Alabama Football: On 17 years and an overachieving Crimson Tide

Thanks to Nick Saban, Alabama Football has been overachieving for 16 seasons, including the one that ended in a Playoff Rose Bowl loss.
Chris Graythen/GettyImages

On January 3, 2007, Nick Saban hit the ground in Tuscaloosa. No doubt he was firmly in charge of the Alabama Football program before he got off the plane. What has followed is unprecedented in the modern history of college football. Crimson Tide fans know the words 'modern history' are irrelevant, but some college football historians would quibble about the success of Yale in the 19th century.

Nick Saban is, by any standard that matters, CFB's GOAT - and a sound bet is he always will be.

Sometimes recency bias clouds our perspectives. After the Rose Bowl loss, some may want to argue the Crimson Tide did not overachieve in the 2023 season. I beg to differ. From the team that played poorly early, to inconsistently throughout, what Nick Saban did with the 2023 team was an overachievement.

Alabama Football and Overachievement

Saban and Alabama football teams have been doing the overachievement thing since the opening game of the 2008 season. In the first of what became legendary neutral site games, the Crimson Tide started the 2008 season by spanking Clemson. The upset of the Tigers effectively ended Tommy Bowden's coaching career.

It didn't take long for winning a game against a Nick Saban team to be a standard for measuring coaching success. But not one coach has yet to become the 'Saban-slayer' every ambitious program covets.

Despite all the glory enjoyed, Alabama Football has a problem. It did not begin with Nick Saban, but it has become more entrenched during his tenure. It is that, in the minds of most Crimson Tide fans, any season without a National Championship is a failure. The insanity of such expectation does not hinder Saban. His measurements of success are more demanding than any external definition.

But there is a problem because one day, hopefully, several years away, Alabama Football will have a new Head Coach. And no coach after Nick Saban will ever match what he has done. I say that while knowing many years ago some of us said the same about Bryant. We were right for a long time. With no intention of diminishing what Gene Stallings accomplished, we were not wrong until Mal Moore convinced Terry Saban that Tuscaloosa needed to be home.

What has followed is nothing short of glorious. In 17 seasons, Nick Saban, Alabama football teams have played in nine National Championship Games. The Crimson Tide won six, along with nine SEC Championships and six CFP Semi-Final wins. The success goes beyond any definition of overachievement. There is only the slightest probability any program will ever equal what Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have done.