Saban Monday Press Briefing

It is not a surprise when Nick Saban begins his news briefing with a nugget from his background in sports psychology. Reporters who cover him on a regular basis recognize the analogies and the philosophies of his statements, which seem to come straight from his team meetings.



This week an analogy from his opening statement was misunderstood by some in the media. Here is the text of Monday's briefing by Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban.

Opening Statement:

Team spirit is the willingness to sacrifice personal considerations for the welfare of all. I think that is what defines a team player in business, football, any team sport and people have to care, it has to be important to them.

Changes in history usually occur after some catastrophic event. It may be 9/11, which changed the spirit of America relative to a catastrophic event. Pearl Harbor got us ready for World War II and that was a catastrophic event.

I don't think anyone would have bet we would have lost back-to-back games to Mississippi State and ULM, no disrespect to either one of those teams, and there is really a reason for that. There is a reason these things occur relative to focus, preparation, getting it right, and I am talking about on and off the field.

To have players suspended, guys missing things, not knowing what they are supposed to do, not focusing and practicing the way they need to focus and practice, not finishing plays, not finishing games, not finishing the season. It is humiliating. That is basically what happened. We made a lot of mental errors in the game, we turned the ball over five times, it is hard to beat anybody when you are five-o on the turnover ratio side of it. We didn't finish in the red zone three times regardless of the circumstances.

Now if you start and go back to work, and do things right, to change the person and become the person you can be, and be the change you want see in other people so you set an example to get it right and do it right.

I think we can be a good football team, but that has got to start. I think everybody has to realize how they have to change. They talk about how alcoholics never change until they hit rock bottom, well they change when they hit rock bottom because they have an awareness, an acceptance, and so they make a commitment to change.

I think that is what our players need to do right now because in the last two weeks, or since after the LSU game, I haven't seen the same spirit, I haven't seen the same commitment, I haven't seen the same perseverance, I haven't seen the same work ethic, and that is something we have to get right. That is really important. I

think that if that starts with every individual so they change. We are certainly going to work on getting it right this week, but I think if we get it right we can be a good football team. When we have gotten it right and done it the right way, we have had success and we played like a pretty decent football team. Not saying we won every game, but we played and competed like you need to in a game to have a decent football team. That is where it is at.

You talk about the 24 hour rule, we need to have that and focus on the next game. You also have to remember what happened. You can't sweep it under the rug like it didn't happen because it did. Nobody here is happy about it. I think everyone here has to do a gut check relative to what it means to them.

We are going to find who cares and who doesn't care and the ones that don't care, they shouldn't be here, they really shouldn't. It is not fair to the institution, it is not fair to their teammates, not fair to the people they represent and that is just the way it is. We will get it right, because we will get it right with people who care, who want to do it and it is important to them.

Our players of the game for this game are Andre Smith, played very well along with Travis McCall on offense. Wallace Gilberry had 10 tackles, four tackles for a loss and a sack, Darren Mustin had 14 tackles, two tackles for a loss and one pass breakup, so those two guys are the defensive guys. On special teams Cory Reamer had three knockdowns on special teams return type blocks and has done a good job for us all year.

Injury update: Javier Arenas is probably doubtful for this game, I don't think he has an ankle that needs surgery but he has a pretty severe high ankle sprain and those things usually take more than a week to respond. Every individual is different and we are hopeful he will be able to get back sooner than later but I would say I am hoping for the best, preparing for the worst, he has done a really good job for us all year, he is great young man, it is important to him and he cares about it, we would love to have him get back for this game.

The suspended guys have been suspended. So they are done with that. I get asked something every week like I am supposed to do something different to them now. The NCAA has rules and regulations that we respect and honor. Those guys have done their suspension and penalties for what they did, which was a poor decision on their part and selfish on their part and hurtful to the team, there is no doubt about that. That is over and done with and we are going to use those guys to help us in this game however they can help our team. That will be determined by how they practice this week and how they are able to respond after being off. They have all practiced and done well in practice so we don't feel there will be a significant effect for them to be able to come back and make a positive contribution to the team.

Auburn is a very good football team, they have played well, they have only lost two games in their last eight or so games, both to Top-10 teams in LSU and Georgia, they play great defense, Will Muschamp does a good job with their defense, they have got good players, they have playmakers, they utilize them well, they have got good pass-rushers, they can run, they have a good secondary so they are hard to score against and they are ranked nationally in scoring defense. Their two defensive ends are both outstanding players, guys that can affect the quarterback and who have affected quarterbacks in the past.

Offensively this is as fine a running football team as we have seen, they have a very experienced quarterback who gets them in the right play a lot. He has been effective enough to make the plays in the passing game that they need to make to keep teams unbalanced on defense. They have some very skilled receivers, they have some very good runners, and this is as sound a team on special teams relative their specialists and their team that we have played all year.

I understand and respect the rivalry. I've been in this league before and certainly want to have our people be proud of the way we represent the University of Alabama and this rivalry. We also have a tremendous amount of respect for their team and what they do as well."

Saban then took questions. Topics raised and the responses:

Choosing between character players over talent:

"I think that is always an issue but I think it depends on what you believe in. I think that in college football you should have great players with the right kind of character, that is the key to being successful. Most teams that win, win because they have great players but they have guys that have character, it is important to them, they care about it, they make good choices and decisions, they don't disrespect rules and regulations of the organization relative to judgments. What guy would make a choice to do something that is really important to them knowing that is going to affect them being able to play. I don't like suspending anybody, I didn't like spanking my kids, most of the time when my kids were little and I spanked them, when I hung up the belt I was crying more than they were. It bothers me to do it. It really does. It is the right thing to do. It is the right thing for the player, so he learns there is a value in doing the right thing. There are consequences when you do the wrong thing. Who would you hire? A guy you know who is raping a pillaging the community and not representing your organization properly, or are you going to hire someone who has talent and character. If we didn't do it that way, you all would kill us. That is not why we do it, but you would kill us because it is the right thing to be killed. This is college football, we are supposed to be developing people here, we are supposed to get guys to graduate school and go to school to do the right things. We are supposed to develop them to be the best competitors on the field they can be. If we are going to win at all cost and have that be our mentality, then we ought to have those first two and throw them out the window. Don't ever bring it up again that they are important."

The team's identity:

"This team has come a long way to developing an identity that they could be proud of and feel good about and be viewed about the way they competed whether they won the game or not. They were probably viewed as guys who were trying to play winning football and doing the right things to be winners. Whether they always succeeded at it or not, they were still recognized that way. What we have done in the last few weeks I would say would not be recognized that way. I think that has to change. It has to change in every individual player. It is really not fair to the players who do care. There are guys who cry their eyes out in that locker room, because they do try, they do prepare, they do what their supposed to do, they go out and play and give effort. They go out and do everything you ask them to do intangibly as characters and they have to suffer for what other people choose to do and not to do on and off the field. I personally think it carries over both ways."

Personnel changes or game plan changes:

"Obviously the things that are not working we would like to get fixed. There need to be some changes that we need to make. The reason we win or the reason we lose, is it what we call? Or how execute. We are going to throw the ball to the other team in the end zone and let them run it 100 yards for a touchdown. I don't know what pass we could call that would make a difference. So we have to be careful and specific about what the issue is. We did have 409 yards of offense in this game. What is the reason we are not scoring more points? We stopped ourselves. We had five turnovers in the game, we had a field goal blocked which was one of them. Another special teams turnover that gave them field position, three on offense, one that gave them a touchdown and we got stopped on third and one and fourth and one, which to me is another turnover. That is six. We only scored twice in the red zone out of five chances. Those are the reasons why we didn't have success. Just to start making changes, there will be some changes, but I think those changes are going to occur relative to what I just talked about, in terms of personality of the competitor. We will see how everyone responds to it."

On John Parker Wilson:

"He had one bad interception which was a bad read, the other one was a catchable ball that the guy didn't catch and tipped up. I don't see how you can blame him for that. He missed a throw that would have been a big play for a touchdown late in the game, but that was a physical execution. We still need to improve. Sometimes we don't pay attention to detail and fundamental techniques that get us in trouble, we need to keep working on those things. I have a lot better feeling working with guys that really want to be good and trying to be good and doing the right things than if they don't care about it."

Past character issues:

"I had to do it once at LSU which was the seventh game of the year. It hurt our team. We were six and one and lost three out of the next four games because a guy was a very good player. It is just like I used to tell pro players, they would always come to me and say don't fine me. I'm not fining you, you fined yourself. You know the rules, so if you break the rules all of a sudden it's my fault if you get fined. You made that decision to do what you did even if it's late for a meeting. So who is responsible for that? How good can you really be if the guys don't care about it and it is not important to them. I am not saying that we don't try and help every player and make a tremendous effort with resources and time and everything else to try and get guys to do things right. Every system is built where it is not zero tolerance, it is not the first time, it is a cumulative affect after all these things that you try to do to help guys. To me, it is a bigger issue."

Each loss by a touchdown or less:

"When we have done things correctly, competed well, finished games, payed attention to details, we have been able to be successful. When we haven't, there were a couple games we didn't finish. We lost two games that we didn't finish that we would have had an opportunity to win. There were a couple games we lost we didn't play very well in. We made a lot of mistakes and turned the ball over, and didn't play smart, winning-type football. When I look back at it, this team did not have the perseverance to finish the season the way it needed to be finished. Something happened after the LSU game relative to commitment and how they wanted to finish with still a lot on the line and a lot to be accomplished. Now that needs to change. Moving forward in the future of the program it needs to change too."

Players not responding in the last two weeks:

"In starting to build a program and after you have a catastrophic event like this they usually figure it out. If they got the right stuff. We have a lot of good kids on our team and it is for the good kids on our team and the players that try to do it right that you want to represent and get the other people on the team you are depending on to do it right too."

After reviewing a game like ULM and it being different from past reviews:

"I guess there is but I don't know that if you don't acknowledge and accept that there is a problem and you are aware there is a problem and you know that you have to change to fix the problem, which is what I said before, I don't know how you ever get better."

Recruit character:

"I think that is one of the things you always try to evaluate. You want to recruit character guys that football is important to them, being good is important to them, being the best they can be at whatever they chose to do is important to them. They are willing to do the things and work at the things that they need to do to be able to do that. They have to have the size, speed and athletic ability to do it. The great football players I have been around, Junior Seau, Jason Taylor, Clay Matthews, the guys that have played 18 years in the league. All those guys, they got it. They don't go do the wrong things just because they got frustrated, or things don't go the way they wanted. They go to work the next day and try to go make it right. They fix it and do the things to go make it better. That is the kind of people that you want. Trust, respect, being a team, guys being responsible for their own self-determination in terms of what their job is, what their role is, what their responsibility is. Guys that have positive energy to do that and guys that are willing to work and invest their time to be as good as they can be to dominate the people they have to play against. That is the only way you can be a champion. I really feel badly that somewhere along the line everybody forgot the intangibles that it takes to really be successful. In a world where I guess people take shortcuts but I don't know any shortcuts in this game. Because the other guy you are playing against, he is trying to kick your tail, so I don't know the shortcuts you can take."

Leadership on the team:

"I think that leadership always helps. I think that when you have great leadership, I think peer pressure is always something that helps reinforce. The definition of leadership to me is people who are willing to reinforce the principles and values of the program or organization. It is important to them and they affect other people in a positive way by how they do it. I would like to have a team that doesn't need to be led, that all have it but that usually doesn't happen. But when you have good leaders, they affect other people and now you get a critical mass of people on your team that are doing the right things and who have the proper respect and trust so they can go out there and feel good about who they are playing with."

Comparing Saban to Muschamp:

"Will is his own man. Will has always been that way. He is a great competitor, he really enjoys coaching, he really likes the players. He is smart, he does a good job in terms of taking the things away that he needs to take away. He does it with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and I think that is contagious to players that he coaches. He has a lot of positive trademarks of what I would consider a great coach."

Defensive speed by Auburn:

"I think that is the number one thing. I think the whole philosophy of how they play and the philosophy of how we would like to play is you give teams bad downs and get them behind in down and distance you can create the action from there. They do a really good of that and I think the opposite side of that is you don't want to allow them to do that. By the way you execute and how you plan in what you try to do so you minimize the negative plays so you don't get behind in down and distance and are put in bad circumstances."

Mixed message on suspending D.J. Hall for a half:

"The guy got suspended for a half because it was his last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Out of my compassion for him and his family so if I am wrong for that than I am wrong for that. We have rules and regulations and I decide that, we have a peer intervention group I usually discuss it with and it was discussed with them and that was the consensus. I am not into punishing people, I am into changing people's behavior so they can do the right thing. That is the only reason to punish anybody. To get them to do right and it's in their best interest that if there is a consequence hopefully that will change their behavior in a positive way so they will do right. Hopefully what we did will have some positive effect."

Running back situation:

"We will kind of sort that out as we go through the week. Coffee was playing well prior to his suspension and was making a significant contribution to the running back position. I don't really think there is anything wrong with Lowe. Terry Grant is just a little beat up now. He looked good early in the game but wore down a little quickly. Terry has done a good job for us all year, he's tried hard and we need him to have a good game in this game and I think Coffee will add depth to the position. I think Roy Upchurch will be more ready to play this week, so hopefully our committee of running backs will be a little stronger."

Taking for granted the lack of motivation needed for a rivalry game:

"No I would say absolutely not. I always try to respect whoever we are playing. I always try and have our players ready to play regardless, that is physically and mentally. I think in emotional games like this that you want to keep guys focused on playing winning football. I know it is going to be a tough game for 60 minutes and worry more about dominating the guy you play against than getting caught up in the emotional part of it because with that it goes up and down. These kinds of games with the ability to play with consistency in the game is much more important than being up and down. Something good is going to happen for us and something bad is going to happen for us so we are going to have to persevere both things in the game and the team that does that the best.,,,"

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