Alabama AD Greg Byrne has made speed a priority in hiring Nick Saban's successor. With other programs chasing Crimson Tide players, boldness by Byrne is more important than caution. In advance, I am confident Byrne will make the best decision. Other Alabama football fans are not so sure.
That Nick Saban is irreplaceable is a given. The next head football coach in Tuscaloosa will begin work with a reputation well below GOAT status. That reality does not portend the program will fade. Nick Saban was a very good football coach when he came to Alabama. His hard work, intelligence, and determination - AND the Alabama Football program made Nick Saban the greatest of college football coaches. The successor to Saban will receive a similar boost.
The new guy will follow his path, not Nick Saban's. He has no other choice. One description of what Nick Saban built in Tuscaloosa is an 'NFL Football Factory' unrivaled in college football history. That factory was designed, constructed and prospered in a different world of college football. In the new world of buying and paying players, hard cash soon speaks louder than the promise of more cash later.
Nick Saban could sell many recruits and transfers on coming to Tuscaloosa to build value for their NFL careers. At Alabama, 44 of Saban's players became NFL first-round picks. Including his other head coaching gigs, Nick Saban put more first-rounders in the NFL than any coach - ever. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for the next guy to come close to such success.
Risk Alabama Football Cannot Avoid
Informed Alabama football insiders know that other programs have deeper pockets to attract players than Alabama. Texas, Texas A&M, and Miami are just three of the programs that can outbid Alabama whenever they choose. When it comes to packages for a specific player, dozens of programs can compete with and sometimes exceed what Alabama can afford. Because of Nick Saban, that situation was more of a nuisance than an impediment. But the circumstances change, even with Nick staying involved from an office above Bryant-Denny.
How well the next guy can recruit for the Alabama Crimson Tide is a mystery. We can be sure the next head coach will need a football staff of outstanding recruiters, like Travaris Robinson.
For the Alabama Crimson Tide, the next guy will be a very good football coach. The risk Alabama must take is will he be able to recruit, without the same path to the NFL pitch Nick Saban relied upon.