Wherever there’s a football dynasty being built, there’s an architect behind its construction. And, in the case of the Alabama dynasty — and make no mistake, that’s exactly what it is — Nick Saban‘s fingerprints are all over the Tide.
The Tide as a team and Saban as a head coach are the standard-bearers in today’s game, and the empirical data is irrefutable. Two straight BCS titles — the only team to accomplish that — and three in four years, with a shot at three straight and four in five with a plethora of talent returning in 2013. Of the last eight BCS championships, a Saban-coached team has won four of them, leaving the 61-year-old coach just two titles behind the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most ever.
In the background of the building and maintaining of a football juggernaut, though, is the constant hum of NFL noise.
It was there in the run-up to the BCS championship game, which both Saban and his wife attempted to stamp out to no avail. It was there in the postgame following the throttling of Notre Dame as well. And, once again, Saban attempted tamp out whatever embers of a move to the NFL may still be smoldering.
At a celebratory press conference Tuesday morning, Saban was again asked about what if any future he has in the professional ranks.
“How many times do you think I’ve been asked this question?” Saban said according to the Birmingham News. “How many times do you think I’ve been asked to put it to rest? And I’ve put it to rest and you continue to (ask) it. …
“I kind of learned through that experience [with the Miami Dolphins] that maybe this is where I belong. I’m really happy and at peace with all of that. No matter how many times I say that, you all don’t believe it. I don’t know why I keep talking about it.”
Of course, Saban knows exactly why people continue to talk about the NFL even as he continually denies interest in a return. Simply put, Saban will never completely live down his strident “I’m not going to be the Alabama head coach” line two weeks before he was the Alabama head coach.
That’s not on the media, that’s on Saban for publicly painting himself into that corner back in December of 2006.
What is on the media, though, is clinging to the notion that, because he went 15-17 during his two years with the Dolphins, Saban has some unfinished business as far as the NFL is concerned. That he simply couldn’t stand the lone stain on his otherwise sterling coaching résumé and would need to return to right that wrong.
Saban has steadfastly denied that’s the case, and laid out in perhaps the clearest terms yet exactly why he prefers college over the professional ranks.
“Somewhere along the lines you learn a lot from the experiences of what you’ve done in the past,” he said. “I came to the Miami Dolphins eight years ago for the best owner, the best person I’ve ever had the opportunity to work for. In the two years I was here, I had a very, very difficult time thinking I would impact the organization the way I wanted to and the way I was able to in college. It was very difficult for me.
“There’s a lot of parity in the NFL, there’s a lot of rules in the NFL. People say you can draft the players you want to draft. You draft the player that’s there when you pick. Might not be the player you need, might not be the player you want. You’ve got salary cap issues. We had them here. You’ve got to have a quarterback. We had a chance to get one here, sort of messed it up.”
And therein lies the reason why there’s (almost) no chance that you will ever see Saban, especially as the years tick off the calendar, on an NFL sideline in anything but a spectating role. Certainly there will be suitors from that level who will inquire about Saban’s availability — the Cleveland Browns will make a run at him in the coming days, if they haven’t already — but they can expect the same answer myriad others have received over the past few seasons.
“No thanks. And Roll Tide…“