Does Saban Know What He's Doing?

A few decades ago, when Alabama and Auburn fans could be friends and could have cordial conversations, an insider in the Auburn program confessed that there was a little jealously of the Alabama program. It seemed to him (and presumably to others of his persuasion) that Crimson Tide Coach Paul Bryant was able to lose assistant coaches, hire new ones from anywhere, and never miss a step.

As has been pointed out, there are quite a few similarities in legendary Alabama Coach Paul Bryant and current Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban. Most intriguing is that Bryant was considered the best of his time (and perhaps of all time) and that Saban is unquestionably considered the best today (and will go down in college football history in that small group of the greatest that includes Bryant).

It is for that reason turnover can be expected in the assistant coach ranks. In the Bryant era, there were many who wanted a Bryant man in their program. (Some 40 of his former players and assistant coaches went on to be head coaches in colleges or in professional football.) Saban has his own coaching tree of assistants going out to be coordinators or head coaches.

On a pragmatic level, the issue of assistant coaches being added under Bryant and Saban illustrates what may be the key similarity in the two. Both had a plan (not the same plan) in which they believed and in which they made everyone around them – players and coaches – believe. New assistant coaches can offer suggestions in the details, but the big picture is that the new men fit into the plan.

Many in Alabama, particularly along the Gulf coast, are familiar with the retiree who wants to come in and tell the Southerners how they did things back in Michigan. The gentle answer is that he is welcome to move to Michigan. Not many seem to want to do that, although Doug Nussmeier may be in that camp.

Nussmeier, who was Alabama quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, made the lateral move to Michigan. Also making a lateral move was Bama defensive line coach Chris Rumph, who has gone to Texas.

In their places, Saban brought in Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and Bo Davis, a former Saban assistant at LSU, the Miami Dolphins, and Alabama, as defensive line coach.

Generally, there has been satisfaction in the Bama fanbase on these hires. There is some concern that Kiffin as head coach at Tennessee and USC (where he was fired mid-season) was controversial, not likeable, and ineffectual. Most, however, recognize the difference between Kiffin as head coach and Kiffin as someone under the thumb of Saban.

The return of Davis for Rumph is interesting primarily because it is basically a coach swap. Davis was under Mack Brown, but was not going to be kept by Charlie Strong, who replaced Brown and came for Rumph. Davis had been hired for a week at USC by Kiffin's successor, Steve Sarkisian, before Davis answered the call to return to the Saban fold.

Part of the problem for some fans is that Saban doesn't select the man the fan has in mind. Hire Ed Orgeron!

Well, Orgeron may or may not want to work under Saban; and Saban may or may not want Orgeron working under him. One reason Saban makes a comfortable salary at Alabama is a belief that he has the ability to build and mold his coaching staff.

Saban has been in the coaching business for some 40 years, a head coach half that time. He knows a lot of men in the business. For every potential assistant coach opening, it is likely he could consider dozens of potential candidates.

That is not to say that the changes are over for this off-season.

Through the process that creates the domino effect at other schools (and even in the NFL), it is possible that Saban assistants will continue to be targeted.

The truth of the matter is that is a good thing.

Saban can attract the very best. Men like Lance Thompson and now Bo Davis have not only worked for him, but come back after leaving him; Thompson twice.

There is no reason to suspect that Saban doesn't know what he's doing.

Click HERE to read about player reaction to the addition of Lane Kiffin to the Alabama staff

Join the discussion of assistant coaching situation HERE

BamaMag Top Stories