When fans or pundits use “college football” and “video game” in the same sentence, they’re usually talking about the Oregon Ducks’ offense. For anyone who’s picked up a recent copy of EA Sports’ NCAA Football franchise, the comparison seems far more apt for Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.
In the NCAA Football game, you have the ability to create or extend a “dynasty” depending on your choice of school, recruiting methods, strategy and the like. Watching Alabama grow under Saban has been like seeing multiple seasons of that very game being simulated.
He came onto the Tuscaloosa scene following a 6-7 season in 2006. Can you imagine such a thing today? The next season wasn’t much better on paper, but recruits and the program as a whole bought into Saban’s process.
As of this writing, he holds an almost disgusting 57-6 record over the past four years (62-14 if you want to count his first year record, a lean 7-6). During that time, He’s accumulated a 4-1 bowl record, two SEC conference rings and just as many BCS titles to go along with it. Is it any surprise that so many are hoping that some team, any team can stop the behemoth that he’s created?
Yet he continues to chase the unattainable that is perfection. Get a quick interview with him as he jogs into the locker room up 35-0 at the half and he’ll have criticisms. Why? Because he demands perfect play and human beings, being inherently imperfect, can never deliver this. As the coach on the visitor’s sideline in Bryant–Denny Stadium, you may be waving a white flag, but as long as tackles are being missed by the crimson and white, there’s room for improvement and your boys are the ones who decided to show up for practice.
Say what you will about Saban the man. He’s certainly made a few enemies, probably several that will never be mentioned in a public forum, but he earns his nearly six million dollar annual salary. If Alabama wins a third national title in four years, he will be the first coach of a program to achieve such a feat since Tom Osborne’s Nebraska Cornhuskers steamrolled through the mid-to-late 1990s. The 1995 Cornhuskers are referred to by many as the best team to ever play the college game, often begrudgingly.
Why would Saban have any reason to not shoot for that or better it? Perfection may be unattainable, but posting records that will take monumental efforts over the span of half a decade to topple (assuming things go insanely well), winning championship after championship, raking in the money and being hailed as the next best thing to “Bear” Bryant, that’s doable and he’s well on his way.
There’ll never be another “Bear,” but at this rate, there’ll never be another Saban. All the college football world can do at this point is watch and hope the bulldozer that has become the Alabama Crimson Tide runs out of gas or that Saban will take his leave for the NFL once more.
The only problem with that wish is that with all of the success and admiration surrounding him, why would he want to leave? When everything said and done, you may not like Saban, but he’s doing everything properly to make sure he’s respected one way or another and he’s never had to hit the reset button once in Tuscaloosa.
Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America. Feel free to follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation.