Nick Saban didn’t last long as an NFL head coach, but there are still plenty of NFL coaches who think he has some knowledge they’d like to tap.
Saban, whose Alabama team is the defending NCAA champion, said on ESPN that NFL teams have been beating a path to his office this offseason because they want to brainstorm about how to stop the read-option offense, which was primarily seen in college football until it took off in the NFL last year.
“Several NFL coaches have come to visit this year to say, ‘How do you stop these guys?’ Because they’re not accustomed to seeing that,” Saban said.
Saban says NFL defenses are built around the idea of rushing the quarterback, but a lot of those pass rushers find that mobile quarterbacks who are good at running the read-option can blow right past them.
“That’s a pass-rush oriented league,” Saban said. “People getting up the field to pass rush is what it’s all about because of the type of quarterbacks — the Tom Bradys of the world, Drew Brees, that’s what you’ve got to stop. You’ve got to put pressure on the quarterback. Well, that’s just what you don’t want to do against [read-option quarterbacks]. You have to play on the line of scrimmage just like old option football.”
According to Saban, it’s particularly difficult for NFL defenses to stop teams like the 49ers, who will run read-option plays out of multiple formations.
“I think the teams that do a really good job like the 49ers, they do it from multiple formation looks, so they make more defensive players have to understand how to do it, and I think that’s the biggest challenge that they have right now,” Saban said.
It may be the biggest challenge for NFL defensive coordinators. And it’s a challenge they’re trying to tackle by going back to college.