Maybe he has let Spurrier get under his skin and is going to coach somewhere that has never won before to prove his ability. Cleveland fits the bill, unless you are an Icky Woods fan.
Nick Saban is all about business, focus, and the process. And rumors that Saban might consider a jump to the Cleveland Browns are not part of Alabama’s business, focus or its process heading into next month’s BCS Championship Game.
Yesterday, The Boston Globe stirred up a fresh round of chatter connecting Saban to the Cleveland Browns and potential new GM Michael Lombardi (currently of NFL Newtwork). The Browns are owned by Jimmy Haslam, a member of the University of Tennessee’s biggest mega-donor family. If Haslam and the Browns hire Lombardi, Lombardi might try to lure his old buddy Saban back to the NFL. At least that’s the theory as the two worked together in Cleveland during the 1990s under Bill Belichick. That would be good for the Browns and bad for Bama… which would in turn be even better for Haslam on two fronts (helping his NFL franchise could also aid the college program he supports).
“According to the NFL sources, Saban has let it be known that if he returns to the NFL — where he flopped, going 15-17 with the Dolphins from 2005-06 — it would likely be with Lombardi playing (Scott) Pioli to his Belichick.
One of Saban’s many missteps in Miami — the first being that he accepted a job he really didn’t want — was hiring a general manager in Randy Mueller who did not know the Belichick personnel system. Mueller, who was a good personnel man when running his own ship with the Saints, had to learn Saban’s system on the fly, and it never really clicked.
Saban could well be looking for his next/final NFL opportunity if he wins his fourth national championship next month in the BCS title game against Notre Dame. If the Browns (Saban is from northern West Virginia, played for and coached at Kent State, and was a Browns assistant under Belichick) and Lombardi are dangled, he may indeed take the plunge again.
Despite Saban’s personality and his issues in Miami, an NFL owner would be a fool not to make a run at him. He’s a phenomenal coach if he can figure out the personnel and get the right quarterback. And if you want Saban, you need Lombardi.”
First, when exactly did Saban let it be known that if he returns to the NFL it would likely be with Lombardi as his general manager? In 2007? Last year? Last week? That would seem to matter and the article doesn’t provide a time frame.
Second, Saban’s wife Terry was singing a completely different tune when asked about her husband leaving Tuscaloosa for another job last Friday, just two days before The Globe’s report surfaced:
“To answer your question and get right to the point, no. We’re very comfortable here. We love it here. It’s a great fit for our family. It’s a good fit for me. As far as we’re concerned, this is where we’ll retire someday.
As far as jobs go, this is it for us. I don’t mean to be presumptuous. I would have to talk this over with Nick, but as far as I’m concerned, this is it.”
Regardless of what her husband says — and he’ll be forced to discuss the Browns’ rumors whether he wants to or not — this topic will likely remain in play right up until kickoff against Notre Dame unless he signs another contract extension. The fact that he told the media in Miami that he would not be the coach at Alabama and then became the coach at Alabama will breed skepticism even if he comes out and says he’s staying.
And Saban signed new two-year extension just this past March. His deal is worth $5.62 million per year and will run through 2020. He said when the deal was announced:
“From my standpoint, the acceptance of this extension represents our commitment… to the University of Alabama for the rest of our career. We made that decision after the (2011) season when other people were interested.”
So was it last offseason when Saban “let it be known” to NFL people that he’d only return to a team that had Lombardi as GM?
Regardless, we’d be shocked if Saban tried the NFL again. From speaking to people around the coach, he realizes he never should have left LSU for Miami in the first place. It would be surprising if he walked away from another gold mine less than a decade later.
In addition, if Saban and Alabama defeat Notre Dame in Miami, the Tide coach will have won three BCS titles in four years (and four overall). It’s not out of the question that Saban could match Paul “Bear” Bryant’s six national titles in Tuscaloosa if he coaches out the remainder of his contract. Don’t think for a second that Saban doesn’t have that notched as a target in the back of his mind.
If Saban says nothing about the Cleveland job, the rumors will continue to swirl. If he denies the rumors, many reporters will point to his denials from the end of his Miami days and keep the talk alive anyway (though it would probably be muted just a bit). Saban is in a no-win situation on this one.
So get ready Bama fans, here’s your distraction for the month.