On Monday, we said that Alabama’s big distraction for the month leading up to the BCS Championship Game would be Nick Saban’s rumored return to the National Football League. A report in The Boston Globe this past weekend claimed that Saban — at some point — had told league sources that if he were to return to the pro ranks, he would do so with old Cleveland Browns co-worker Michael Lombardi as his GM. Well, the Cleveland Browns might just hire Lombardi in the coming weeks.
Yesterday, the endless run of game show-like daily programming on ESPN ran the Saban story over and over. Each of the network’s “I’ll take this point, you take that point and we’ll pretend to have a heated discussion” shows brought up The Globe’s story for discussion/argument. After running all day on ESPN, the Saban story became America’s hottest game of connect-the-dots.
Trouble is… that’s all the story is. It’s connecting dots. Saban supposedly told someone if he returned to the NFL he’d do so with Lombardi. Dot #1. Lombardi might be hired in Cleveland. Dot #2. So if he is, Saban will go. Dot #3.
Well, if we ever record and release a MrSEC.com reggae album, we’ll do so in December of 2012. But the fact that it’s December of 2012 doesn’t mean we’re actually going to put out a reggae album. Follow?
Forget logic, though. The reading of signs has already begun. Lombardi appeared on WKRK-FM in Cleveland yesterday and said of Saban: “He’s got great drive and he’s never satisfied. Nick is always about the next challenge.”
So he must be leaving.
But at Alabama: “(Saban) can control all the things he wants to control in his environment. I think he’s very content there.”
So he must be staying. Whatever your view, Lombardi gave you something you could read into.
Taking things a step further, ESPN personalities Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic — as a kickoff to the wall-to-wall coverage to come on ESPN television — claimed yesterday morning that Saban would probably be interested in the Browns job because he appears to be unhappy at Alabama.
(I have worked in television for 20 years. I can tell you that consultants always demand that stations and networks have a “big story” each day. And if there isn’t a “big story,” then the job becomes making a “big story.” If you put 10 reporters on anything, it becomes a “big story” and viewers will tune in to see your coverage of said event. No one does this better on a daily basis than ESPN. On a Tuesday with little going on, they kick off the day discussing Saban on the radio and then the story winds its way through every ESPN television show right up to “SportsCenter.” ESPN does this all the time. They create big stories out of thin air. Or out of rumor and innuendo as is the case with the current Saban speculation.)
Former NFL receiver Cris Carter — whose son Duron Carter briefly played wideout for Saban at Bama — joined the show and shot down the hosts’ theory about an unhappy coach being interested Cleveland’s job:
“You don’t know Nick Saban so you’re just guessing. This is how Nick Saban operates. This is his haven. He has a gift to be able to coach and teach football. He talks about the process and he’s that thorough everyday. He’s born that way. It’s in his DNA.
I would be shocked if he comes back to pro football after sitting down with him. My son was in the program for a year so I was able to teach a lot of clinics with Coach and I was able to sit down and talk with him. I also talked with him before last year’s national championship game. For those outside who don’t think he’s enjoying this, they really don’t know him…
If you look at his roster the last four or five years, he’s coaching a pro team. So why would he go to the pros when he can coach better kids at Alabama, have more control over the roster and face less skill at the coaching level than facing Bill Belichick on a weekly basis?”
Good points all. And while we’re on the subject of Belichick, does he look like he enjoys his job? Just because guys like Saban and Belichick aren’t grinning from ear to ear and aren’t consistently “jacked and pumped” like Pete Carroll, it doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying their work.
As we noted Monday, people close to Saban feel he regrets ever leaving LSU for the NFL in the first place. The chances of him repeating that move now by walking away from another juggernaut program that he’s built are slim in our view. Very slim.
That doesn’t mean Saban won’t be coaching the Browns next year. Anything’s possible. But we wouldn’t worry too much yet, Tide fans, over ESPN’s Tuesday game of connect-the-dots.