Is anybody among the Crimson Tide faithful really even remotely worried about Nick Saban leaving for the NFL again? Personally speaking, I am not concerned about that happening at all. I know Nick Saban has a rather dubious reputation on matters such as this based on how he left the three previous coaching positions he occupied, but I think you have to look at the context of the situation to really get to the bottom of all this hype.
Every coach handles career transitions differently. Some coaches simply handle that situation better than others. Admittedly, Nick Saban is probably guilty of not being as tactful as he could have been when making career moves in the past. Still Saban isn’t the only coach in sports history to be a bit haphazard about the way they handle the delicate situation involved with changing jobs at a major sports program. You need only look at recent history in college football to see that. Les Miles leaving Oklahoma State, Lane Kiffin leaving Tennessee, and Pete Carrol leaving USC immediately come to mind given the way they left their former employers. That’s just to name a few of the many instances where career moves made by sports coaches goes awry. So this sort of thing is not all that uncommon.
It’s worth noting that just because Saban left one job for another in the past, it doesn’t guarantee that he will do so again in the future. This concept seems lost on all members of the sports media that are convinced that Saban is going to jump ship because, to them, that’s just what he does. The fact is that Nick Saban is going to eventually retire somewhere. He won’t keep jumping from one job to another until the end of his days. At some point he will be coaching his last coaching job. Will he be retiring at Alabama? At the present time, my gut tells me probably so.
Still I don’t think it’s completely outside the realm of possibility that, if he were inclined to do so, Saban might eventually make one final venture into the NFL. But I think if ever that were to happen it would come in the twilight of his career, sort of in the way that Barry Switzer did with the Cowboys, but not right now. I don’t think Nick Saban is quite at that stage of his career yet. He probably has another 5-10 years of coaching left in him if he chooses to stay in the game for that much longer. Why would he sacrifice the best years that he has left in his coaching career to risk going into the NFL again given his previous experience there? If it ever were to happen, this just doesn’t seem like the right time or place that it would happen in my opinion. There are several factors that lead me to believe that all this hype that has infected the sports media about Saban leaving Alabama for the NFL is, simply that; Hype.
First, Nick Saban isn’t a middle aged coach trying to navigate his way to the most successful and challenging coaching position anymore. He is now coaching at what is arguably the pinnacle of college football coaching jobs at the University of Alabama. At 61 years of age, he is now entering into the latter part of his coaching career (and his life). He has built one of the most successful football programs in modern college football history and restored the legacy of Alabama football to it’s former glory and national prominence. Some might see this as a reason for Saban to move on to more challenging endeavors, but to that I say what is more challenging than building a football program up to such a high level then trying to keep it there? And why would he risk going to the NFL again so late in his career? What does he have to prove by coaching in the NFL again? There is no disputing that he is a great football coach after what he has accomplished in his career. To go to the NFL now would be just an after thought because he can, not because he needs to or feels compelled to.
Second, how much more money is Saban really going to be able to make at the professional level? Probably not as much as you might think. No doubt his annual salary would be more than he is making at the present time, but given that he is one of the highest paid coaches in college football, don’t expect that he would double or triple what he is making right now. And considering the way his previous stint in the NFL went, were he to repeat his prior performance again, his long term earning potential at Alabama would easily be much higher than what he would earn from another short stint in the NFL.
Third, there is the control factor. Nick Saban has a reputation as being a bit of a micro-manager as a coach. He seems to be at his best when he can step into any level of his football program, from the assistant coaches down to the players, and get directly involved in what is going on without having to worry about stepping on anybodies toes or encroaching on somebodies territory. When you are the head coach at the professional level the situation is completely different. That amount of control simply does not exist there. That is why college football is more suited to Saban’s coaching style. Surely Nick Saban knows this by now after having coached many years at both the college and professional level on numerous occasions.
Lastly, Nick Saban has to consider his family. His wife Terry has been very outspoken towards the media lately about her husbands career, making it crystal clear that she sees her husband to staying put at Alabama. This wasn’t always the case in the past when husband Nick was pondering career moves. It’s obvious that Terry has taken a liking to the Tuscaloosa community and that fondness has lead her to discourage all rumors of any potential career moves for Nick Saban at this time. Not to mention the fact that Saban’s daughter is currently a student at the University of Alabama. To pull up roots at Alabama now would not only sever Nick and Terry Saban’s ties with the community but would also isolate their daughter at the University, meaning she would almost certainly have to transfer to another school in order to complete her degree given the attention she would draw in the event that her father left his job as the coach of the Alabama football program.
When you add all of this up, it becomes hard to imagine that there is any legitimacy to all this speculation about Nick Saban’s supposed future in the NFL. That said, stranger things have happened in the world of football. Were Saban to leave for the NFL, it would be a surprise to the Alabama fan base and no doubt a risky move on his part. But he has done enough to restore the legacy of Alabama football and I would harbor no ill will towards him if that came to be. He is of course entitled to make decisions about his career as he sees fit and I would wish him well were he to leave us at Alabama. But really I just don’t see that happening anytime soon, if ever at all.