Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Saban situation

Two thoughts:

1) I agree with Ivan Maisel that the Tide is, essentially, taking a mighty expensive and desperate spin on a tilting roulette wheel. I agree with the esteemed Will Collier that by doing so, the T-Town Powers That Be have come right out and admitted that Auburn’s current domination is so complete they have no choice but to bargain with the devil to put an end to it. I agree that because the Tide’s new coach is Nick Saban, after all, he will almost certainly look for and find some greener grass in another few years’ time.

But I wonder if what looks to me like the prevailing Auburn fan attitude of “Whatever, Saban ain’t that special” isn’t a case of looking so hard for silver linings we’re missing the thundercloud. Auburn needs to see the threat for what it is: namely, an Alabama that in a couple years’ time is going to be on the level with Saban’s LSU teams. Saban may be a two-faced liar who honors promises and allegiances to no one but himself, but he’s a two-faced liar who honors promises and allegiances to no one but himself who can coach college ball like hell.

Maybe his best year at Michigan St. was 10-2, but 10-2 for the Spartans is the equivalent of 13-0 most other places. Maybe, true, his 2003 Tigers were overrated, what with not being quite as good as certain other teams from that era (cough cough) that didn’t bring home a crystal football. But that doesn’t change the fact that his program was in such monumental shape when he left that the worst the combined forces of Hurricane Katrina and Les Miles could do was create a pair of seasons that ended with 40-3 and 41-14 beatdowns of Miami and Notre Dame. Seeing as how Alabama is currently in better shape than either MSU or LSU were when he took over the reins there, I don’t see any reason to think Saban won’t take the Tide similar places.

You know what? I’m fine with that. With where Auburn is as a program right now—where 11-2 with wins over Florida, LSU, ‘Bama, and Nebraska is nice and all, it's great, really, but not exactly a smashing success—we don’t have to worry about anyone. With Auburn’s current coaching staff, players, admin, etc., it doesn’t matter who’s in the coach’s office in T-Town. Saban doesn’t have to be Ray Perkins, he doesn’t have to be “not worth the money,” overrated, a fraud, any of that. Let him be worth the money. Let him be accurately rated. Let him be Nick Saban, Savior. Hell, let him fulfill all those crimson-colored fantasies and be the damn Second Coming.

Doesn’t matter this time. Auburn’s ready. Tubs is ready. Bring it on, I say.

2) In all the discussion of money and the difficulty of the NFL, in control issues and Saban's inability to adapt, and even from the man himself when discussing where his “heart” was, no one seems to have their finger on the biggest reason a guy as competitive as Saban would walk out on an NFL team and come to a place like ‘Bama.

Namely, at ‘Bama you can be a god. At a place like ‘Bama—or just about any SEC school if you stay (and win, of course) long enough—you can be not just beloved, not just adored, but f***ing worshipped. I would argue that, especially given the fan base’s current desperation, no head coaching job in all of American sports offers the level of gratitude from the fans that the Alabama football head coaching position can offer.

And that, seems to me, was the clinching attraction for someone as obviously concerned with his own image as Saban. Whatever his motivation, the way Saban left Miami does of course make him, as Dan Le Batard gleefully points out, a gasbag and a weasel. But at Miami Saban was never going to be more than good coach. As Michigan St. he was never going to be more than second fiddle to Michigan and Tom Izzo. At LSU he was a big ol’ honkin’ deal, and he probably thought he had what we wanted, until those eejits decided to boo him the very first game after he’d given them everything they wanted.

At ‘Bama? He’s greeted at the airport like Charles Lindbergh returning to the States—and he hasn’t even set foot on campus yet! What happens if he wins an SEC title? A national title? That’s the bottom line—things would happen that would never happen anywhere else. For all their buffoonery over the years (and, in some ways, because of that buffoonery), ‘Bama and Mal Moore could still offer that kind of potential adoration. For most coaches—Curry, Fran, all the guys like Jim Leavitt who could have campaigned for the job and didn’t--it’s not worth the cost of the inhuman pressure. For someone as supremely confident and ego-driven as Saban, though, my guess is it’s the biggest reason of all to sign on.

Starting work on recaps tonight, I swear.

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