, cheating, etc.  If, for example, an official stands over the ball long enough to allow a defense more time to substitute, fans/media will be watching on a play-by-play basis for any sign of an official waiting a second longer or a second less than usual.

And the last thing football needs is more people claiming via Twitter, messageboards and YouTube that Team X is being aided by the officials from Conference Y.  There’s enough of that as it is.

You can expect Saban’s comments to create more discussion on this topic in the offseason to come, but we at would be surprised if the NCAA — at least for now — had the chutzpah to push “slow-down” rules into its most popular sport.



I never came away with the opinion that Sabam doesn't like up-tempo because he thinks it will hurt his team's bruising defense, but like I said before and Mr. SEC kind of hit the point too: what do you do to prevent it?  There's already two clocks to worry about, so do you add a third one and say perhaps 20 sec has to pass after the play is dead and before the 35 sec snap clock starts so defenses can "recover"?  If that's the case do you have to stop the regular clock between every play? 

Again, this leads to back to Mr. SEC's point that this would just make games even longer, and for that matter it would make all teams the same and the game very boring with no evolution.  The only rule I can think of that would be logical enough is that the defense can sub and the offense can't snap until they're ready anytime, not just when the offense subs.

I personally see nothing unsafe about uptempo offenses other than it seems to be a cause for more cramps among the defense.  The solution?  Better conditioning and more hydration.


Tempo has always been a part of the game and used for one teams advantage over another. Saban is right that defenses can be put on the spot since they may have less time to rest, but for others to discount the use of tempo as being tricky is to show no understanding of the history of the game.  


I have to admire the coaches who came up with the hurry-up offense. These coaches knew their offenses didn't have the ability to play traditional offensive line blocking, run football. So, they developed an offense that negated big defensive lines and maximized their own strenghts. These coaches did it all perfectly in accordance with the rules. They used their talent to the max and negated the opposition talent. That is just good coaching. Not so good coaching is to try to outlaw via some sort of change in rules what you do not like to compete against.


There is an easy fix Saban, use your genious to create a hurry up defense.


 @alamoaggie08 The truth is, Saban had 20+ lineman to most teams 12... so subbing helps him more than others. He can keep his all americans healthy and rested for the important downs, plus play different strengths given the play situation. Up Tempo takes that away from him.. so it is whining a bit.  I remember back in the 1990s.. Clemson would play William Perry every other down.. he was unstoppable as long as he was ready to go.. but he didn't have the ability to play every down because of his size and weight... He would be diminished in an up tempo game. 


As for the idea of a rule.. it would weaken the game.. Last thing football needs to be like is baseball.. 


John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Just to be clear, you're saying Gary Danielson shows "no understanding of the history of the game?"


Big statement.


Thanks for reading the site,



 @MoKelly1 Nah, Saban wants a rule change. Easier to do that than figure out how to build a defense that can cope with those offenses. Pretty soon we'll see proposals to go back to leather helmets.......


 @BonzaiB  I think something like that could be done actually.  The up-tempo neutralizes the big hogs up front so if the big hogs up front are no longer usable then do away with them.  Stacking your defensive line with Ends rather than Tackles could level the playing field a bit.  And since most up-tempo attacks rely on a strong passing game, you have to dedicate yourself to punishing the QB.  Slow the QB down and you slow the attack down.  Harsh, but it's a physical game.  If the Offense doesn't have any real tangible benefit in playing up-tempo then they will be forced to come up with another strategy. 


His comments demonstrate this.  For example, Bobby Bowden was one of the first coaches to institute smaller, faster players and a passing attack instead of the slow, big, running approach of 5 yards of dust.  It didn't diminish what Bryant did at Bama, but it lead to an evolution in the game.  To say that new approaches are tricky would be to say the offenses of today (ones even Saban runs) are tricky too.. if based on the 1960s and 70s.  So, yes.. His comments show no understanding of the history of the game.   Do I think he understanding the history.. maybe.. he should given his career... maybe he just forgot what it was like when he played back in the 70s.... 


I would also add.. Offenses like the one run at schools like Clemson who average 90 plays a game.. are hard to cover for tv men who are use to filling the pauses between plays. In some ways, maybe Danielson was whining a bit about how hard it is for him. "I don't know who is out there..."  I stand by my comment though.  Would love to hear Gary respond. 

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