Nick Saban Wouldn’t Let Me Write This Column


Nick Saban wouldn’t let me write this column the way I wanted to.

I wanted to write about the redemption of Blake Sims, who was an afterthought his entire college career. Alabama fans claim to want an humble warrior to lead their team. But when they had one waiting in the wings behind the superstar golden boy and the savior transfer, he wasn’t given a second look until he could no longer be denied.

I considered writing about the Alabama defense, that lost so many good players and was a question mark for the Crimson Tide for the first time in forever. So good in the trenches, yet so completely at the mercy of the deep ball, Alabama’s defense bent all the way to the end zone, but rarely broke.

The obvious topic was Lane Kiffin. Hated by the Tide faithful for his west coast arrogance, he’s now celebrated for signaling for touchdowns before the ball is even in the air. When all Alabama fans want to do is pound the rock, Kiffin has pounded defenses through the air, sticking to his gameplan and winning shootouts in a league known for ‘old man football.’

These were the things I wanted to write about this morning. But I couldn’t do it, because none of them would have been possible without Nick Saban.

The 2014 season may be written about in future years as Saban’s wishbone season. In the same way that legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant switched to the wishbone to revitalize his flagging career, Saban embraced uptempo offense to combat the perception that the Alabama dynasty was over.

Rather than rebuild or reload, Saban used his offseason to redefine Alabama football.

After an amazing run with a superstar quarterback known as much for his armpiece as for his arm strength, Saban put the ball in the hands of a fifth-year clipboard carrier. Blake Sims was given an opportunity – not a promise, just an opportunity – to compete for the job with a transfer that was a Heisman candidate before stepping off the bus in Tuscaloosa. Sims responded with a record-breaking year that earned him the love of the Alabama fan base and earned the Tide a berth in the first-ever College Football Playoff.

After stockpiling enough bruising running backs to fill the rosters of all the teams in the PAC-12, Saban sought the counsel – then the full-time services – of a coach that had been the most perfect example of the Peter Principle ever seen in sports. Lane Kiffin was literally pulled off the USC team bus to be fired last season. This season he diagrammed more ways to get the ball in the hands of Amari Cooper than there are roads running to Tuscaloosa.

After a soul-crushing loss to Auburn and a blowout to Oklahoma, Alabama’s historic run was said to be over. And in a way it was. So too was the perception among the Alabama players that it was their divine right to walk unopposed into the BCS Championship game.

Rather than rebuild or reload, Saban used his offseason to redefine Alabama football. The result has been a redemption, of sorts.

Alabama ended the regular season where it began, as the top-ranked team in college football. Saban and his players hoisted the SEC Championship trophy Saturday night. Now there will be time to rest and recuperate before the final push.

Fans of other teams, and even the teams themselves, smelled blood in the water when Alabama lost its last two games last season, and started a meme. We Want Bama, they all said.

You wanted them. Well now you’ve got them.