Usually, the chatter about Nick Saban being unhappy happens at the point on the calendar approaching the opening of the window for getting more money from his current employer. The near-annual accounts of Saban’s misery have arisen sooner than usual.
Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead shares an account that Saban may be on the way out of Alabama, due to apparent misery and frustration. (Then again, Saban isn’t happy unless he’s miserable and frustrated.)
If Saban is somehow trying to position himself for his inevitable next job, it’s not a surprise. The excellent biography of Saban from Monte Burke paints the picture of a tortured perfectionist who still strives for the approval of a long-deceased father, who apparently was even more tortured and even more of a perfectionist. Saban has achieved ridiculous success at the college level, winning national championships at LSU and Alabama and almost making Crimson Tide fans drop their collection of houndstooth hats into the “yard sale” box.
Faced with the choice of trying to climb once again the same mountain he has mastered on many occasions or taking care of unfinished business — like the spots Saban used to obsessively remove while washing cars at his father’s filling station — Saban could choose a return to the NFL.
Sure, Saban was miserable in Miami, leaving after only two seasons. But he was miserable because the salary cap and the draft kept him from stacking the deck the way that his recruiting skills allow him collect as many first-round picks as he can convince to come to Tuscaloosa. What if he were hired by a team that already had a stacked deck at the most important position in the game?
Bob Kravitz of WTHR recently wrote that the pressure is indeed on Colts coach Chuck Pagano in 2015. Adding to the pressure has to be the reality that the presence of quarterback Andrew Luck would allow owner Jim Irsay to lure any coach he wanted to town. If Irsay wanted Saban, would Saban listen?
Saban would want control over the operation, which means that G.M. Ryan Grigson would have to be fired, or at least neutered. An effort by Irsay to hire Saban in 1998 (the year Peyton Manning was drafted) went nowhere because G.M. Bill Polian wouldn’t have given up his authority.
With Luck running the offense and Saban crafting his NFL-style defense, it could work, and it could work well.
Saban clearly has what it takes to coach at the NFL level. As former LSU quarterback Matt Mauck told Monte Burke for the unauthorized Saban bio, “His meetings were so focused. I had Mike Shanahan and Jeff Fisher in the pros, and their meetings were jokes compared to Saban’s.”
Saban’s recruiting skills also overshadow his eye for talent.
“He’s like someone who can identify a Thoroughbred racing horse at a young age,” former Saban assistant Glen Mason told Burke. “He can just look at a high school player and say, ‘That guy is a winner.'”
At LSU, Saban spotted a high-school player named Jacob Hester, an undersized, two-star prospect. Saban turned Hester into a contributor at the college level, and Hester went on to play six years in the NFL.
For the Colts, the defense continues to be the problem. Who better than Saban, the guy Irsay wanted to hire at the outset of Peyton Manning’s career, to engineer the kind of defense to go along with the kind of quarterback who already can run the offense like a coach on the field?
There’s a long way to go before Saban would ever declare publicly that he’s not going to be the Indianapolis coach. But if Saban ever were going to return to the NFL, it surely would happen only with a team that has a franchise quarterback. And there’s no better team with a franchise quarterback than a team with a franchise quarterback on the front end of the prime of his career.
In the NFL, the team that best fits that description right now is the Colts.