Ask Gary: Who’s the better coach: Saban or Belichick?

by Gary Shelton on November 19, 2016 · 0 comments

in College Sports in Florida, general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Stamkos out for the next four months./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Stamkos is out for the next four months./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

(Each week, the readers take over and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports.  Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Whose accomplishments are more impressive - Nick Saban's coaching NCAA football, or Bill Belichick's coaching NFL football?

Scott Myers

Terrific question. We should probably start out by saying that both are as good as anyone has ever seen. You can start a great debate by comparing Belichick

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against Don Shula, Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi. There's already a discussion of whether Saban is better than Bear Bryant. And, as hard as it is to go against legends, there are a lot of arguments for both.

Compared with each other, I'd go with Belichick despite his rule-breaking reputation. I just think it's harder to keep winning in the NFL. In the pros, you get one No. 1 draft pick; in college, you can recruit 25. In the pros, you have nothing to do with your schedule; in college, you can hand-pick it. You have smaller rosters in the NFL. With the salary cap and the changing rules, the NFL does everything it can to make sure every team is 8-8.

The counter-argument is that Belichick has had Tom Brady for a lot of years. He doesn't graduate in the NFL. But in college, Trent Richardson and Mark Barron were great players; not so much in the pros.

Saban can go through every year and know he's going to out-recruit the other teams in his conference, if not the other teams in the nation. Still, I think he's the best in the country.

Better, I think, than anyone but Belichick.

Steven Stamkos: broken right tibia in 2013-14; 2015-16, blood clot; 2016-17 torn meniscus. He seems to be out more than he's in. Time for the Lightning to face the grim reality?

Howard Powders

No, because it does the team no good to consider how badly Stamkos' career might be altered by injury. They've given the guy a big contract; all they can do is swallow hard and pay him.

I've thought a lot about this, and I come back to this. Stamkos has had three freak, unrelated injuries. A broken leg has nothing to do with a blood clot, which has nothing to do with a torn ligament in the knee. I hate it for Stamkos, but I don't think anyone would say it's been his fault.

It would be different if Stamkos had had, say, three knee injuries. You'd wonder if there was a genetic weakness there. But how many guys skate into the net and don't break their legs? Lots. How many guys get blood clots? Not many.

So what would you suggest that the Lightning do? You aren't going to trade him; you wouldn't get value for him. What you're going to do is hope that Stamkos works hard to come back -- and his workouts are legendary. You're going to hope he comes back and plays the way he started this season.

Over the years, we've all seen players whose careers were affected by injuries. Tim Couch, the old Brown, comes to mind. Rocco Baldelli, the former Rays' just had his body give out on him. Bo Jackson was never the same after injuring his hip.

I hope Stamkos is different. I hope he can put the injuries behind him and have a great career. At this point, for the Lightning, there really isn't a lot of choice.

In your many years of covering sports, what athlete was most UNLIKE his public image, for either good or bad?
Jim Willson
There have been a few. But most of the time, we find out about them, right? We found out about Tiger Woods. We found out about Lance Armstrong. We found out about Marion Jones. Dealing with the media scrutiny will expose a bad guy eventually. Pete Rose had us fooled for years, but we found out.
The most classic example, of course, is O.J. Simpson. America loved him from the Hertz commercials to playing Nordberg in the movies. But I never covered him except as a visiting player.
I remember making a mistake one year at a party. A big Dolphin fan asked me what Mark Clayton was really, really like. And I made the error of telling the guy that he was really an angry guy, a mean guy. The guy starts yelling at me about all the school kids Clayton visited and screaming that I was lying. I wasn't.
But Jack Nicklaus is really, really a great guy. And Warrick Dunn. And Tony Dungy. And Mike Alstott and John Lynch and Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks. Pat Burrell was a stinker of a guy, but I think that was represented when he was with the Rays. We all knew the good and bad of Warren Sapp. We knew that Simeon Rice was from a different planet.
A bunch of writers I was friends with and I would meet at every Super Bowl, and we would play good guy-bad guy. We would yield to the writer who covered the guy, but everyone got an opinion. Sapp was never thought of highly. One guy at the table really, really disliked Tiki Barber. Someone else questioned Peyton Manning's character. And so on.
I never thought there was anything phony about Dan Marino; he was the same guy he would have been if he was playing shortstop in a slow-pitch softball league. But he was different, less flashy, than a lot of fans would have thought.
I'm not trying to dodge your question, but in the sporting world, I really think most of them, thankfully, get caught. Ask Aaron Hernandez. Ask Darren Sharper.
What are the odds that Jimbo Fiser goes to LSU in your opinion?  
I don't think there is anything that LSU can give FSU besides raw dollars. Sometimes, that's enough. But if you look at where schools got their head coaches, there isn't much history for a guy leaving one top 20 job for another.
That said, this is three times, right? I don't understand why Jimbo wouldn't come out and say "Look, I loved my years at LSU, but no, I'm not going to LSU." That should end it. Instead, his players are watching, and his recruits are watching. Don't they deserve to know something?
If I was making odds, I'd make it 3-1 that Fisher stays at FSU. They'll pony up the money. They'll pay his assistants more. Whatever it may be that Fisher wants, FSU will come across. I still think Jimbo's next job will be an NFL job. Maybe it will be with the Bucs, which would allow him to reunite with Jameis Winston.
But for whatever reason, Jimbo seems to be keeping the door cracked. And that's a little troubling.
What do you think coaches like Lombardi and McKay would think of todays  NFL players and  practice rules?
Jim Willson
I think they'd be amazed. They'd think that they're soft (because of the practice rules) and  pampered (because of the big contracts). I think that first 48 hours would be shocking to either of them.
But you know what? I think they'd adjust. The smart guys always do. Granted, coaching in today's rules would take some compromise on the part of both of them.
In McKay's case, it could have altered that 0-26 beginning. But that beginning let McKay get to the playoffs in four years; that isn't bad. If he could have brought in some players who would have made that 0-26, oh, 5-21, then it might have affected that worst-to-first year.
But we all know how cheap Hugh Culverhouse was. He wasn't going to buy a lot of free agents. His negotiations with Doug Williams prove that. (Don Shula, with Joe Robbie, faced the same challenges).
Lombardi? Maybe he could have kept things going with the Packers for a while. They simply had too many stars get old at once.
Someone smarter than I am (and aren't there a lot of them?) once said that most men live in the time that was meant for them. That's probably true of Knute Rockne and Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant. And Lombardi and McKay.



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