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.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • allen_jones

    Saban’s not coming to the NFL. Why would he? I wouldn’t even want him, he was a terrible pro coach. He coaches boys, not men.

    • Sensei

      Evident in the last two national championship games He coaches men masquerading as boys but you’re correct still wouldn’t want him he seems to lack integrity and speaking to someone in your organization like mentioned in the story above doesn’t sound like anybody I want coaching my team

  • The Guru

    Why come to the NFL when you can recruit 10 guys every year who will be drafted in the first 2 rounds of the draft and you’re a god in Alabama? Pay isn’t going to be that much better and you’re 61.

    • xlGmanlx

      ego

  • Docboy

    I knew there was a reason why I didn’t like Saban… Couldn’t put my finger on it until I read the article… He’s Belichick’s disciple….

    • xlGmanlx

      you notice it wasn’t saban directly who said it, pure conjecture.

  • dislikedisqus

    Will hopefully be a short one. Every team in the NFL is as physically gifted as Ala. That’s his main advantage. His schemes are pedestrian. At the pro level, he brings not a lot to the table.

  • Kimbafuzz

    I don’t see how the Eagles job is less desirable than the Buffalo Bills job. I mean, honestly, I don’t get why someone wouldn’t want to coach here. Lurie isn’t Jerry Jones. He’s hands off and tries to give you what you ask for. The city is passionate and starved for a winner. Every team has roster problems or else they wouldn’t be searching for a coach.

    To me, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego are the top three head coaching opportunities. And the last one is solely about the weather.

  • realtalk

    Saban has proven to be the best coach in the second best “league”. You dont think there is a part of him that wants to prove he is better than Belichick and everyone else in the NFL. He is an egomaniac of course he wants to prove he is the best. Who cares how he treats the equipment manager? Who cares how he treated Miami? Not me. I care about CHAMPIONSHIPS period.

  • Dan

    I love Dan Graziano’s comments:

    “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.”

    Come on…what NFL coaching job ever is? 99.9 percent of the time a team needs a new coach because they aren’t good enough. They aren’t typically good situations to begin with (the .01% being the time Jimmy Johnson left Dallas).

  • barry_nic

    Saban’s a good coach and a great recruiter. But as we saw last night the NCAA is haves verses have-nots. I’d much rather see a guy who does more with less than the other way around. Now, about the philly situation not being prime. Graziano what “red flags” are left? This will be Roseman’s first year w/out Banner or Reid, so we don’t really know how good or bad he is. I don’t see Jeff Lurie as a liar, so if last year was his first “solo” draft, it was a pretty good one. Personnel can be cut, players can be acquired through the draft and F/A, and you have an owner who isn’t afraid to spend(for those of you who use the “cheap” tag, look back two years). The only situation that looks better is the bears, and it should, they were 10 and 6, and that was underachieving. Nobody ran Andy Reid out of town, he did it himself. The national media should acting like Andy was tread on, and that’s why he quit. He didn’t quit, he was fired. The team was lost and clearly quit on him. As for Belichick warning people away from the Birds, I don’t believe it. And if it’s true, look at it this way; Crennel, Al Groh, Josh McDaniels, Eric Mangini, and Jim Schwartz(did you watch the Lions lately?). We aren’t missing much. So we’ll land a coach, hope he’s good, if not there will be others. There is no window of opportunity on this team, that ended a few years ago. We are young and have some pretty good players, the bad ones will be gone when the new coach gets here.