The Alabama Crimson Tide are set to play Oklahoma next week in the semi-finals of the college football playoff. On the twelve year anniversary of Nick Saban declaring he would not be the next Alabama football coach during a press conference as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, I have decided to weigh in on the topic that has begun to re-circle in the mainstream media. Since leaving Miami and joining Bama, Saban has five national championships (’09, ’11, ’12, ’15 & ’17) while the Dolphins have gone through six different head coaches and have zero playoff wins in two appearances.
Might things have been different the last decade if Drew Brees was cleared by the Miami medical staff? Undoubtedly and maybe we don’t see the domination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the AFC East, but at the very least Saban would’ve proved to all the doubters that he can in fact win at the next level. There’s an opening that I think old Saint Nick might think long and hard about after the Crimson Tide wrap up another national championship game. Whether they win or not, I’m not sure, but Saban’s crew will once again be in the final college football game of the season vying for his 7th championship. His name was mentioned in regards to the Green Bay Packers opening, but as Colin Cowherd points out below, that makes zero sense while an opening out there makes a lot of sense on a lot of different levels.
A few years ago a take like this would have been laughed out of the building or off the air. Now? There’s a lot of merit and rationale behind it and it’s not as big of a long-shot as one might have had you believe. Now I get the whole why would Saban leave Alabama when he has a wagon of a program that keeps turning out NFL stars and contending for national titles narrative, but really what more does he have to prove? He’s already one of, if not the greatest college football coaches ever, winning another three to four national titles isn’t going to change anything other than his stats. What’s the one thing he wants to prove to the critics? He can coach at the next level like his good friend Bill Belichick, whom he coached under on the famed ’96 Browns staff.
At 67 years old, the clock is ticking on Saban if he is serious about giving the NFL one more chance. Saban is 145-20 during his 12 years at Alabama that is a staggering .879 winning percentage to go with 5 national titles and likely a 6th this year with a 13-0 Bama team that has the best QB Saban has ever had in Tua. If he’s going to leave, this is the opportunity that he could very well jump at. Many thought Jon Gruden would never return to the sidelines again, and look at him now, a 10-year, $100M contract and re-shaping his football team for when the franchise moves to Vegas. Saban coaching in the NFL is more of a possibility now than ever.
I’m going to go off of Colin’s points above which I firmly believe in. First, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is a southern businessman who wants to build the Browns into a winner. If there’s a chance he can lure Saban from Tuscaloosa, he will do whatever it takes to get the right guy to run his program and franchise. Give him a lucrative Gruden-like deal and if you have to, partial ownership as was discussed in the Gruden deal with the Raiders. He’s coached in the mid-west at Michigan State and under the Browns old regime before they became the Ravens. He knows the market and his personality and mantra would play well in Cleveland.
Next, the reason the Browns make so much sense is because they finally have themselves a franchise Quarterback. Credit to John Dorsey for drafting the guy in Baker Mayfield and Haslam for making the quick decision to part with both Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. Under a disciplined coach in Gregg Williams, Baker and the Browns have gone an impressive 5-2 since and have played themselves into position to be a more coveted job than the Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers. You give Saban the QB in Mayfield and that’s half of the battle and that’s more than he ever had in Miami when he was the Dolphins coach. With no QB in Miami, Saban still went a combined 15-17 over the two years in South Beach including a 9-7 season that Dolphins and Browns fans would kill for these days.
Back to the Browns being a perfect match. Look at the roster and flexibility Saban would have with this team in working closely with Dorsey. They have young and talented players on both sides of the ball through the accumulation of so many top draft picks with many hits. He knows many of these guys having coached against them in college and knows the incoming draft prospects better than any other coach right now. Myles Garrett (SEC), Denzel Ward (Ohio State), Nick Chubb (SEC), Antonio Callaway (SEC), Jamie Collins (Southern Miss), Emmanuel Ogbah (OK State), the list goes on and on. Not only does he have a good young nucleus, but the Browns are loaded with draft picks and have upwards of $80M in cap space going forward, likely more. Saban has the flexibility to move up and down the draft board to get his own guys to fit his program and recruit big name free agents to the Browns with the cash flow to afford them.
Saban has a strong authoritative personality as Colin Cowherd often makes reference to in the video above, but that would work with a young and hungry team driven to win. It’s working right now under Gregg Williams who is a strong disciplined coach. As far as the offense, I’m confident Nick can get a guy to lead the offense much like he has during his time at Alabama. He’s seemingly had a revolving door at OC and sure they have a wide talent discrepancy between the competition, but he’s great at finding the right guys to come in and run that side of the ball. Current Browns OC Freddie Kitchens who has had success working with Baker Mayfield, is a former Alabama QB from ’93-’97 and worked under Saban as a GA in 2000. There’s a tie there and also plenty of other alternatives if they want to go in a different direction. Current Falcons OC Steve Sarkasian, who is likely to be let go after this season, worked under Saban for the Crimson Tide after he was let go by USC. Brian Daboll, former Patriots assistant who worked under Saban and who is currently with the Bills, is someone he may be able to pry away if he were to make the leap back to the NFL.
My argument has been laid out on the table. You can either agree or call me an idiot. I don’t care either way. I’m not out here saying this is a certainty or a fact, but the possibility exists now more than ever. 10% chance? Maybe, but if there’s one opening right now that can lure him away from Alabama it’s the chance to become a savior in Cleveland with a young and talented roster and a motivated and accurate franchise Quarterback.
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