Under the Radar

Sound Off: Could Coach Saban Win the War in Afghanistan?

Alabama coach Nick Saban argues a call during the first half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Georgia in Atlanta on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)

As the new movie "12 Strong" reminds us, American forces have been fighting in Afghanistan since October 2001. We're coming up on 16 years and 3 months, which makes this war longer than the combined U.S. participation in the Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam War. Could it be time for a change of strategy?

Last night in Atlanta, Alabama coach Nick Saban laid a strong claim to being the greatest college football coach of all time when his team defeated Georgia 26-23 in OT. It was his fifth national championship in nine years at Alabama and his sixth overall, which ties him with Coach Bear Bryant for the most championships in history.

How does Saban do it? He gets young men to buy into "The Process," a program that emphasizes relentless preparation and attention to detail. The winning is supposed to be the natural result of following The Process, but somehow he's convinced everyone that the practice of his philosophy is the point.

Saban has also demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to adverse conditions on the field of battle play. Last night in the first half, Georgia shut down Alabama QB Jalen Hurts, the experienced quarterback who led the team to the National Championship game two seasons in a row. Georgia led 13-0 heading into the 3rd quarter.

Saban benched Hurts in favor of true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who had been impressive in mop-up duty during the season but had never been tested in any meaningful way. Tua sparked a second-half comeback that ended with a brilliant 41-yd TD pass in overtime.

That's against every single principle of college coaching. Teams are supposed to doggedly stick to their strategies and maintain order in the ranks by enforcing a strict hierarchy in support of players who "win" their starting positions in practice. 

Coach Saban said to hell with that and did what he needed to do to win the damn game.

Could the Pentagon use a change of strategy in Afghanistan? Could a guy who's proven his ability to get young men to buy into a difficult (and sometimes counterintuitive) program motivate the troops in a new way? Do we need a guy who can change strategy when evidence shows the plan isn't working? In short, could Coach Saban (or at least someone more like him) help us win the war in Afghanistan?

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