Nick Saban Speculation Begins as Coaches Begin To Get Fired


/ December 19, 2012

Nick Saban speculation was inevitable, in the same way that ESPN’s Jon Gruden and Oregon’s Chip Kelly will be among the hottest names once the hiring/firing season begins in the NFL.

The Alabama coach will be a hot name for teams looking to shake things up with a big hire. Of course, we’ve been down this road before with Nick Saban speculation – the then-LSU coach was lured to the Miami Dolphins, and promptly found his visor-wearing, control-freak ways were not exactly suited to coaching grown men. Of course, the trouble in Miami wasn’t all his own doing. Injuries, bad breaks and a generally moribund franchise added to the fact that Saban couldn’t get anything going in South Beach.

In 2006, with a 6-10 team going nowhere fast and an opening at a major SEC school, Saban repeatedly denied that he would go to Alabama. Repeatedly. In no uncertain terms. The Nick Saban speculation at the time was in the opposite direction it is now – here was a guy with a proven track record in college football, in the SEC, who could step in for a marquee school and impose his will in a way he was never able in the NFL. It made sense, Saban denied it, it happened, and everyone seemed to forgive him once he became the first coach to ever win a National Championship with two different schools.

Let’s assume Saban adds a third title at Alabama next month – will he be a hot option for, say, the Cleveland Browns? Former Alabama player Trent Richardson says no, but the speculation won’t stop until Saban either gets a contract extension a la Les Miles at LSU, or every NFL job gets filled. But the Eagles, Chargers, Cowboys, Panthers, and maybe even the Jets could have job openings in the next few weeks, and that sweet, sweet NFL money and exposure may come calling.

It would silly to abandon a school right at the apex, but coaches do it all the time. Bobby Petrino left a pretty good Louisville team to take over the Atlanta Falcons, and took a Michael Vick-less team to the bottom of the NFC and jumped ship before Christmas. There’s a reason a lot of college coaches can’t hack it in the NFL – they have less control in the pros, are coaching guys making significantly more money, and have to compete with 31 other teams for players. Recruiting is not a factor in the NFL, for the most part. Drafting is, and they are two very different skill sets. You can take a flyer on 10 guys with great athleticism and bring them to Alabama, but you can’t just dish out a draft pick on a whim.

Saban will probably stay, because he has a chance to continue to dominate for the next few years. But maybe he’s bored of winning, and wants a new challenge. In that case, the Saban speculation will continue to run rampant.