Conventional wisdom says that great athletes, playing in a great program, and under a great coach should have a leg up in the NFL. When it comes to the Alabama Crimson Tide, there is some evidence to suggest those advantages may not exist.
Linebacker Rolando McClain informed the Baltimore Ravens of his intentions to retire on Wednesday, making him the most glaring instance of former Alabama star who failed to live up to lofty expectations upon reaching the NFL. At 23, McClain has had numerous run ins with the law, including the above photo of him smiling upon arrest in Decatur, AL.
Prior to the legal troubles, the linebacker struggled to perform at a level consistent with his #7 overall selection by the Oakland Raiders. The combination of poor performance and off-the-field woes led to his release, and he was fortunate to get a contract with the Baltimore Ravens, a franchise desperate for help at middle linebacker that could have provided the support the troubled star needed in order to get his life and career back on track.
Another arrest ten days later put that opportunity in doubt, and now he is out of the league altogether.
Due to his lofty draft pick and crash and burn career, McClain has been the most public NFL “bust” with a Tide pedigree. However, early returns on a number of other selections have not been positive. Andre Smith, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Ingram, and others have struggled to produce while only Julio Jones and Mark Barron have been consistent players at the NFL level.
There is no denying the strength of the Alabama program and the coaching ability of Nick Saban. The program has produced stellar prospects, and, when Alabama products were drafted #9, #10, and #11 last month, it only served as a reminder of the sheer dominance of the program.
However, draft analysts must begin to question whether the dominance of the Alabama program on the collegiate level is a positive indicator of success in the professional ranks. While 2013 prospects like Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, and Eddie Lacy could go on to have productive NFL careers, the last few years have proven that their pedigree may not be the career booster that many have assumed.