If Tommy Rees were still at his old job, perhaps he’d feel more comfortable.
Working at your alma mater generally buys you credit and patience with the fanbase. Rees was praised last year for navigating through Notre Dame’s quarterback issues. His work was impressive enough to land him an upgrade to the most prestigious staff position in college football. Working for Nick Saban as the Alabama offensive coordinator automatically puts you in the spotlight.
For better and sometimes for worse.
No offensive coordinator is under the gun more this season than Rees. After just three games, the numbers are alarming. The Crimson Tide have gone back-to-back games without scoring a first-half touchdown. Three quarterbacks have combined for five TD passes. Alabama is second-to-last in the SEC in total offense per game (367.67) and passing offense (196).
When Saban was asked about Rees on Wednesday, according to Mike Rodak of Bama247, he said: “It’s everybody’s responsibility to try to get it right and find a better way. We’re all working together offensively … I think we’re making progress. I think the most important thing is we trust and believe in our players.”
Paul Finebaum, however, has already called Rees’ stint a “disaster.”
Finebaum said on SportsCenter last Sunday: “For the life of me, I don’t understand what Tommy Rees, the offensive coordinator is doing. Quite frankly, I don’t know what Tommy Rees is even doing there after three weeks. There were jokes on my Twitter line about whether he’d make the plane coming home. I’m not really sure he should. So far, Tommy Rees has been a disaster as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator.”
Welcome to the SEC. When the conference’s longtime pundit weighs in with a scalding hot take like that, you’re in trouble.
Finebaum isn’t the only one sounding alarm bells. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde called last weekend’s 17-3 victory at South Florida “the worst win of Saban’s unparalleled tenure at the school.” He added that Alabama’s listless performance “puts first-year offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’s tenure on the clock as well.”
Alabama has flip-flopped on quarterbacks Tyler Buchner, Ty Simpson, and Jalen Milroe. All three have seen action. None have distinguished themselves. Last weekend, the Crimson Tide quarterbacks went a combined 10-of-23 for 107 yards. Yikes. Saban announced that he’s returning to Milroe, who had started the first two games but didn’t play at South Florida.
No. 12 Alabama (2-1) opens SEC play this weekend at home against No. 16 Ole Miss (3-0). Rees had better find a way to fix the offense because Rebels coach (and former Saban offensive coordinator) Lane Kiffin is bringing in the fourth-highest scoring team in the nation (52.7). If the Crimson Tide continues to wheeze, things could get ugly in Tuscaloosa fast.
To be fair, Rees walked into a tough spot. He replaced Bill O’Brien who returned to the NFL as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator. Rees also took over a team that lost the No. 1 overall draft pick and 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. This was always going to be a challenging first year. But since Saban handpicked the 31-year-old Rees, there were also high hopes. ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky praised the move on Twitter: “He’s gonna absolute slaughter it at Bama.”
Now, Rees could be in a battle for his job. Forde wrote that it’s “unlikely” that Saban would make an in-season change but also pointed out that Alabama has veteran playcallers Derek Dooley, Ken Whisenhunt, and John McNulty on the staff. Rees, a former Notre Dame quarterback, understands pressure. But there’s nothing quite like the cauldron of the SEC.
Rees might be staring at fourth-and-long soon, and he’s running out of options.