Originally written in December 2013.
Let’s start here: Nick Saban probably won’t leave Alabama for Texas. (EDIT: Yep, he did not.) On too many different levels, it doesn’t make sense. He could probably make more money, yes, but he’s 62. He has a lot of money. Does he need more? (Does he even pay for meals in Tuscaloosa? I wouldn’t think so.) If he goes to Texas, it’d take him two years to win a championship, and maybe three. He’d be mid-60s. Is it really such an accomplishment to win with that fertile of a talent base? He’s likely doing it for the money from Alabama. Right? Right?
Let’s assume he’s staying. I honestly believe he’ll stay there (Alabama) for the remainder of his career. But if he walks right now, there’s one interesting thing: his last games at places tend to be a lil’ dramatic. Let’s go through a few.
Toledo: Saban coached Toledo for one year (1990). He left to become the D-Coordinator of the Browns under Bill Belichick (their systems and mantras have been intertwined for decades, literally). His final game at Toledo, to finish 9-2, was a win over Arkansas State. This one wasn’t quite dramatic because Toledo reeled off 12 points in the fourth quarter, but it was tight going into the fourth: Pat Johnson scored on a 27-yard run to put them up. Here’s a picture of what Saban looked like as coach of Toledo, FYI.
Cleveland Browns: The 1994 Browns — Saban’s last team as DC — won 11 games, which is the most games the franchise has won in one season since 1986 (to date). They beat the Patriots — whom Belichick would go on to achieve his greatest success with — in the wild-card playoffs, and then got obliterated by the Steelers in the divisional round. ‘Twas not a great day for Saban’s defense, and when the Browns cleaned house, he ended up at Michigan State as the head coach.
Michigan State: This was another Saban unexpected bolt. He was at MSU for close to a half-decade, and then after a successful 1999 season (10-2), he left for LSU before the bowl game. Bobby Williams, who is currently the TE/special teams coach at Alabama (whoa, special teams is not a good thing at Alabama right this second…), succeeded Saban and coached the bowl game. Saban’s last game in that 10-win season was a 35-28 win over Penn State (PSU was ranked No. 13, MSU was ranked No. 15). It wasn’t quite a walk-off winner, but T.J. Duckett won that game with about 2:30 left on a TD run.
Duckett is now the part-owner of a non-profit T-Shirt production company.
LSU: Saban won a national championship at LSU, but abruptly left for the Dolphins after the Outback Bowl loss to Iowa in 2005. (Les Miles was the coach of Oklahoma State at the time and watched the end of this game on TV; within about 24 hours, he was the head coach of LSU, where he’s been ever since. LSU plays Iowa in the Outback Bowl this year, so get ready for a lot of this clip being rolled out.) This was the final play of Saban’s existence with the Geaux Tigers:
Tate currently plays for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.
Dolphins: Saban went to the Dolphins and wasn’t great. Many assume this still haunts him. (I’m not sure he really cares.) His last game there was on December 31, 2006. They lost to the Colts, who were 12-4 and playoff-bound. It wasn’t really that close, although the Dolphins made a fourth-quarter push behind Randy McMichael, who was most recently cut by the Chargers last spring.
Alabama: Saban’s here presently. But if he were to walk now and not coach in the bowl game, his final play as Crimson Tide head coach would be this:
Pretty interesting how his LSU career and his Alabama career (possibly) could end on super-dramatic, last-second plays — and his MSU career kinda did too. It’s also just a walk down memory lane to remember Drew Tate, T.J. Duckett in green and white, Randy McMichael, etc.
My friend told me last week that Saban is the “Don Draper of college football.” Not wholly inaccurate.