According to ESPN College Football reporter Paul Finebaum, Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be looking for another shot at coaching in the NFL. Finebaum explains that Saban is represented by agent Jimmy Sexton, who also represents several NFL coaches already, which means that he would have an “in” to the league if he were interested. In his ten years at the helm of Alabama, Saban has captured four national titles, and also won one during his time at LSU. In comparison, Saban managed a meager 15-17 record in two seasons as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. So, why the NFL again, and why now? Well, for one, Alabama has dominated the college football landscape recently, winning four national titles in the last eight years. But, as evidenced by their defeat at the hands of Clemson this January, Alabama may be dominant, but they are not unbeatable.
Finebaum speculated that if he were to leave, Saban would only leave for the “right situation”, meaning the team already has a quarterback in place, and at least a decent supporting cast around that quarterback. Although it is seemingly unlikely, only three teams would have a chance and a need to lure Saban away. If that day were to come, successors would be lining up, waiting to take what would become the most desirable job. Here is a look at the top three candidates to potentially replace Saban.
1. Chip Kelly
Even though it has been reported that Chip Kelly wishes to stay in the NFL, a smart front office will not give him another head coaching job. Kelly is, was, and will always be a college coach. His style translates directly to the college game. While it is a completely different system than Saban’s offense, Kelly would have the athletes necessary to implement his spread option. When he coached in the NFL, a downfall was that he was usually coaching sub-par teams without the athleticism necessary to successfully run the spread option. Kelly is also considered a good recruiter like Saban, so the well will not become dry.
2. P.J. Fleck
When you’re hot, you’re hot, and right now, P.J. Fleck is hot. The former Western Michigan coach rode a 13-1 record to a Power 5 head coaching job at Minnesotta. Fleck resurrected a Western Michigan program that went 1-11 in his first season at the helm, eventually earning three straight bowl appearances. Fleck is also considered an excellent recruiter, with four straight years as the highest-ranked recruiting class in the MAC. If Fleck could take Western Michigan to the Cotton Bowl, imagine what he can do with the type of athletes at Alabama. Oh, and he may be the best motivator in the nation. ROW THE BOAT!!
3. Art Briles
While he would definitely be a controversial hire, there is no argument that Briles is a bad coach. Briles is 99-65 in his college coaching career, with five double-digit win seasons, four seasons with a final AP ranking inside the Top 15, reaching as high as seventh in 2014. With the success, Briles also has a dark cloud hanging over his head. Briles allegedly attempted to cover up sexual assaults committed by his players, a claim he has readily denied. Briles would also present a philosophy change for Alabama, as his spread offense is again entirely different from Saban’s pro-style offense. This is a very unlikely hire mostly due to the allegations against Briles. Despite an impressive resume, most schools do not want anything to do with Briles after Baylor fired him.
Is it likely that Saban leaves Alabama? No, but then again, no one thought he would want to leave LSU either. In the NFL, Saban would earn more money and potentially have entire personnel control for the franchise, usually a key selling point when teams try to lure coaches away from college.