Ask Gary: Could Saban try the NFL once more?

by Gary Shelton on January 13, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

 Now that Nick Saban has conquered college football, some in the media are suggesting that he may have interest in leaving his throne to take on the challenge of the NFL, specifically as coach of the N.Y. Giants. It seems unlikely, but let’s suppose it’s a real possibility. Do you think his personality and coaching style would translate in the NFL any better a second time around than when he failed in his first attempt with the Dolphins?

Larry Beller

Nick Saban has a better job than the one coaching the Giants, and it's not close. At Alabama, he gets 20 or so potential first-round draft picks a year. He gets to play most of his games at home. In most years, he's going to have 4-5 (at most) tough games a year.

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In the NFL, the pay isn't as good as at Alabama, and the entire league pushes coaches toward 8-8. He'd have an aging quarterback. He'd have shared revenues and a common draft.

So why go? Ego? I would think Saban gets enough of that with the championships.

Hey, Saban is 66. Even if things work out, he'd be 70 before his first contract is up. The New York tabs just want to connect the biggest names with their coaching job. Belichick. Saban. I don't buy this for a minute.

Now, if Saban took over, I think he'd do well. He's a solid coach who stresses the basics. I wouldn't label his stay in Miami as a failure. He inherited a team that was 4-12, and he won nine games his first year and six his second.

But he wouldn't succeed the way he does at Alabama.

Saban is a dry guy, and he's a bully. But he's also smart enough not to give away the many advantages that come with being the Alabama coach. Why chase a job that's less than yours?

How come Bill Belichick and Nick Saban are able to, year after year, get way more than their fare share of the pie?

Scott Myers

I think they both made a pact with the devil. Either that, or one of them IS the devil.

They're both good. They're driven, and they're smart. But there are differences.

To me, what comic has done is far more impressive. The NFL has a magnet at 8-8, and it is built to draw teams toward that finish. If you're bad, the NFL helps you with the draft and shared revenues and free agency. If your'e good, it drains your talent. It's amazing that the Pats have been as good as they've been.

Part of it is Tom Brady, sure. But part of it is shedding big salaries at the right time, and part of it taking on risky veterans into a system that absorbs them. Neither Aqib Talib, Aaron Hernandez or Chad Johnson hurt the Pats. I attribute that to Belichick. His assistants don't matter.

Part of it is the AFC East, which hasn't put up a squawk since Belichick came to town.

Saban's is a different dynasty. He out-recruits people, and he relies heavily on a school that built another dynasty. Oh, he's good. He's basic, and he's relentless. What other coach could do a commercial telling women what dresses to buy? Remember, though, Saban can promise a player a high-draft pick, and he gets 20 first-round picks a year. That puts him among the top five teams in America most years. Better than that, in a lot of them.

Both are fairly humorless men. The old joke is that Belichick (or Saban) was in a bar, and the owners asked him to leave so they could have happy hour.

There are stories about how ruthless both men can be. I believe most of them. But they win. A lot.

So what have you heard from your contacts? Did the Bucs make a real play for Gruden or not?

Jim Willson

The Glazers don't talk to a lot of folks. I'm sure some of them don't even speak to each other about this sort of stuff. So I'm going to start out doing what few journalists do ... I'm going to admit that I'm working on logic and a bit of hearsay.

We know the Glazers and Gruden are close, and they've spent time together (the Ring of Honor) recently. I find it impossible to believe that Gruden wouldn't have turned to them (or they wouldn't have asked) and said "hey, I may come back this year." At the very least, his agent would have dropped a hint.

But a lot of owners in the NFL would have stopped long before $100 million dollars. This is a guy the Glazers fired once, remember? So what do you do if Gruden goes 9-7 in the next two years like he did in his last two? Fire him again?

I think they could have lived with the price or the length of the contract, but not both. Remember, of the Glazers' last four coaches, two have been assistants, one a collage coach and one a retread. They aren't so much into big-splash hires.

But, yeah, I will always believe the Glazers at least did their due diligence when'd it came to Gruden. I think they can see the wisdom of giving a coach more time, but I think you make the trade of Koetter for Gruden. But you don't throw in a fortune to do it.

With the Gruden news lately, it comes to mind to ask if Tony Dungy has ever felt like going back to coaching. I remember how boring he was in press conferences. Then again, I miss those days, the aura of winning football, and knowing the team could win any game. My understanding is he felt “burned” by the Glazers because they had an agreement with Bill Parcells while the 2001 season was still underway. What do you think is the relationship among Dungy, the Glazers, and Rich McKay, if any?

Carlos Ubinas

I've asked Tony several times if he ever has the itch to come back. I even offered him the job once (as a column device). He laughed and told me he wasn't interested.

Tony's a different guy. He always said he was going to get out of the profession early, and that's the last time anyone would see him. He fashioned his  career after Chuck Noll's. There were too many other things he wanted to do.

I understand that you found Tony dull. A lot of guys did. And I'll admit this: His press conferences weren't the best. He was stubborn, and he stressed the basics. But if you asked him a question to the side, he could be surprisingly clever. I asked him once which Tom Cruise movie his team was like the previous year (when they were good) and which one was like the current year. He told me to check with him after practice.

Afterward, he said "Last year, we were Top Gun. We were flying high." And this year? "Maybe a different Top Gun. We haven't pulled it out at the end."

No, it wasn't Jerry Seinfeld, but for a guy writing a column, it worked.

I think the relationship is courteous between Dungy and the Glazers. They realize how important he was to the Bucs. I think it's the same between Dungy and McKay, who were very good for each other for a long time.

Remember who you're talking about. Tony wasn't the best coach in NFL history, but he might have been the finest man.

Your boys Tim & Jerry don’t think there is much to the rumors that Bill Belichick is angry enough to leave the Patriots after this season, due to the rift between him and the owner that resulted in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade. How do you see this playing out? Could this season be their last ride together or does everybody kiss and make up after winning yet another Super Bowl?

Larry Beller

Let me ask you this. What are you basing your opinion on that there was a rift between Kraft and Belichick over the trade of Garoppolo? It was soundly denied by all parties. I'm sure that in any front office, there is some friction from time to time. But not enough to break up the best organization in the NFL.

Again, part of the problem is that we're being asked to buy someone else's unnamed sources.

I see this playing out with the dying of rumors. The Giants will hire someone else, and Belichick and Brady will be the duo to beat again
next year. Will they win it this year? Maybe not. Even they don't win it every year.

Again, remember this. Brady can't do any better for a coach than Belichick and Belichick can't do any better for an owner than Kraft, and Kraft can't do any better for a quarterback than Brady.

Belichick is smart enough to realize that winning is precious. It got in the way of the Cowboys' run (Jones and Johnson). It got in the way of the Redskins (Beathard and Gibbs). It got in the way of the Bucs (McKay and Gruden). It got in the way of the Giants (Young and Parcells).

In other words, I don't believe he'll go anywhere. If he does, he's running from Kraft, not towards Mara.

You asked Tim and Jerry, now I ask you. What are your picks for the playoff games this weekend?

Jim Willson

Okay, let's take them as they are scheduled.

I like the Falcons to upset the Eagles. Remember, Philly has Nick Foles, not Carson Went. Couple that with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and I think the Falcons slide by in a close one.

Next, you have the Patriots over the Titans. I'm wrong a lot, but this seems like the easiest pick of the weekend. Brady is tough during the playoffs.

On Sunday, I think the Steelers win a close one over Jacksonville, and I wouldn't be shocked if the Jags won. Jacksonville has a great defense and a good running games. Blake Bortles has had a better year than most people want to admit.

Finally, I like the Vikings over the Saints. They're well-coached. New Orleans has some weapons -- some, surprisingly, on defense -- but Minnesota is too good of a team.

Closest game? Pittsburgh-Jacksonville. Best shot at a classic? Minnesota-New Orleans. Easiest pick? Patriots-Titans. Game bound for the fourth quarter? Atlanta-Philly.



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