After the Alabama Crimson Tide lost the College Football Playoff national championship game, their run of coaching issues began again. That included defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi, who joined the Cleveland Browns’ staff as their defensive line coach. It may have come as a shock to some, but not to others.
There was a HUGE outcry from the Alabama fan base about how Lupoi’s defense performed against Clemson Tigers in the title game. Words like “lost” and “confused” were used to describe Alabama’s defense. This was the first time under Nick Saban that one of his teams lost by more than 14 points since he has been at Alabama.
So you didn’t know if heads would roll, but you knew changes were coming. What people didn’t know however, that before Lupoi got the job, there were questions if he was qualified for the position in the first place.
Lupoi, a West Coast guy who attended the University of California-Berkeley, was one of Alabama football’s best recruiters. Coming into his first season as the Crimson Tide’s primary defensive coordinator, no one knew if he was even ready to be Saban’s top man on defense.
Apparently even before the national championship game, Lupoi was already looking to get out of Tuscaloosa because of an incident that occurred between him and Saban.
As the story goes, Saban was not pleased with Lupoi’s play-calling, so he stripped Lupoi of those duties and gave them to co-defensive coordinator Pete Golding. According to reports, Lupoi struggled throughout the season trying to figure out Saban’s system and coach all three levels — defensive line, linebackers and secondary — of the defense, which explains why he trusted Golding more than Lupoi.
Over the last two games of the 2018 season, it seems like it didn’t matter who was calling the plays because the Tide’s defense struggled. Even in their Orange Bowl victory over the Oklahoma Sooners, the defense allowed the Sooners to mount a comeback in the second half.
Some can blame Lupoi and Golding for the Tide’s struggles, but in truth, you can also blame injuries.
The Tide lost several key players on defense whose experience and play were missed throughout the season. Linebacker Terrell Lewis was lost before the season even started, cornerback Trevon Diggs was lost back in October, and linebacker Christian Miller suffered a hamstring injury during the Oklahoma game. Those losses loomed large, especially against Clemson where the Tide couldn’t produced any pressure upfront.
In reflection, maybe it wasn’t Tosh Lupoi’s fault that the Alabama defense struggled. It might have just been a lot of bad luck.