Could Saban return to the NFL?

AP

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.

96 responses to “Could Saban return to the NFL?

  1. I find it interesting that it’s not winning the national championship that drives Saban it’s the recruiting process he loves. With that and a wife that enjoys being the Queen of the Campus not just another face there is no way in the world he leaves Alabama for the NFL.

  2. One the one hand, the sheer comedy value of having Saban back in the NFL would be unparalleled.

    On the other hand, I like Andrew Luck, and I wouldn’t wish the ‘Saban Curse’ on my worst enemy.

    Decisions, decisions…

  3. He must have left a trail of Schedule II “Reese’s pieces” from Irsay’s door all the way down to Alabama.

  4. When it comes to the NFL Saban has absolutely no credibility.

    Any ‘NFL Coach’ with an NFL Resume that consists of him being a bona fide quitter makes me wonder why on earth would he return to the NFL when he has his college success to fall back on?

    When it comes to the NFL, Saban is a loser…period.

  5. Wait…two straight division titles, three straight playoff appearances, and reaching the AFC Championship Game last year translates to Chuck Pagano on the hot seat? What in Sam Hill is wrong with this picture?

  6. Seriously people, enough with the Saban is unhappy garbage. He has unlimited control and resources at a football power. He hated dealing with the pro primadonnas. If he leaves Alabama, it will be for another college team.

  7. No! An emphatic no because:

    1. He’s a lying SOB
    2. He is better suited for the college athlete that responds positively to despotic management.
    3. He’s a lying SOB
    4. His wife will turn him against anybody trying to support him
    5. He’s a lying SOB
    6. Has proven the pro game is beyond his capabilities
    7. He’s a lying SOB

    By the way, I may have understated his ability to be untruthful.

  8. His greatest skills don’t apply nearly as well to the NFL as they do college. And in the NFL where the field is far more level due to the salary cap and draft there is a huge emphasis on in-game coaching which honestly is one of Saban’s greatest weaknesses. Remember the Iron Bowl a couple years back where having a QB who basically never turned it over he STILL opted to not try and move the ball closer so they could try a 60-yard field goal that Auburn ended up returning for the winning TD?

  9. The Larry Brown of football coaches…a wanderer. That being said and being a diehard Colts fan, I’d take him as a short-term rental for 3-4 years until he gets restless again. Guaranteed, the Colts win at least one SB w/ him.

  10. Never underestimate the old ego.

    If it’s true (and it probably is) that he would only go somewhere with a franchise QB, then the Colts are probably the only option for him. Depending on your criteria, the Colts are the only team with a franchise QB under 30.

    It would be interesting to see if he would consider the Giants if Coughlin retired, I tend to doubt it.

    I doubt it ever happens, but it’s good to see this rumor has already started before Labor Day. 😀

  11. Saban can’t hack it with the pros. He wants to treat a 12 year vet with 5 pro bowls like a rookie and that doesn’t fly.
    Stick to Alabama where they paid of your house.

  12. “Can I have 5 of the top 8 picks in each of the first three rounds of the draft? If so, I’ll promise Indianapolis I can build an NFL powerhouse!”

  13. Dear Mr. Grigson,
    In light of your recent contributions to the integrity of the shield, we have reserved a seat for you here. You will be able to execute whatever grievances you may have from your new post.
    -Roger

  14. Drafting isn’t recruiting, you can’t bury it when you miss on a pick. You can however leave and go back to the be$t vault…er college team…that presents itself with open arm$

  15. Seriously? One good thumping by Ohio State shouldn’t scare this guy off the college game that quickly. At least wait until after this year’s thumping.

  16. Bama fan here. The championship game last year stripped away a lot of the Tide mystique and with questionable talent in the pipeline at QB and elsewhere I see at least a couple of down years for the program going forward. I’m interested to see if Saban will ride it out or bail.

  17. NFL is a players league, no way would Saban fit in with the new NFL culture. Players would not play for him. His ego is way to big in league filled with even bigger egos.

  18. 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.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Cool story bro.

  19. nick saban drafted jason allen in the first round and yet you claim that he is some defensive guru…. so laughable.

  20. I am not sure if Nick Saban will ever get to the point where he thinks he’s accomplished everything he’s set out to do.

    Maybe his short stint in the NFL will sour his experience and prevent him from ever making a return. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the competitor in him wants to make a return.

    Nick’s time in Miami was marred by his inability to infuse his vision. On the other hand, Chip Kelly was provided the opportunity to make the decisions he wanted and bring his Oregon style to Philadelphia.

    Can’t use the Dolphins experience to define Saban because he was a puppet, unable to make the moves he wanted.

  21. Castrating Grigson would without question be the correct call, to the extend those things are still even in play. He lost significant credibility with the Richardson trade. Has Irsay deleted that tweet yet..

  22. While its probably good for clicks from lame Miami fans the truth is that Saban is extremely content in Tuscaloosa. Salary alone would be tough to compete with not to mention his lifestlye in the south. The thought of him leaving the Lakes of Tuscaloosa for a dirty trash can like Indianapolis is laughable. He has been shifting to a new defensive focus on scheming for HUNH teams. If you pay attention to SEC football and Alabama in particular youll find that since Johnny Football went into Tuscaloosa and won in 2012 Saban has been recruiting a different breed of LB and DB. Not to mention more versatile and lighter Dlineman. Roll Tide and FAU!……Tennessee too!

  23. Could Saban return to the NFL?

    I guess a better question would be WHY would Saban return to the NFL?

    He’s already discovered that it’s no fun because you can’t control a bunch of millionaires like you can control college kids. Diminished authority does not satisfy.

    Besides, ‘Bama is paying him pro money plus they erected a statue of him outside the Bear Bryant stadium, how would it looked if he walked away?

  24. no way he will leave alabama because he is god down there! Saban will always bee a better college coach than a pro coach cause intimidation does not work on pro players like it does college boys!

  25. If I am Alabama I call his bluff. There are more coaches that can go to Alabama and be successful than there are coaching opportunities that Saban can leave for and be successful at.

    He’s good but he’s no Bear Bryant!

    For disclosure purposes I have no horse in this race I’m a Penn St fan.

  26. Pagano is a good coach. This would be a bad move for the Colts, but maybe Saban will succumb to the lure of big money somewhere else. After this season, I could see jobs opening up in Tampa, San Francisco, Cleveland, Cincy, NYJ, and Jacksonville.

  27. Pagano can see the future in Indy with Griegson and Irsay in charge and it’s not good. I doubt Saban would go near that set up. Even with the fat load gone from the GM spot he would still need to deal with the idiot son.

  28. “Can I have 5 of the top 8 picks in each of the first three rounds of the draft? If so, I’ll promise Indianapolis I can build an NFL powerhouse!”
    _____________________________________

    Every college program in the country has talent. It’s what you do with the talent that turns them into first round picks.

  29. Yes, please! Get rid of Pagano – who’s done nothing wrong – and hire the guy who will move on in two years after failing miserably again at the NFL level. Just what you want for your young QB on-the-verge – an unnecessary coaching change.

  30. As an Auburn fan, nothing in the world would make me happier than for Saban to leave ‘Bama, with his 3 titles to Auburn’s 1 and his winning record in the Iron Bowl. But I just don’t see it. He will never be king on a bigger hill than the hill he’s king of now. He’s as equal to Bear Bryant as one can be, with the multiple national titles and statue outside the stadium. He has said many times he’s too old to start anywhere new, and while he is a lying SOB (great post, cubancigar10), on this point he is believable since he is 64 years old.

    Like I said, I would love it to be true, especially since ‘Bama has absolutely whiffed on every coaching hire between Bryant and Saban with the exception of Gene Stallings (if Saban goes and you want to give Mike Shula another shot, Panthers fans will gladly help him pack and drive him to Tuscaloosa). Plus, Auburn now has a coaching staff that can go toe-to-toe with Saban’s. But it’s too hard to envision Saban leaving at this stage of his life and career.

  31. Someone above mentioned his eye for talent, that Saban picked Culpepper over Brees. That is not correct.. The medical staff picked Culpepper saying that Brees shoulder would be a major issue etc. It is well known in Miami that Saban went off on the medical team after this happened and that is the reason he lost it and left. IF Miami ended up with Brees, Saban would have won a lot of games in Miami but that did not happen, Culpepper was done and Saban left town.

  32. He’s like a zombie — there just doesn’t seem to be any way to really get rid of him once and for all.

  33. rexdarteskimospy says: Sep 2, 2015 10:20 AM

    Wait…two straight division titles, three straight playoff appearances, and reaching the AFC Championship Game last year translates to Chuck Pagano on the hot seat? What in Sam Hill is wrong with this picture?
    ______________________-
    Funny, that’s about what we said in Tampa right before future Colts coach Tony Dungy was fired.

  34. Dear Nick,

    If it’s true that misery and frustration is really what makes you tick, then might I suggest the ultimate challenge for both?

    Come to Ohio and coach the Cleveland Browns.

    Show me another team that would provide more misery and frustration than the Browns. Okay, okay… the Redskins may give them a run for the money but the Browns still edge them by a nose.

    Think you’re good Nick? Come and prove it.

    Sincerely,
    Brownie Nation

  35. It would be hilarious to see Indy hire one of Bill Belichick’s closest coaching friends.

    NS is a terrific college coach and a solid football mind that should succeed in the NFL too, if he’s in it for the long haul.

    He’d correct Indy’s no tackling / can’t run /Charmin-soft /arena ball approach to the game.

  36. No NFL owner would be stupid enough to give Saban another shot after his last fiasco at the pro level.

    Oops, forgot……..lil Danny Snyder is still an owner of an NFL
    (allegedly) team.

  37. “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.’”

    Drew Brees or Daunte Culpepper?

  38. I’m not an NBA fan, but this seems similar to the Calipari to the NBA rumors every off-season. Calipari didn’t set the world on fire in the NBA, and was fired. Now, he’s up for every head coaching job, seemingly, every off-season.

    Of course an owner would consider Saban for a job. He’s a big name coach, and he could sell seats in certain markets. I’m not saying players would respect him, or that it would be successful. There’s definitely a possibility, especially if the Tide flounder this year (for recent Tide standards).

    I still think Jim Harbaugh would take this job before Saban, though, if it would come open in the next year or two.

  39. Shame really……the greatest final job for him would not be the NFL nor another storied D1 college program….the greatest finale’ for Nick would be to return home to WV and help move the Mountaineer program forward. Much like Urban did in Ohio….Nick would rise from legendary status to sainthood in the Mountain state.

  40. Good thing they already have a good qb. Saban’s “eye for talent” chose Dante Culpepper over Drew Brees in Miami.
    ————————
    Completely inaccurate!

    Saban chose Drew Brees… The owner didnt sign off based on what his doctors were saying about Brees’ shoulder…

    That is what pissed Saban off and why he went back to college… He got a franchise QB and the team said no.

    Who was right looking back on it?

  41. Can’t use the Dolphins experience to define Saban because he was a puppet, unable to make the moves he wanted.

    __________________________________

    What a load. Saban was a puppet of who? Wayne “Hands Off” Huizenga?

  42. The Colts GM (Grigson) should be fired before the Coach (Pagano).

    What has Grigson done, other than drafting Andrew Luck (pretty obvious move).
    He’s had one good pick (TY Hilton)

  43. Jim Harbaugh will be the next Colts head coach. He coached Luck in college and he was also a quarterback for the Colts himself and he would rather be in the NFL than college.

  44. “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.’”

    Drew Brees or Daunte Culpepper?

    __________________________________

    In all objectivity, that was the med staff’s call, not Saban’s. Plus, folks tend to conveniently forget Brees’ early career mediocrity, which caused him to be replaced by Flutie midseason in ’03 and caused the team that drafted him to draft his replacement (Rivers) and let him go.

  45. “With Luck running the offense and Saban crafting his NFL-style defense, it could work, and it could work well.” -MF

    Ooooh! And think of the money they’ll save not hiring a offensive coordinator, since Luck will just run the offense, call all the plays, make all the personnel decisions, and just let Nicky handle the other side of the ball.

    What an astute theory!

  46. Saban only wins at the college level when his team is a far more talented team than his opponents. And now that there is a playoff in place, instead of a vote, his chances of winning more national titles has decreased a great deal.

  47. People laughed at Pete Carroll’s return to the NFL, but he’s had some success I’d say. Saban could do it, but why would he? He’s Big Man on Campus at Alabama and doesn’t have to deal with pesky rules of the NFL such as a salary cap. He’s in the SEC, which means rules are for chumps and he has the backing of an athletic dept which runs interference with local cops who are also in the pocket of the university.

  48. The issue isn’t whether he could return, it’s (1) the number of weeks he would last and (2) the number of times he would deny wanting to leave the NFL before leaving the NFL.

  49. I’m sure Grigson wouldn’t willingly “give up his authority” any more than Polian, but since when does the GM have to be “willing” to give up his authority?

  50. The NFL is a whole different animal that Saban will never understand…there is not enough space for his ego and player’s egos to co-exist and Saban isn’t learning any new tricks.

  51. I hope he never comes back.. NFL owners didn’t already learn their lesson from the Dolphins fiasco?

  52. Giants offered him a HC job before they hired Jim Fassel. The late George Young said he was best candidate he ever interviewed.

    He wanted total control though and the Giants told him no.

  53. Great college coaches usually do not mean great NFL coaches. Note Saban and Steve Spurrier, the ole’ ball coach. The verdict is still out on Chip Kelly. Hell, Saban even flunked out from the Miami Dolphins on his first try. He will never stay 65 years at Alabama like Paterno did at Penn State, that’s for sure. But than again, Saban couldn’t hold JoPa’s jock. (Disclosure: I’m a PSU fan and hate ‘Bama)

  54. In both pro and college football, the winningest teams have the best players, not coaches. A successful college coach is a good recruiter, and a successful pro coach has a good scouting department. A winning college program gets the pick of the litter every year with recruits. The winning pro teams get the leftovers. Unless Saban is a great scout, he won’t be any more successful than the last time he tried the NFL. That is the same Nick Saban, right? Been there, done that. Colts’ GM Ryan Grigson is a great scout. He’s had two different coaches get Coach of the Year in four years because he’s able to find good players, even though he’s winning and getting the leftovers. Besides, Jim Irsay is one of the best owners in the NFL over the last 20, and he’s not easily fooled. We still judge success by wins don’t we? The Colts will probably win the Super Bowl this year, and some of us will be wearing out our delete buttons.

  55. NEWSFLASH: Nick Saban just fleeced Alabama Boosters for a new Lexus and a pontoon boat at his lake house. This ‘leak’ from his agent is nothing more than another transparent money grab. Saban does not want to coach in the NFL. It’s a pay cut, it involves employed adults, and his wife was beyond miserable when she was in Miami. But… Whenever Nick feels like testing the resolve of The Alabama Alumni Committee, he’ll direct that some codswallop like this be thrown at the wall just so he can determine how much he can stick in his own pocket.

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