Recent reports have surfaced that Nick Saban is no longer feeling challenged by the college game.
According to his wife Terri, “Nick no longer feels the joy of winning.” A strong statement from the person who has the most access to the man’s innermost intimate thoughts and feelings.
The recent quotes have Crimson Tide fans panicking like a moonshiner who just saw headlights in the bushes and has given journalists fuel to add to the fire that is the NFL coaching carousel.
However, those who believe Nick Saban is considering a return to the pro game (unless he says he won’t be the San Diego coach, then he’s basically a Charger) are going to be in for a surprise when the greatest college coach since Bear Bryant spurns pursuing suitors.
If Alabama defeats Notre Dame next month in the BCS Championship game, Nick Saban will retire from coaching altogether.
Why would Saban go out so soon? Simple, the man isn’t stupid.
“But why wouldn’t he give one more crack at the pro game?” Well, let me answer this question with a question. Why did Saban go back to college football? That answer is because he was unhappy in the NFL. So why would a man who is unhappy where he is just go back to the unhappy place that drove him there to begin with?
Saban’s personality is flawed to where he is a control freak. They call him the Nicktator for a reason.
During his only stint in the NFL, he demanded full control of the Miami Dolphins from the on-field operations, all the way up to making the final personnel decisions. Along with total control, he demanded unlimited access to then owner, Wayne Huizenga’s personal jet.
The amount of power and demands were something that was characteristic of a big time college coach. Successful college coaches are big fishes in what are usually smaller ponds. Towns like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, South Bend, Indiana, State College, Pennsylvania, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana all fit this description and when the football program is running on all cylinders, the head football coach is more influential than the state governor.
The coach in these communities are often times unquestioned (See Penn State child abuse case) and worshiped like Gods. When Saban brought LSU it’s first national title since the 1950’s in 2003, his legacy in the state of Louisiana had already been written for him and all the way up to his great grandchildren.
The NFL is a much more unforgiving business. When teams fail to compete on the field or don’t live up to expectation even just once—the head coach is held accountable. The media outlets in the smaller college towns don’t have the balls to test the patience and anger of a Nick Saban as the larger newspapers in Miami, New York, and Chicago could care less if you’re Nick Saban, Bill Belicheck, or the Cookie Monster.
If you upset the coach in a college town, there is fear you will be ostracized and not allowed into future press conferences. A radio reporter in Arkansas was fired because she forgot her Razorbacks hat and wore a Gators hat in the rain instead. The reporter was a graduate of the University of Florida and after a phone call from Bobby Petrino, the poor young lady was fired. That’s the kind of power these men hold. The NFL doesn’t allow a coach to bar any member of the media from press conferences. No matter how much they may agitate them.
Saban’s ego would also have him demand full control of the rosters once again. You don’t want that. Look at his draft history. In two drafts, only three of his players remain in the NFL. None are starters and only one of them made a pro bowl that many people believe he didn’t deserve (Ronnie Brown 2008).
Need a quarterback? Don’t let Saban find him. In the 2005 draft, Saban passed on Aaron Rodgers in favor of Auburn runningback, Ronnie Brown. After the Dolphins finished a surprising 9-7 on the heels of a dominant defense, he turned his attention to finding a franchise quarterback. Two quarterbacks coming off injury were available for the Dolphins taking: Daunte Culpepper and Drew Brees.
Despite Brees begging Saban to offer him a contract, Saban decided to go with Culpepper who was coming of a completely restructured knee as opposed to a quarterback who was coming of a shoulder injury. We all know how that story ended.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no coach who is better at X’s and O’s on the defensive side of the ball than Saban. Ask Tom Brady, whose last shutout came at the hands of the Nicktator’s Dolphins defense in 2006. Unfortunately for Saban, the duties of being an effective NFL head coach are much deeper than just X’s and O’s. You must be the CEO of the team, delegate responsibilities, trust your employees, and give them some freedom. Saban is completely incapable of that.
If the Crimson Tide follow the script and bring home their third national title in four years, then Nick Saban will have to look in the mirror and figure out the next step in his life.
Four titles in ten years would easily make him crowned the best coach since the Bear retired in 1982; however, if Saban is unhappy and not finding joy in coaching the college game then it may be time for him to search for that elsewhere.
Whether it may mean a couple years away from the game or a permanent retreat from coaching altogether, we are certain that he won’t find that happiness in National Football League.
A place where control freaks either quit or end up fired. And you better believe Nick Saban’s last gig won’t end with him being shown the door. No way in Hell. He simply won’t let it.
The man is in complete control.