Alabama QB Bryce Young's comments on officiating were perfect ... but not exactly true
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young stepped to the podium this week and said exactly what must have made his coach proud. The only problem is that wasn’t completely true.
To paraphrase, Young said that Alabama couldn’t control the officiating that was supposedly slanted toward Alabama. The issue arose after comments to that effect were made by Auburn quarterback Bo Nix during an appearance on The Next Round podcast. We’ll get to the questionable comments by Nix in a moment. Let’s start with Young.
Young and his Alabama teammates sometimes do get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to officiating. Why? It’s simple. If there is any doubt in an official’s mind in the milliseconds before he makes a key call, he should side with Bama. He’ll more likely be correct. The Crimson Tide have a history of playing at a high level with great technique. That means that Bama is playing within the rules most of the time.
I recall when Alabama found a bit of a loophole in the pass interference rules years ago. Bama’s defensive backs were a bit handsy with receivers. However, the contact always took place below the shoulder pads as Alabama defensive players knew that guiding a receiver with pressure on his hip was rarely called. Where do you think Alabama’s players learned that technique? Well, for those who aren’t aware, head coach Nick Saban was a pretty good defensive backs coach before he ascended to becoming the most successful head coach in college football history.
Alabama has another advantage when it comes to officiating. Saban won’t allow his players to treat officials poorly. That’s Saban’s job. Saban can influence the officials with a rant or a simple conversation during the game. Whether officials realize it, Saban is constantly trying to mold future calls the moment he steps on the field. Moreover, Alabama has been so consistently good for so long, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Is that fair? Life isn’t fair.
The way Young handled the officiating question was perfect. The same can’t be said for Nix, who made a non-story a story as part of his weekly appearance on The Next Round. Nix isn’t even playing but was speaking to the media as part of an NIL agreement in which he was sponsored by a local business. Nix was obligated to make the appearance even though he’s out of this week’s game with a knee injury. Nix’s comments were about as errant as one of his trademark passes.
As a member of the media, I’m all for Nix making comments outside of a sterile press conference type of environment. I think the content was great. I doubt Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin feels the same way. The hosts of The Next Round weren’t trying to bait Nix into saying something that could be turned into bulletin board material, but it has become just that. Saban uses every advantage he can to motivate his players. Playing in the Iron Bowl should be motivation enough. However, if Alabama was lacking in that department, Nix provided some fire. You can almost hear it now, “Auburn thinks we need the officials help. Do we?” That’s fire for a week of practice leading up to a game that Alabama should easily win with our without Nix’s comments.
Nix, with no intention of doing so, may have made life on his teammates much harder when Auburn hosts Alabama at 2:30 CST on Saturday. Alabama didn’t need any more fire to add to a rivalry game, but they have it. Nix should have known better than to question SEC officiating, especially considering he’s benefitted from questionable calls and he’d like to have them on his side later in his career. The comments also came across as a bit whiny even though they were in a joking manner. Officials don’t like criticism, especially when it comes from someone who is one-third of their age.
I’m frankly a bit torn. I loved the comments. I loved the rancor that ensued. However, if I’m one of Nix’s teammates, I’m probably not too crazy about Nix giving Alabama some more motivation. Neither team has ever snuck into the Iron Bowl under the radar, but Auburn was trying its best thanks to their recent struggles. I’m sure there are some players that like the fact that Nix called out the officials. Like Nix, they don’t get it.
Head coaches like Saban can mold the officials with well-thought-out, subtle comments. Nix was just shooting from the hip. College players can’t mold officials’ perspective. With public comments, they’re more likely to suffer a backlash. Nix doesn’t have to worry about that this week. His teammates do. As for Young and his Alabama teammates, there’s no concern about biased officials since Young said all the right things — even though it wasn’t completely true.