Saban best ever… with another coaching great

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We are all prisoners of the moment. Knee jerk reactions aren’t silly, It’s just human nature. A player, or team has an accomplishment, it’s easy to throw out the best ever comparisons.

Monday night after Alabama’s 45-40 win over Clemson, I walked out to the field inside University of Phoenix Stadium (partly to stay awake) to think if Nick Saban is the greatest coach in College Football history. I think he’s the best coach in the college game right now (Urban Meyer, David Shaw the other two) and I think it goes without saying that Alabama is the best program in the game (Ohio St is number two).

But, is Nick Saban, THE greatest coach in the college game. He joins one coach atop the mountain (more on the other coach later). Here’s what’s made Saban’s accomplishments at Alabama all-time impressive:

 

1.Being able to adapt his game plan, and program

Alabama isn’t anywhere near the program they were when Saban came to Tuscaloosa. The game plan was even more of a run heavy, conservative, sound defense that wouldn’t make many mistakes. It worked the first few years in a big way (2009 National Title).

What’s made Saban great is being able to meticulously find every little detail before kickoff, and allowing his assistants to do the same. Case in point, the game changing onside kick Monday night.

You can go all the way back to Saban’s first National Title run  in 2009 and their win over Florida in the SEC Championship.

He can make adjustments, but he can also change as the college game changes. Would Saban have the success that he’s enjoying if he were staying true to his philosophy in 2008-09? Doubt it. He won games the last two season’s with Blake Sims and Jacob Coker, running a more up tempo attack.

 

2. Recruiting philosophy has changed

It’s one thing to stock pile elite recruiting  classes year after year in College Football. That means nothing if a coaching staff:

A) Can’t evaluate elite talent at the prep level that fit your needs schematically on offense or defense.

B) Can’t develop the talent you have once it arrives on campus.

How many programs have had top 10 classes, and can’t get 7 wins, much less a chance to win a conference or National title?

Now granted, EVERY college program will “miss” on talent over the years once on campus. That’s just the reality of  the game. Guys don’t pan out for one reason or another.

The biggest accomplishment for Saban is what he’s done to revamp his roster all while dealing with the “spread” or wide open scheme across the country and within the SEC. After the slow progression of a spread type scheme with Tim Tebow and Cam Newton at Florida and Auburn respectively to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, Nick Saban understood that he needed players on defense that were good enough to hold up in the trenches and in run support, all while being able to play in space.

The Dont’a Hightower’s, Rolando McClain’s, Trey Depriest’s of the world are a thing of the past. What Tide fans will see more of are body types like Rashaan Evans, Tim Williams, Reuben Foster, Shon-Dion Hamilton, Da’Shawn Hand, Mekhi Brown, or Adonis Thomas. Guys that can flat out run downhill, and able to make plays in open areas of the field when playing against spread attacks. Big fellas will always be needed (when dealing with more run heavy schemes),  along with rangy Safety’s in the secondary (one of, if not the most most important position on defense), it’s just that Saban understands he needs players for EVERY scheme he can or will face.

Like the other dual threat quarterbacks that Alabama has faced,  Deshaun Watson was magnificent Monday (478 yds, 4 passing TD’s). But even in the shootout, Some of those young Alabama defenders (Evans, Hand, Hamilton, Williams, Fitzpatrick) were called upon to help the veteran guys that needed a break going against such a tempo heavy scheme.

 

3. Being in the hunt every season an accomplishment in itself

Outside of Saban’s first season at Alabama (2007, a 6-6 record) he’s had the following records:

2008- 12-2

2009- 14-0*

2010- 10-3

2011-  12-1*

2012- 13-1*

2013- 11-2

2014- 12-2

2015- 14-1*

* National Championship season

 

Nick Saban has been in Tuscaloosa for nine seasons. Eight of those, Alabama has been in the hunt for a National Title, all while playing in the best conference in College Football. And if we all want to play the “if” game, “if” a handful of plays went Alabama’s way during these eight seasons, Saban  could have 5-7 National Titles total in nine seasons.

To be able to adapt his coaching philosophy, adjust his personnel, and have personnel on the field  to execute his coaching philosophy over the years, is what makes this run for Saban all time great.

Coaching record at Alabama:

100-18 overall

50-12 in SEC Play

4 National Championships

 

It makes him at this moment ONE of the two greatest coaches in College Football history. The other:

 

 

(Source: cnn.com, Getty images)

Florida State had zero. ZERO history. In comes Bobby Bowden in 1976. He had a losing season in his first season. He never had another in 34 years in Tallahassee.

From 1987 to 2000, Florida State won at least 10 games, and loss a combined 19  (along with one tie).

FSU finished in the top 5 from 1992-2000 (14 straight seasons).

Bowden “only” has two National Titles, but the reason I put him alongside Saban, is because he created a program that had no history, into one of the best programs in America, and a brand in College Football. Saban. Bowden. The very best in my opinion. There’s a coach in Columbus, Ohio that could make me revisit this a few years from now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Came, I Saw, I Iron Bowled. Thoughts from The best game in History

Source: Auburntigers.com

What The Hell Did I Watch?

I thought that this game would be a classic, I thought that Alabama would win the game. That didn’t happen. This did instead:

To be able to watch that first hand, and seeing Chris Davis run toward yours truly to win the game. Epic. It’s not only the best iron Bowl in history, It’s the greatest ending in the history of college football. Incredible. Just incredible.

So without further ado,  my take on the game that I was honored to be at:

Auburn ran the football when they wanted to early and often.

296 yards on the ground. Tre Mason, 164 yards. Nick Marshall 99 yards. Many believed Alabama would stop what many said prior to the game that was a basic read option. Prior to the game, Auburn players said that they believed they would have success on The Tide front seven. Did they ever. The Tigers literally ran it when they wanted to, and dominated the lines of scrimmage.

Nick Saban believed his offense could get 1 yard on 4th and 1.

You have the right to believe that Alabama should have attempted a field goal up 7 on 4th and 1 late in fourth quarter. They didn’t. Why? because he felt that his team., his Alabama team, with his offensive line, his running backs could get one yard and ice the game. Auburn stuffed it. Could Alabama kicked the field goal and ultimately ended the game? Sure. But Nick Saban believed that his team could get one yard. Auburn had other plans.

Ellis Johnson should get a TON of credit.

Is The Tigers 4-2-5 scheme ready from a personnel standpoint for first year coordinator Ellis Johnson moving forward?. No. But he has 9-10 guys on the defensive line that are as good as anyone in the SEC. Give credit to the likes of Gabe Wright, Nosa Eugae, Dee Ford, Eljah Daniel, Carl Lawson, etc for not sacking AJ McCarron, but getting him off his “spot” making his night very uncomfortable. Alabama could go deep, (was looking more from the Tide going vertical) but for one reason or another that didn’t happen.

Alabama didn’t control the lines of scrimmage.

Many thought that the Tide offensive and defensive lines had improved over the course of the season. They have. They just played a better Offensive and Defensive line on Saturday. The Tide were good enough to win no question (T.J. Yeldon  141 yards, 1 TD), but for four quarters, Auburn controlled the lines of scrimmage.

Amari Cooper is unstoppable

When Healthy, I’m taking #9 over any wide out in the country. He’s a beast. Elite speed, and an elite route runner. He couldn’t be covered all night, that 99 yarder tells you everything. 6 rec, 178 yards, 1 TD. Pretty darn good.

I have even more respect for AJ McCarron

36-3 as a starter. 3 National Championships. 90 plus percent winning percentage. McCarron has been special at Alabama, and over the years he has continued to gain more respect from me. Well done #10 on a great career.

Missed opportunities for Alabama

If Cade Foster makes a field goal or two, the game is over. End of story. But give credit to Auburn, and the Jordan-Hare Stadium electric crowd as well. They influenced a kicker that has been spot on all season.

The Final Play

Adam Griffith kicked that 57 yarder as good as anyone could have kicked it. With wind behind him. It looked good. What did Auburn do? put Chris Davis who three weeks earlier returned a punt against Tennessee in the back of the end zone just in case. Not only did he get a running start when the kick was short, but he got GREAT blocking by his teammates initially on the return,  with Gus Malzahn and his staff understanding that  Alabama had there field goal blockers or as they say “big guys” on the field. They took advantage, and the rest is history.

Quick Hitters:

—If Florida State and Ohio State win their conference title games, They play for the BCS National Title. End of Story. Never in the history of the BCS has  two remaining teams in power conferences NOT played for the National Championship, with everyone else having one loss. Yes Auburn’s resume is better than Florida State and Ohio State, but they do have one loss. If both the Noles and Buckeyes win, the SEC streak of title appearances will be over.

—Who in the world will win the Heisman?

—A special job well done to former Alabama A&M Head Coach Anthony Jones. The University fired Jones Sunday after just his  third losing season in 12 years. Jones won at A&M with sub par resources and graduated his players. It’s safe to say he won’t be out of a head coaching job anytime soon, wouldn’t be surprised if he lands another coaching gig right in the SWAC if he wants it. A good man, that deserves to be recognized for what he did on “The Hill” considering some terrible circumstances during his tenure.

A conference championship preview later this week…

And I leave you with something pretty cool and fun on the Iron Bowl….

Have a great week everyone!