One of the biggest stories of this young offseason exploded earlier this week, with Steve Sarkisian leaving as Alabama’s offensive coordinator after just one game for the NFL. Almost immediately reports surfaced of tension between Sarkisian and Nick Saban, with some saying the relationship with the new coordinator was too much like his predecessor, Lane Kiffin, for this most recent offensive marriage to work.
At least publicly, both parties are putting a positive spin on what they’re couching as an amicable divorce.
In a statement shortly after news broke Tuesday, Saban said that he and his football program “appreciate[d]” the coach’s brief time in Tuscaloosa, describing Sarkisian as “an outstanding coach.” Thursday, Sarkisian returned the compliments.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to Coach Saban and everybody at the University of Alabama,” Sarkisian said during a teleconference by way of al.com. “It’s a tremendous organization. He’s not only a great coach but a great man. I’m fortunate that I was able to work for him in the past six months. I’m fortunate to call him a friend and I really appreciate all he did for me. I’m excited and looking forward to this upcoming season. They have a heck of a football team with some really talented young players.”
According to Sarkisian, he spoke to good friend and Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn the day after the latter’s loss in the Super Bowl. One day later, Quinn offered the job and Sarkisian accepted.
Asked his old boss’ reaction to the departure, Sarkisian essentially said Saban just rolled with it, so to speak.
“He was really good. He was understanding,” Sarkisian said. “Obviously, he would have loved for me to stay but he was understanding. I know Coach Saban and the University of Alabama, they’re in a good place. They’ll hire a really good coordinator and they’re still going to win a lot of games.”
As part of finding his next coordinator, Saban has already reportedly interviewed former NFL coordinator George Godsey. Crimson Tide co-offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich are reportedly candidates as well.