Saban cements status as perhaps best college football coach ever
It has been said for decades that great teams have good luck, that great teams get the breaks.
Alabama has certainly been the beneficiary of a host of calls by officials over the last 11 years. The Crimson Tide were certainly fortunate to have second chance opportunities twice after not even winning their division in the SEC. By rule, Alabama earned their good fortune, which LSU fans know all too well.
Ultimately, what remains are the simple facts and results surrounding Nick Saban.
There are now five national championships in nine seasons. No one else has won five in less than 15 years.
To remove a quarterback who was 25-2 overall and had taken his team to the national championship game for a second straight year at halftime of a title game took unbelievable courage. A lesser coach might risk job security doing so. Saban has no such concern.
Jalen Hurts was such a class act. He was supportive of Tua Tagovailoa throughout the second half, celebrated afterwards and gave huge credit to his teammate for his performance.
Hurts was simply ineffective. His only impact was the run the ball, either by design or when plays broke down. Alabama had nothing else in the first half, running 24 plays, gaining a modest 94 yards and not scoring. Hurts missed an open receiver for a score.
In came Tagovailoa.
In the second half, the Crimson Tide ran 46 plays, gained 278 yards and scored three touchdowns. The difference was striking.
Alabama overcame a very shaky kicking game, including two badly missed field goals by Andy Pappanastos. LSU fans can certainly relate.
LSU fans can blame Wayne Huizenga. Who knows what Saban could have accomplished at LSU? He had already changed the dynamic, the culture and the success of the program, winning a national championship. He was recruiting well. He liked LSU. He had Mark Emmert as a boss.
Saban simply could not turn down the lure of the NFL and the lure of money. His decision not to sign Drew Brees doomed him in Miami and set in motion the glory days of New Orleans Saints football.
As has been stated many times, Saban did not leave LSU for Alabama. When Saban took the job in Tuscaloosa, LSU had Les Miles, who did a very good job. Miles won a national championship with some of his own players and a significant remnant remaining from the Saban regime.
Initially, Miles was superb against Saban, winning five of the first seven meetings between the Tigers and Tide.
That changed forever in the national championship game on Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome when the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers 21-0 in a dominant performance, an embarrassing performance by the LSU offense which totaled a paltry 92 total yards and had no idea what the Alabama side of the 50-yard line looked like.
That began a streak of seven straight Alabama wins over LSU, including five against Miles and the last two against Ed Orgeron. The only way to turn the tide on the Tide is to recruit elite offensive talent, the kind that can make big plays, beat Alabama on the perimeter and a quarterback who can extend plays.
Just how good as Alabama been under Saban?
In 10 seasons, Alabama has played for six national championships, winning five. The Crimson Tide now has 125 victories in 10 seasons, averaging 12.5 victories per year. The closest team to that mark, Ohio State, has 112 wins over that stretch.
Saban is now tied with fellow Alabama legend Paul “Bear” Bryant with six national championships in the poll era, which started in 1936.
Saban has hired a slew of outstanding coaches who have gone on to become head coaches elsewhere. Smart is the latest of those and Georgia appears poised to challenge Alabama for SEC and national supremacy for years to come. Kirby Smart is a good coach and a smart guy. He would have been smarter to get Sony Michel the ball more Monday night.
Michel was the difference maker for Georgia, the player who could overcome the fast, physical Alabama defense. Michel rushed 14 times for 98 yards. The other four players carrying the ball rushed 31 times for 35 yards. Nick Chubb is a good, sometimes very good player. Michel has elite ability.
That said, Saban is now 12-0 against his former assistant coaches, with the teacher schooling the pupils. By comparison, Bryant was 45-6 against his former assistants who became head coaches. One of those was Charlie McClendon, who defeated his mentor twice. Still, McClendon was criticized and partially dismissed eventually for his inability to beat Bryant and Alabama, going 2-14 against the Crimson Tide.
If that is the measuring stick, most everyone will lose their jobs and have lost their jobs trying to compete with Alabama and Saban.
If you are looking for a silver lining about finally catching up to and beating Alabama, think again.
With freshmen like Tagovailoa, wide receivers Devonta Smith of Amite, Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy, running back Najee Harris and Alex Leatherwood, the future is quite bright for the Crimson Tide.
Having depth matters greatly. So does the development of players. Saban has both aspects mastered.
Bryant was great. He won six national championships in 27 seasons at Alabama. He posted a record of 232-46-9, winning 81.4 percent of his games. Overall, Bryant was 323-85-17, including one year at Maryland, eight at Kentucky and four at Texas A&M. His overall winning percentage was 76.1 percent.
Saban is 127-20 in 11 seasons at Alabama, winning 86.4 percent of his games. Overall, Saban is 218-62, including one year at Toledo, five at Michigan State and five at LSU, winning 78 percent of his games.
Bryant won all six of his national championships at Alabama over a 19-year period between 1961-1979. Saban won a national championship at LSU and now has five at Alabama in 11 seasons, including five in his last nine years.
The question everyone is whispering, murmuring, even stating is how long will Saban continue? He is now 66 and likely in his last coaching position. Going back to the NFL, at this stage, is unlikely.
Georgia won in overtime against Oklahoma. The Bulldogs lost in overtime to Alabama. The head coaching career of Saban may be close to entering overtime but who knows?
Bryant retired at the age of 69. When asked what would happen not coaching football anymore, Bryant famously stated, “probably croak in a week.”
He was prophetic.
It took more than a week but just over four weeks before Bryant passed away from a heart attack.
Of course, Bryant had health issues in the final years of his career, including heart issues and a mild stroke suffered in 1980. His health unquestionably was the driving force behind his retirement before reaching 70.
By all accounts, Saban is in good health. He is a football lifer, junkie and devotee. His incredible attention-to-detail gives him a singular focus which is unparalleled. His tunnel vision has enabled him to lock out the myriad of distractions which can destroy any coach. He still understands today’s player and commands the respect of that player.
It is all about passion, desire and health.
By all accounts, Saban still has all three in his person. That is bad news for everyone else.
Miami Dolphins fans cannot stand Saban. He said he would not leave to become the head coach at Alabama and he did. LSU fans cannot stand Saban. He committed the non-biblical unpardonable sin of not only leaving the Tigers but of becoming the head coach of LSU’s most hated rival. Fans of every other SEC and college program in the nation cannot stand Saban.
That is what happens when someone and some team win so much. Ask Bill Belichick. Ask Tom Brady.
If he is not already, Belichick is well on his way to being the greatest NFL coach ever while Brady is already the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history. Saban is now in that territory on the college level, if he is not already the landlord.
Nothing lasts forever. There will be a day when Saban and Alabama are not as dominant. While 99 percent of the country cannot wait for that day to come, there are miles to drive before that exit comes into sight.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…