Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Nick Saban Conversation

With five head-coaching jobs still available around the NFL, several assistants figure to get interviews this week.

Many of the names being mentioned – Gus BradleyMike McCoyJay Gruden – were unfamiliar to Eagles fans as recently as a few weeks ago. If you happen to be engaging in conversation today about who Andy Reid’s successor should be, chances are, you’re throwing around some bigger names.

We’re talking about names like Nick Saban.

Saban’s Alabama squad manhandled Notre Dame in the BCS title game Monday night, 42-14. And so today, the question will be revisited: Does he want one more shot in the NFL?

“I don’t have any unfinished business in the NFL,” Saban said over the weekend, according to USA Today. “It’s not something I’m concerned about. It’s not even anything I want to do.”

Of course, what coaches say and what they do are often two different things. Saban is coming off back-to-back BCS titles and now has four overall (three in the past four seasons). Maybe he’s perfectly content staying in Tuscaloosa and going for a three-peat. Maybe he has his eyes on Bear Bryant’s record of six national titles. Maybe he figures he’s already had a taste of the NFL, and it wasn’t that great.

Maybe.

But there’s another potential path here too. Saban is 61. There’s always the possibility that his natural competitive nature leads to a desire for one more shot on the sport’s biggest stage. In two seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2005-2006), he went 15-17. In a must-read piece, David Hyde of the South Florida Sun Sentinel recently shared a series of anecdotes detailing Saban’s time in the NFL:

Do you like Nick Saban? Can you? That’s the question for the equipment manager, and he tells of arriving for work early one morning at the same time as the coach. It was still dark outside. Quiet.

The equipment manager, Tony Egues, reached the door to the Dolphins complex first, held it open for his boss and then said the two words that came to symbolize Saban’s scarred Dolphins legacy.

“Morning, coach,” he said.

Egues, who is no longer with the team, doesn’t remember if Saban answered. What he remembers is Saban’s lieutenant, Scott O’Brien, nicknamed “Dr. Doom,” soon telling him never speak to the coach unless addressed first. Ever. Got it?

The story had a happy ending, but you get the picture: Saban does things his way.

Christopher L. Gasper of The Boston Globe recently pointed out how Saban is running Alabama like a professional organization:

If you close your eyes and listen to Alabama’s players couch their answers and watch their words, you would swear you were in Fort Foxborough.

That’s not a coincidence. Saban is a buddy of Bill Belichick and spent four seasons as Belichick’s defensive coordinator in Cleveland. There’s a picture of the two of them chatting on page 166 of the Alabama media guide. It looks like a real yuckfest.

It’s debatable who rubbed off on whom. This is what His Hoodiness said about his pal Saban back in 2006, when Saban was coach of the Miami Dolphins:

“There’s no other coach in this league or any league that I have more respect for than Nick Saban. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I learned a whole lot more from him when he was at Cleveland than I’m sure he learned from me . . . That guy is a [darn] good football coach.”

The expectation is that Saban will stay put. But if you’re a decision-maker in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, San Diego or Arizona, do you at least make the call? We’ll find out the answer to that question in the next few days.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Reid addressed the Philadelphia media and the Kansas City media in two different sessions. Tim’s got the rundown of what he said.

One week into the coaching search, we have some new names to consider. My updated list of Eagles coaching candidates.

T-Mac’s got the latest on the Bruce Arians situation.

Do your [bleepin’] job and get to know Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

Because Chip Kelly didn’t want to commit, the Eagles may have dodged a bullet, writes McManus.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

SI.com’s Peter King offers this nugget on the Eagles’ coaching search:

I think the Eagles liked Penn State coach Bill O’Brien more than any of us thought when that story came down the other night … but not enough to hire him immediately, before interviewing more coaches, including Chip Kelly.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com assesses the appeal of the Eagles job:

The Eagles’ head coaching job is not some dream opportunity for which the cream of the coaching crop is going to climb all over itself. There are multiple red flags that could turn off highly qualified candidates and likely will end up forcing the Eagles to take a chance on an unproved coordinator.

COMING UP

The coaching search continues. Keep it right here for updates.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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