Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban is again being mentioned as a possible head coach for the Cleveland Browns. Now before Tide fans get up in arms they should remember we’ve heard such scuttlebutt before, and it was just that. But if this Alabama squad were to capture a third BCS Championship under Saban next month, could he decide to give the NFL another shot?
A case can be made for either scenario, and here are a few reasons for each:
Nick Saban could leave Alabama for the NFL
Total control. If there’s one thing we know about Saban, it is that he has almost complete control over all the football operations at Alabama. That kind of control could be his in Cleveland if NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi is hired as the Browns’ general manager. Lombardi has built successful teams in Cleveland, San Fransisco and elsewhere, and understands how to build a championship team. With Saban and Lombardi working in tandem, the kind of control Saban is used to could be his, allowing him to put in place the personnel system he learned from Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Nothing left to accomplish. With a fourth BCS National Championship on his resume, a statue outside Bryant-Denny Stadium and a place in the Alabama record books on par with – if not superior to – Bear Bryant, what else is left? Nick Saban would truly have accomplished everything at Alabama, and for a man who loves a challenge, the lure of a Super Bowl could be hard to resist. Saban has put in place the pieces for Alabama to continue on in his absence, and would surely help athletic director Mal Moore hire a successor able to continue what Saban started.
Unfinished business. Leaving Miami with a losing record has to eat at someone as driven to success as Saban. It’s a tossup as to whether Dolphins fans or LSU fans hate him more. And watching his mentor have so much success in New England could be a factor in convincing Saban that he never had a fair shake in Miami, and that the right situation could be had in Cleveland. With Saban once again coaching Trent Richardson, the power rushing attack could make a return to the NFL and help Saban take care of unfinished business.
Nick Saban will retire at Alabama
The NFL mentality. Saban has said many times that he gets “positive self-gratification” from mentoring young men in the college game. Giving life lessons to a 22-year-old multimillionaire is difficult in the best circumstances; imagine trying to do so when you’re 3-11. Nick Saban has already had a taste of the inverted pyramid that is the power structure of NFL teams, with the coach being on the bottom. He much prefers preaching to young men before they are too rich to hear the sermon.
Southern Comfort. Nick Saban is a Southerner at heart. The slower pace of life and emphasis on the recuperative powers of the outdoors are deeply ingrained in his personality. He’s said repeatedly that Alabama is his last stop, and his wife echoed that recently and gave every indication that life after football has been a topic of discussion at the Saban dinner table:
“We’re very comfortable here,” Terry Saban said in an interview. “We love it here. It’s a great fit for our family. It’s a good fit for me. As far as we’re concerned, this is where we’ll retire someday.
Total control. This one makes an appearance on both lists, as it is the complete control that Saban has at Alabama that could keep him here for good. If and when Saban retires from coaching, he will be one of the most successful in history, and will be mentioned – like it or not, old-timers – in the same breath as Bear Bryant. The position of athletic director will be his for the asking. He will be able to guide the Crimson Tide program for the remainder of his life. And his image will be on every Alabama motivational video and in every documentary and museum piece until the end of time. There’s a big difference between seeking new challenges, and abdicating the throne. With the potential of underachieving again in the NFL, even Nick Saban couldn’t walk away from that kind of legacy.