Many members of the extended Auburn football family, already on edge over numerous accusations levied against the program in the months since taking home the crystal, got their unmentionables all wadded up yet again over a comment attributed to Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
For those unfamiliar with the situation, the Denver Broncos on Wednesday posted quotes from executive vice president of football operations John Elway regarding a visit he took to Tuscaloosa recently.
“One of the interesting things is we went down and saw Nick Saban when we were down at Alabama’s Pro Day,” Elway said according to the NFL club’s official website, “and we’re talking about obviously all of his players, and then we asked him about Cam, and he said that team would not have won four games if it wasn’t for Cam Newton. That tells you how much of a special player he is.”
Of course, that was taken as some kind of a backhanded jab by many an AU fan — as my email inbox can attest — that the Tigers were merely a one-man football wrecking crew (coughcoughtheykindawerecoughcough).
While not expressly saying so, Saban heavily intimated Thursday that his words regarding Newton and Auburn’s win total were taken out of context by Elway.
“What I said was it was a compliment to Cam Newton, certainly not a disrespect to Auburn and their team and what they accomplished because they had an outstanding team, they’re national champs, they did a great job,” Saban said on a Crimson Caravan stop by way of the Birmingham News.
“I said that they probably won four games because Cam Newton was the quarterback, four more games. So that was what I said. I don’t know what was reported, I haven’t seen it. And it was really intended to be a compliment to him, the great competitor he was and the way he played this year. He probably impacted his team as much as any player in the country, and it was really intended to be a compliment about Cam Newton’s great performance and winning the Heisman Trophy.”
So, there you have it. Auburn, per Saban, won four additional games because of Newton, and not that they would’ve only won four games without him. The reality is, though, there’s simply no way to look back into the rear-view and reassess what a team’s record would’ve been without Player X, although one wouldn’t need to be a rocket surgeon to lay out a compelling case that going through the season unblemished would’ve been borderline impossible without the Heisman winner under center.
The only certainty is that the 2010 Auburn Tigers were the beneficiaries of one of the greatest individual single-season performances the sport has ever seen. And that there will be some very large shoes to fill in 2011. Or, as some would say, at least four wins worth of said footwear to fill.