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Does fifth NCAA title push Saban back to the NFL?


In September, Alabama coach Nick Saban dropped a pretty strong hint about the prerequisites for a return to the NFL when he said that, if the Dolphins had signed quarterback Drew Brees in 2006, Saban would still be coaching there. While unlikely that Saban would be in Miami 10 years later, Brees and the coach who signed him, Sean Payton, have spent the last decade together.

That’s because success in the NFL is premised on having a quarterback who can play, and Saban learned that during his failed two years with the Dolphins. That’s the word — failed — that surely haunts Saban now.

He has succeeded unlike any college coach since Bear Bryant, but Bryant won six national titles in an era where the game wasn’t nearly as competitive as it is now because the recruiting process wasn’t nearly as intense and the universe of true contenders wasn’t nearly as vast. So does Saban stick around in the hopes of meeting or beating Bryant, or does Saban try to fix the one glaring flaw from his coaching career?

“Saban often tells the story about washing cars at the [service] station [owned by his father],” Monte Burke writes at page 15 of his excellent 2015 Saban biography, “that if he left so much as a tiny spot on a car, his father would make him rewash it entirely.”

Burke, on the next page, shares the tale of a drain near the station that Saban’s father wanted Nick and two other boys to clean out. The boys quickly removed the debris, but Nick stayed down in the hole, making sure every last bit of stuff was gone. “We’re going to do it right,” Saban told the others. “I don’t want to listen to it later on.”

Not matter how much satisfaction Saban takes in continuously climbing the same mountain at the college level, Saban knows there’s a large spot on the hood of his coaching record that only becomes more glaring as he continues the lather/rinse/repeat process of winning a national championship, taking a day off, getting his returning players situated in classes again, and resuming the process of recruiting the next wave of players who will help him climb the mountain again, for as long as many times as the 64-year-old coach can pull it off.

So will he at some point yield to that desire to rewash the car at the NFL level? It hinges on having a great quarterback, or a good plan to get one. And with a job currently open in Tampa featuring Jameis Winston, a young, potential franchise quarterback whom Saban failed to keep in Alabama, the question becomes whether, at some point in the next day or so, Saban shows interest in coaching the Buccaneers — and whether the Buccaneers would pull the plug on the apparent ascension of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to instead catch the large fish who may be willing to jump into their boat.

No one but Saban knows what he truly wants to do, and Saban routinely agonizes over whether to stay or go. His mind can change, quickly.

Burke’s biography opens with an account of how Saban went from not being the Alabama coach nine years ago to taking the job. His wife, Terry, had a huge role in the return to college life, working directly with the late Mal Moore, the athletic director from Tuscaloosa who lured Saban after Rich Rodriguez turned down the job.

“She made it clear to Moore that Saban was miserable in the NFL and dearly missed coaching in college,” Burke writes at page 6 of the biography. “She also made it clear that she wanted out. In the NFL, the coach’s wife had no real role in the community. On a college campus — particularly at a place like Alabama — the coach’s wife was a figure of prominence, a queen bee. Terry also believed that a college town was a much healthier place to raise their two children.”

Nine years ago, Terry got what she wanted. What she currently wants, for herself, for Saban, and the family, will be a factor in whether and for how long he stays at Alabama.

Still, the spot on the hood of the car remains. And as Saban instantly goes from a precipice with which he has become all too familiar back to the valley of 0-0, the question remains: Will he start climbing again, or will he rewash the car?

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53 Responses to “Does fifth NCAA title push Saban back to the NFL?”
  1. romophobic says: Jan 12, 2016 7:57 AM

    Nothing but third hand speculation. There isn’t an ounce of credible evidence that indicates that Saban ever wants to return to the NFL and the fact that he basically runs college football, and may go down as one of the greatest coaches ever there, makes it a near certainty that he’ll remain there. It’s fun to speculate but at the end of the day, that’s all this is.

  2. mdcatlos says: Jan 12, 2016 8:00 AM


  3. dolfan72 says: Jan 12, 2016 8:04 AM

    Nick SATAN is a LYING SACK OF MANURE! He left LSU because he originally wanted the Gators job, but LSU would not let him leave Batan Rouge for another SEC school. He took the first offer out of the SEC he could, which was the Dolphins, figuring Meyer would flop in Gainesville, and he could bolt.

    When Meyer started winning at UF, Saban took the next best offer, which was Alabama. Alabama alumni even admitted as much!

    SATAN pulled a Brett Favre before Favre did! If you believe he’s going back the NFL, I’ll sell you Disney World really cheap!

  4. jjb0811 says: Jan 12, 2016 8:06 AM

    Saban should stay at Alabama. His car is washed, waxed, and driven for him there. Legendary status now & soon to be a hall of fame member.

  5. jwaxhaw says: Jan 12, 2016 8:14 AM

    Why in the world would he leave Alabama? He get multiple number one picks every year and had recruits knocking down the door.

  6. 6ball says: Jan 12, 2016 8:17 AM

    Whatever is going on Tampa is bizarro even by their standards

    1. They fire Lovie, ostensibly because Miami wanted to interview OC Dirk Koetter.

    2. The Bucs don’t hire Koetter. They interview Cards DC Goodwin to comply with the Rooney rule. Gase gets the Miami job. Koetter interviews with the 49ers and suddenly, in Tampa, “nobody knows nothing “.

    I think something is amiss in Florida.

  7. footballfanatic says: Jan 12, 2016 8:19 AM

    No, when you play well in college you benefit from getting the best recruits. Its the opposite in the NFL, the better u are, the lower talent players you get. College is VERY different.

  8. armchairqb says: Jan 12, 2016 8:19 AM

    Why would he leave when every five-star high school recruit is knocking at his door each spring, he’s going to win more titles.

    Besides, he’d probably have to take a pay cut to go to the NFL.

  9. mancave001 says: Jan 12, 2016 8:26 AM

    dolfan72 says:
    Jan 12, 2016 8:04 AM
    Nick SATAN is a LYING SACK OF MANURE! He left LSU because he originally wanted the Gators job, but LSU would not let him leave Batan Rouge for another SEC school. He took the first offer out of the SEC he could, which was the Dolphins, figuring Meyer would flop in Gainesville, and he could bolt.

    When Meyer started winning at UF, Saban took the next best offer, which was Alabama. Alabama alumni even admitted as much!

    SATAN pulled a Brett Favre before Favre did! If you believe he’s going back the NFL, I’ll sell you Disney World really cheap!

    Wow, someone really is unhinged there. Satan? LOL. By the way, the alumni can’t “admit” to things they don’t know. You have no idea what his true intent was. Just stop, hater.

  10. igotgamenj says: Jan 12, 2016 8:32 AM

    Still cannot believe Nick Sabin and the Miami Dolphins picked Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees.

  11. cometkazie says: Jan 12, 2016 8:34 AM

    In the NFL you coach a bunch of prima donnas.

    In college you teach a bunch of young people and are totally in charge.

    Where would you rather be?

  12. lukedunphysscienceproject says: Jan 12, 2016 8:46 AM

    What you took as a “strong hint” just about everyone else took as the answer to a question he had been asked by a reporter.

    Here is my prediction for when Saban will return to the NFL: when they drop the salary cap, double roster sizes, get rid of the draft and allow teams to recruit whatever players they want to, pay coaches more than even the best of the best players, and allow coaches to get out of their contracts and move wherever they want for a buyout which their new team can pay…….I think you get the picture.

  13. Rdog says: Jan 12, 2016 8:47 AM

    I hate Alabama, but I still would kinda like to see Nick Saban coaching the Titans. And this isn’t bias – I think Nick Saban would probably prefer Marcus Mariota over Jameis Winston.

  14. mack2x says: Jan 12, 2016 8:48 AM

    Stay where you belong; Why would anyone trust you anyway. First time things don’t go your way, you’ll bail.

  15. psousa1 says: Jan 12, 2016 8:57 AM

    Screw the nfl. It is not the be all end all.

    There are many college jobs more attractive than an nfl job and Alabama is one of them.

    If coaching in the NFL is the Holy Grail then David Shaw of Stanford would have been there awhile ago.

    He knows better.

  16. angrylionsfan says: Jan 12, 2016 8:58 AM

    Oh please, would you really jump ship for Tampa Bay?

    Maybe, MAYBE, the Giants job with a much more storied franchise would make some sense. Why would you go from a perennial contender for the National Championship in college football (where they boosters even paid for his house!) to a bottom feeder in the NFL?

  17. wolfnet14 says: Jan 12, 2016 8:59 AM

    Saban isn’t going to the nfl.hes done with it.he’s had a taste of the pressure those nfl coaches goes thourgh.much easy to handle college ranks.

  18. angrylionsfan says: Jan 12, 2016 8:59 AM

    I should also say that while Winston is good, he’s still a huge risk for off field behavior that has shown a major lack of maturity in college. That could totally negate the reason for going there if he does something stupid down the road.

  19. a1b24312 says: Jan 12, 2016 9:05 AM

    In a word, no.

  20. cafetero1075 says: Jan 12, 2016 9:06 AM

    I doubt he will go back. But if I was him, why not, Wouldn’t you want to prove to yourself and everyone you can hang with the big time. If I was him I would take a job with a franchise QB like Indianapolis.

  21. usedjock says: Jan 12, 2016 9:08 AM

    I am no fan of Bama or Saban’s but why in the world world would he consider the NFL?
    You basically own college football so why would you give that up to go to a league where you can’t out recruit your competition?

    Some coaches are just made for college and some are just made for the NFL. Saban is made for college.

  22. texansfan82 says: Jan 12, 2016 9:11 AM

    There’s no question that he will go down as one of the greatest college coaches of all-time. His ability to consistently put together championship-caliber teams is a testament to his ability to continuously recruit and develop the best players in the nation. I’m not sure why he would ever leave that situation, other than as you said, the pride factor related to not being successful in the NFL. But the fact of the matter is that it’s incredibly difficult to have success in both college and the NFL. The guys who are most successful in college are the ones who can assemble and develop the best talent. In the NFL you have no personnel control, so ultimately have to make do with what you have.

    If I were him, I’d accept being the greatest college coach and work on passing Bear Bryant for all-time championships. That would be enough for me.

  23. kev86 says: Jan 12, 2016 9:12 AM


    His wife can do lots of philanthropy work in NYC.

  24. mrmojo448 says: Jan 12, 2016 9:15 AM

    Saban should take the Giants job. They are only a Defensive ‘Mastermind’ away from being relevant again. Saban should take that job, keep their OC and make the magic happen.

  25. liverpoolred04 says: Jan 12, 2016 9:25 AM

    Are you kidding? He’ll never leave Bama, doesn’t have to worry about a salary cap, unlimited supply of cars from the Mercedes plant down the road, Red Elephant Club paying off recruit’s parent’s mortgages. Why would he leave that goldmine?

  26. charger383 says: Jan 12, 2016 9:28 AM

    I don’t think so

  27. charliecharger says: Jan 12, 2016 9:28 AM

    Alabama’s second stringers would be a top 25 team. That’s how many blue chip players they recruit. Now that they’ve won another title, their recruiting will even get better. What does recruiting high school kids have to do with winning in the NFL? Absolutely nothing. Saban has already tried that. Saban is a great coach and a great motivator. He’s awesome. I love him. If he took over a talented NFL roster, he’d win. Usually those teams aren’t looking for a new coach. Just like Barry Switzer did in Dallas. Did Switzer out-coach the rest of the NFL, or did he have a super bowl roster already? In the NFL, you rely on good scouting, and the more you win, the worse your draft position gets. In college, the more you win, the better for your recruiting. Saban should stay at Alabama and finish what he’s started. There will never be another Bear Bryant. There might not ever be another Nick Saban. They can both be great.

  28. baldbuc says: Jan 12, 2016 9:32 AM

    The man is 64 years old. How much longer does he want to coach anyway? If I am starting all over I think I would want a younger coach. Well wait, he would be fired after 2 years down here anyway so it doesn’t matter. Never mind.

  29. theghostofottograham says: Jan 12, 2016 9:35 AM

    He will stay at Bama for the rest of his career. He has a good chance to be the best college coach ever if he stays. If he jumps to the NFL, he only has a chance to be a decent NFL coach. His ego will guide him to stay…

  30. 8oneanddones says: Jan 12, 2016 9:36 AM

    It used to make sense for an elite college coach to cash in with an NFL job for a few years because the money was better. Nowadays, the money is about the same.

  31. leroyquimby says: Jan 12, 2016 9:37 AM

    Do we have to ask this every January?

  32. stinkymcmulligan says: Jan 12, 2016 9:39 AM

    Definition of overrated = Nick Saban

  33. eprice3703 says: Jan 12, 2016 9:44 AM

    You know there are some deals with the devil everyone makes from time to time, especially to obtain the level of success Alabama has. So the only reason I would see Saban leaving for the NFL is if the NCAA came a knocking. And that would only happen if a supporter turned them in like what happened in Miami. That being said that’s a lot of if’s so I’m guessing he stays a while longer and retires.

  34. junkmtb says: Jan 12, 2016 9:46 AM

    Saban has nothing else to prove…why bolt for the NFL??? Ride it out in Bama…….. Charliecharger nailed it above!

  35. securb2013 says: Jan 12, 2016 9:52 AM

    Saban is good at coaching boys, not men.

  36. itsfootballbaby says: Jan 12, 2016 10:17 AM

    NFL coaches have shorter lifespans than Alaskan crab fishermen. I don’t think Nick is going anywhere.

  37. olefballcoach says: Jan 12, 2016 10:17 AM

    NO!! He cant win in the NFL.. he can stay in Bama where he can get the best talent and say he is a good coach.. The NFL is for men!! Not Saban!!

  38. jbutina says: Jan 12, 2016 10:17 AM

    he is a HUGE POS for the way he treated Miami . . . i don’t care how good he is i would not want him coaching my team!! . . . actually, IMO, he doesn’t deserve to be coaching at any level!!!

  39. mrtzl20 says: Jan 12, 2016 10:19 AM

    Saban gets a back-to-back title in ’16 at Bama, matches Bryant, looks to NFL this time next year. Meanwhile, Jacksonville goes 5-11 again, Khan lets the Gus Bus go, and Saban reenters the NFL with a franchise QB in place with Bortles. Then Jax wins 5 Super Bowls in a row 😀

  40. 700levelvet says: Jan 12, 2016 10:24 AM

    Every year we read this… Give it up

  41. hyzers says: Jan 12, 2016 10:32 AM

    Alabama has around 20 5-star players on their team. No other team in college football even has 10. I think there are a handful of coaches who could match what Saban has done with with the same players.

  42. dynastyposeiden says: Jan 12, 2016 10:38 AM

    why would any sane person attempt to trade in what he has at bama for an NFL full of star players w/ star attitudes . If a 5 star rb gets a bit full of himself he can just sub in a new 5 star rb. If pro bowl player like beckham or norman or burfict go bat crap crazy what can you do ? Get held responsible for a lack of maturity from a 25 or 26 year old alleged adult . Now perhaps he is not sane and has a crazy need to scratch the NFL itch but proving he is a great coach is not a reason to go to the NFL where you have to stroke egos and babysit millionaires in hopes they don’t stop listening and get you fired.

  43. toonsterwu says: Jan 12, 2016 11:00 AM

    I don’t doubt Saban probably, personally, might want to go back to the pros, but everyone gets to an age eventually where not only do their own personal dreams sometimes takes a back seat, but the comfort of their current position is just too nice (part of the reason why I don’t see Calipari leaving for the NBA).

    It’s hard to see Saban leaving Alabama anytime soon – he could fail badly for 2-3 years (and he wouldn’t fail that badly) and likely still have the job, banked upon his great run there so far. It’d really have to be the perfect situation, a situation where the type of personnel he needs to succeed, offensively and defensively, is close. Is Tampa that spot? There’d be a lot of defensive retooling needed to get Tampa’s defense into the type of personnel that Saban would likely want. Also, Saban would likely want total power, and it seems like Licht is in place there.
    Off the top, the only spot he could get total power this winter is what, the Titans? Doesn’t feel like they are going that route. Every other team lacks that franchise QB, making it unlikely he’d go into that lion’s den.

    This might be a different story a year from now. There’s an outside shot John Harbaugh could be let go if they struggle again, and there’d be a nice QB for him to work. If the Falcons fall flat again, that front office and Quinn could be let go, and that might make sense for Saban as well. If the Rams can get a franchise QB in place this winter, if they move Fisher after next year, that could be another place. Chargers could be a consideration as well, as McCoy held on barely this year. There seems to be a few more teams that make more sense for him next year, at this early stage.

    All in all, I think he probably stays in college, passes Bryant, gets the mantle of greatest college coach ever.

  44. breesynbigeasy says: Jan 12, 2016 11:09 AM

    Saban is the best college coach of all time. Period. Anybody that thinks otherwise also prob thinks Jack would beat Tiger in their primes. No chance.

    With that said, Sabans style of coaching doesn’t translate to the NFL. Carroll made the jump easy because he’s a players coach. Clowning around, music at practice, etc.

    Saban is a disciplinarian and chews players out. That wouldn’t sit well with grown men. Ask Petrino and Chip Kelly.

  45. icebergsimpson says: Jan 12, 2016 11:22 AM

    Rdog says:

    Jan 12, 2016 8:47 AM

    I hate Alabama, but I still would kinda like to see Nick Saban coaching the Titans. And this isn’t bias – I think Nick Saban would probably prefer Marcus Mariota over Jameis Winston.


    Ah, Yes! Saban would love to coach a QB that is injured for 1/4 of the season instead of a fiery leader that refuses to lose. Off the field problems you say? The only off the field problem he has is reading from a card while he sang christmas carols to dying children at a local hospital.

  46. august589 says: Jan 12, 2016 11:35 AM

    Happy wife, happy life. Therefore, Nick Saban stays at Alabama until he retires from coaching.

  47. ghostofgilchrist says: Jan 12, 2016 11:45 AM

    “…getting his returning players situated in classes again…” guys kill me…

  48. toonsterwu says: Jan 12, 2016 12:10 PM

    I don’t think Saban being a disciplinarian necessarily means that he can’t succeed at the NFL level. I mean … Belichick is a disciplinarian, and he’s done fine. Coughlin was that way, and he did fine (and eventually lightened up). Different sport, but by most accounts, Popovich is a stern disciplinarian as well.

    At the end of the day, as with any pro game, it’s really, simply, all about having talent at the key positions. In the NFL, that means having, if not an elite QB, at least a very good one. Having learned that lesson with the Dolphins, I doubt he’d want egg on his face again, so if he left, it’s likely it’d be for a really, ideal situation, some place where he can step right in. I just don’t see the fit this off-season.

  49. dynastyposeiden says: Jan 12, 2016 1:46 PM

    hyzers says:
    Jan 12, 2016 10:32 AM
    Alabama has around 20 5-star players on their team. No other team in college football even has 10. I think there are a handful of coaches who could match what Saban has done with with the same players.

    LOL EVERY place has rocks but only china has a great wall …. give that a rest someone has to convince them to sign on the dotted line that is part of coaching at the NCAA level and he is good at that part as well as the having the stones to do the onside kick lastnight part.

  50. profbob2 says: Jan 12, 2016 3:15 PM

    College is more fun–and a more interesting game. You don’t have to cut your best friend like in the pros. Both John McKay and Don Coryell told me they wished they had stayed in college coaching.

  51. zampft says: Jan 12, 2016 3:37 PM

    Aw man if he comes to Tampa, we’ll never get rid of Rapie.

  52. fanofpft says: Jan 12, 2016 6:15 PM

    Wouldn’t he want to set the all time record first?

  53. tyelee says: Jan 12, 2016 6:21 PM

    Winston isn’t a selling point as some like to allude to…

    Whoever is hired as HC has to take a chance on sticking with him rather than able to pick their own QB… Now if Winston play starts to go south like vince Young, RG3, Freeman, matt lienart or whoever else once showed something and then went bad, winston could get that HC fired or cause troubles for that HC like the RG3 – Gruden drama… Fortunately he has Kirk Cousins….

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