Is This Truly ‘Peak Saban’ For Alabama Football?

Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Is it only a Roman Empire-like downhill slide from here for the Alabama football program? Is this really ‘Peak Saban’ for the Crimson Tide?

As legend has it, two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation. He could walk across the Earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civis Romanus – I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens.

Flashing forward to 2016, and at the risk of offending my Italian friends, I’m prepared to make the following correlation: Alabama football is the Roman Empire, and Nick Saban is our emperor.

And just like the Roman Empire, nothing lasts forever – not even this unbelievable run for Alabama football. So I’m prepared to float another potentially explosive theory: We are experiencing “Peak Saban”.

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Now, as you sharpen your swords and keyboards for the irrational response, let’s be clear. I am not saying Alabama loses this week to Florida. Or that the Tide loses in the College Football Playoffs en route to a 17th national championship. Nor is the suggestion that you, as a member of the Alabama Nation, can strut through Knoxville in your finest Crimson and expect no retribution.

What I *AM* saying is that time is the ultimate enemy, more so than Auburn and Tennessee and LSU combined. Nothing lasts forever. And not even supreme greatness can’t last that long.

Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama Crimson Tide /

Alabama Crimson Tide

This is “Peak Saban”, right now. Look around:

  • Four national titles in seven years, with a possible fifth on the way.
  • Four SEC titles, and only the 22 1/2-point underdog Florida Gators standing in the way.
  • A 24-game winning streak, the third-longest in Alabama and SEC history, and is the longest under the direction of head coach Nick Saban (previous long: 19 games in 2009-10).
  • No touchdowns allowed on defense in the last 267 minutes and 54 seconds of game action, dating back to the third quarter of the Texas A&M game on Oct. 22).
  • Such a stranglehold on the current CFP rankings that even a fluke loss to Florida in this week’s SEC Championship Game wouldn’t keep the Crimson Tide out of the playoffs.
  • Yet another promenade of five-star blue-chippers lined up for another No. 1 recruiting class.

It is arguable to say this is not only the greatest run in Alabama football history, but perhaps in ALL of college football history. Parity has never been greater in the sport, with programs from coast to coast being able to tap into and develop talent to compete at the highest level. Everyone is on TV these days, so the era of recruiting to that goal is ancient history. Traditional powers like Michigan and Ohio State and Penn State have retooled and are getting serious again after being in the weeds.

But the more surroundings evolve, the more things turn up Saban.

Problem is that there are only so many rabbits to pull out of the hat, only so many evolutionary wrinkles like practicing former NFL players on the scout team or video-chatting with recruits to get around the no-contact rule. There are only so many hype videos and ways to tweak The Process for maximum results.

There are also only so many great-to-greater coordinator moves Saban can pull off. He did it on offense – going from Jim McElwain to Lane Kiffin (via Doug Nussmeier). He did it on defense – going from Kirby Smart to Jeremy Pruitt. But if Joey Freshwater exchanges his Tuscaloosa dreams for either 365 Days of Rain (Oregon) or Unlimited Corndogs (LSU), can Saban really just plug in another coordinator to the Tide offense and expect it to keep chugging along?

Nick Saban is 65 years old. Yes, he looks 55 and has the fire of 45. But he is 65 and a gazillionaire. How many more mountains can a person – any person – get themselves mentally and physically ready to climb before they finally decide “you know what, watching the ducks crap on my yard from the deck at Lake Burton seems a easier life than this …”?

Bud Wilkinson got old. General Robert Neyland got old. Joe Paterno got old. Tom Osborne got old. Paul W. Bryant, God rest his soul, got old.

Tomorrow is a promise to no man.

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This is “Peak Saban”, right now and right here. This moment, right now and right here, will be studied and dissected for decades to come. But “Peak Saban” means there are no more mountains to climb, statues to guild or legacies to burnish.

And when you’re on top, well, the only place to go is down.

Just ask the Romans.